Hack: Connect a Gear 360 to a Mavic Pro

In News, Video by Doc North1 Comment

Lately, I’ve been hankering to level up my video production game. I’ve been wanting to go beyond just using a camera on a drone, taking the shots that anyone can take. As an often solo shooter and host of my show, I’m always faced with the dilemma of how to adequately capture shots of myself, additional talent, and the action all at once. That’s where 360 video has given me the solution I’ve been looking for.

But I’ve had to figure out how to capture tracking 360 shots. I’ve considered robots, but they’re a pain to haul around, and they only really work on completely smooth surfaces. The obvious solution is to throw a 360 camera onto a drone, but the camera/drone combo can be pretty bulky. And I’m all about traveling light and using only carry-on luggage. I’ve been able to do this pretty well with the gear I’ve been using (such as carrying my DJI Phantom in a duffle bag on a recent two-month trip across multiple continents).

My solution? Attaching a small 360 camera to a small drone plus small 360 camera. The Gear 360 and Mavic Pro provide just the right combination. But I had to figure out how to do it.

So my friend Daniel and I promptly set about testing how we could attach a Gear 360 to a Mavic Pro on a recent trip to visit him in China. First, we just hung the camera in its Samsung bag from the drone, just to see how the drone would handle the weight when taking off. No problemo!

Next we set about making a mount.  I quickly sketched what we’d need, and it just so happened we were by Daniel’s family’s factory, where they can make just about anything (including a 57- story building). He sent off my drawing, and a few hours later, we had a precision-made mounting bracket for the drone, consisting of a plate sized and bent to match the bottom of the Mavic and a ¼” -20 stand-off stud. Boom! We were in business.

Step 1: Manufacture a 1/4 – 20 stand off to fit to the bottom of the Mavic Pro.

Step 2: Attach the stand-off to the bottom of the drone using 2 Velcro straps.

Step 3: Attach the Gear 360 to the stand-off centering the camera with direction of flight (I use a piece of gaff tape to keep it from spinning).

The next step was a flight test. We decided to test inside first, by shooting an episode of In the Making on the Broad Sustainable Building Factory. It was the perfect environment: large indoor factory hangars with no wind. (Though cold was another factor altogether. It was 37 degrees Fahrenheit inside!)

It performed amazingly, and I got some shots that I couldn’t have gotten otherwise.  Daniel was actually flying the 360 drone so I could launch my Mavic and get some shots of it flying.

The next test was flying the 360 camera outside. My buddy Gabor accompanied me for this mission.  We decided to just go for it and flew the 360 Drone off the top of the 57-story skyscraper. We knew wind could be a nightmare for our camera/drone combo, but the wind was light, and, using a steady hand, we got some breathtaking (and, with the headset on, quite terrifying) shots. You can see this footage at the end of the how-to video above.

Since getting home, I’ve also picked up my style game. I found this great WW2 Ammo Bag that the drone fits in perfectly, and by ripping the padding out of a Rick Steves camera bag, the whole unit fits quite well, including my Gear 360 Mount. My commitment to carry-on luggage is intact!

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