Recognising the dynamic nature of a forward facing aerial view, compared to the traditional side view filmed from an open door, we set out to design and develop a sophisticated camera mount for film or video that would compete economically with other available mounts, which are so expensive to hire that they are often out of reach for production budgets. Most of the available mounts are designed for use on helicopters, which are both expensive and often not available in remote parts of the world. The Last Refuge Ltd. wing mount is designed for Cessna aircraft that are cheaply available for hire almost everywhere. The design brief also required a mount that was portable, quick and simple to install without any permanent fixings or alterations to the aircraft airframe.
The Mark I, built in 1998, was the research and development model and following proof of concept and discussion with the Civil Aviation Authority, led to the re-design and engineering of the Mark II model, built with aviation standard materials, to fulfill the requirements of the UK CAA.
The process of certification required analysis, ground and flight tests, via CAA approved organizations in the UK. The first hurdle was an analysis of static stress on the wing strut and airframe, followed by ground vibration testing, carried out during high-speed taxi runs over rough ground. The data collected resulted in a stress analysis report that concluded that the effect of the wing mount on the airframe, when installed correctly, is negligible. A flight test was then carried out to analyse and compare he differences in aircraft performance with and without the mount installed, and subsequently a supplement to the aircraft flight manual was issued.
Airworthiness Approval was granted by the UK Civil Aviation Authority on 8th October 2003 and endorsed by EASA approval no 67, on 10th October 2003, under AAN 27643. Since that time, the wing mount has enjoyed many hundreds of hours of safe and trouble-free flight. The Airworthiness Approval was extended on 7th July 2009 to allow the mount to be installed on a range of Cessna aircraft under EASA STC A.S.03964, technical visa project reference P-EASA.A.S.C.01366.
There is no need to remove the door of the aircraft when the mount is installed. The Mark II mount offers a forward facing camera view, but also allows a smooth, speed-controlled tilt movement through over 100 degrees to offer a vertical view, while maintaining a low drag profile. It also provides a remotely operated, motorised lens cover, which overcomes the problems of dust, dirt and other foreign matter, including flying insects that have hitherto plagued lenses in-flight. The mount attaches, by means of a moulded friction clamp, to the upper section of the wing strut of Cessna single-engine aircraft. The camera is slung underneath the clamp, not only providing for freedom of tilt movement from the horizontal position through to the vertical without obstructions. The effects on the flight characteristics of Cessna aircraft have been shown to be negligible.
The Mount is not a permanent fixture, and requires no drilling of holes or any other modifications to the aircraft, which maintains its integrity with the door in place. It offers control of camera functions from the cabin aided by a video feed from the viewfinder, including remote control of the camera tilt and lens protection facilities. Power, data and control cables are routed either through a tailored sleeve that fits the wing strut, or via an inspection hole inside the wing, in front of the main spar, into the cabin through the starboard air vent. The mount and camera are powered independently, by means of stacked 12-volt batteries in the aircraft cabin, with both mount and camera functions operated from a small control box, with reference to a video screen fed from the camera viewfinder.
The aerodynamically shaped clamp that fits to the wing strut has been made from two half sections of hardwood, with exterior metal plating and utilising a closed cell composite foam lining. The clamp is closed by means of several hand-tightened bolts, which are prevented from slip or creep by means of locking pins. In its basic form, the camera mount itself is an inverted U-shape, made from aviation standard aluminium, that is fixed to the underside of the clamp, with an under slung camera cradle that again is U-shaped and is attached to the upper U mount by pivot points on either side, allowing a swing motion. The cradle has been designed to be adjustable for different camera sizes, types and formats, in order to maintain C of G. The mount also uniquely features the powered lens cover, which may be deployed in any camera position, in order to protect the lens.
Although the mount was originally designed for Arriflex super 16mm and 35mm movie film cameras, the mount has been flown with a number of different video cameras and other data/remote sensing devices. It weighs around 27 kg. Our mount here at Last Refuge Ltd. is currently being operated on our Cessna 182 with a Red One camera, recording on to a hard drive in the aircraft cabin. The use of different cameras/devices requires custom base plates.
The wing mount is available for rental or purchase. Mounts are custom built to clients specifications, depending on the aircraft and cameras/devices to be installed. We are currently working on a new, compact design with an option to pan as well as tilt, to accommodate digital stills cameras, for aerial survey and mapping applications, and small video cameras. For more information and pricing please contact us.