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CessnaCam Airborne Sensor Pod

Airborne Scientific's CessnaCam is a fully portable underbelly sensor/camera pod approved for use on Cessna 172, 182, 170, and 180 series aircraft. This pod enclosure is suitable for small and medium format camera systems including 5 camera oblique systems, compact lidar systems, thermal systems, and custom sensor systems. The pod requires no modification to the airframe and utilizes existing inspection covers for cable and control connections. This sensor pod is approved in many foreign countries, for those that permit U.S. STC parts to be installed on US certificated aircraft. 

CessnaCam Pod

  • Supplemental Type Certified for Cessna 172, 182, 180, 170 series (STC SA4-662).
  • Suitable for rental as well as owned aircraft.
  • Approved in many foreign countries.
  • Portable, installs and removes in minutes.
  • No modification required for airframe.
  • Pod can fit through Cessna 172 baggage door for transition flights, or leave on aircraft continuously.
  • Suitable for small and medium format camera systems, small lidar, 5 camera oblique systems, multispectral or infrared systems, custom systems.
  • Vibration and shock mounting can be customized for sensor.
  • No restrictions on flight operations, with minimal loss of cruise speed.
  • Accomodates sensor up to 20 inches wide by 12 inches deep by approximately 20 inches long.
  • Controls, wiring and cabling from Pod to cabin use existing inspection holes.
  • Fully enclosed from the elements.
  • Position below belly minimizes rock and chip hazards and exhaust contamination.
  • Access sensor through removable side panel on enclosure.
Inside unit Inspection routing

CessnaCam FAQ

Will the CessnaCam fit any Cessna 172, 182, 180, or 170?

Yes. The CessnaCam is STC approved on the entire series of fixed gear Cessna 172 and 182 aircraft, from the 1950’s to today’s newest models, as well as out of production 170 and 180 aircraft with conventional gear. The CessnaCam is not approved for any retractable Cessnas (RG models), nor Cessna 206’s, 185’s, 175’s, 150’s or 152’s.

Does installation require modification to the aircraft?

No, the CessnaCam can be installed without any modification to the aircraft, provided that no antenna is mounted on the belly between the lift struts. If antenna’s are present in this area, they will have to be relocated if they interfere with the CessnaCam mounting.

Does it require an aviation mechanic to mount the CessnaCam?

Yes, installation and removal requires a licensed aircraft mechanic. Allow an hour or more for first time installations which will require a weight and balance amendment and a FAA form 337. Subsequent installations or removals can be done as quickly as 15 minutes for the pod itself, not including any sensor equipment. Optimizing the cabling connections between sensor mounted pod and the aircraft cabin can speed installation and removal.

Does the STC installation involve any flight restrictions?

No. The CessnaCam can be installed in all models of approved aircraft without any flight manual, airspeed, or restricted category limitations. The installed Pod slows the aircraft minimally depending upon model, generally less than 5 knots on a C172.

Can the CessnaCam be left installed permanently?

Yes, individual CessnaCams have been flown for over a year of continuous use and more than 300 hours of aerial data collection, remaining on the airframe full time for aerial data collection, as well as transition flights in rain and snow with the sensors installed. It can also be removed for each flight.

Can the CessnaCam be used on rental or club aircraft?

Yes, the CessnaCam can be used on rental aircraft and a mechanic can install and remove the CessnaCam for each data collection flight. You will have to coordinate with the aircraft owner or operator to determine if their individual requirements permit use of the CessnaCam (many club aircraft prohibit commercial use of the aircraft).

Will the CessnaCam scuff the airframe?

Scuffing is eliminated with rubberized cushions between the pod and airframe, and the pod is attached with a 3/16 steel cable rated at 4400 lbs, the wings will fall off before the pod falls off. The CessnaCam is STC approved, it is not an experimental device.

Will rocks chip the camera, or exhaust cloud the port glass?

Since the CessnaCam is set below the belly and exhaust outlet of the airframe rather than flush with the belly, it is less susceptible to rock chips, exhaust, and engine oil than a camera mounted in the cabin of a single engine aircraft. The recessed glass port on the CessnaCam 150 dramatically limits any port glass contamination during flight. Most aircraft can fly dozens of hours between port glass cleanings without any noticeable contamination (although you should always clean the glass between data collection flights). The CessnaCam 470 is equipped with a low profile wind deflector to greatly reduce contamination.

Can I remove the glass port and take photos without any barrier?

Yes. The CessnaCam comes standard with a glass port, although the port glass is optional and removable permitting one to shoot through open air. Optical glass or custom glass with customer specified optical properties are also available.

Will the CessnaCam fit a large format mapping camera such as RC30 or RMK TOP?

No, the CessnaCam does not have volume or weight capacity to fit these cameras. The standard CessnaCam has a sensor payload capacity of 60 lbs, and an approximate volume of 4800 cubic inches. However, new large format digital metric cameras could be adapted to the CessnaCam, such as a Dimac.

Can I mount a custom sensor that I provide?

Yes, we can accommodate custom sensors into the CessnaCam housing, as well as preconfigured systems. Additional costs may be incurred in engineering approved mounting for custom sensors, but this can often be done economically. We typically mount sensors from the top, using mounting tracks attached to the roof of the CessnaCam enclosure. This permits easy adjustability of the location of the sensor, and offers the capability to mount multiple sensors and easily incorporate shock and vibration isolation.

FAQ applicable to both CessnaCam and OSAC System

How do I connect electrical power and sensor cabling?

The CessnaCam STC includes approval for cabling going from the cockpit to the inside of the camera pod, via an inspection port under the copilot seat and then another inspection port adjacent to the camera pod. The cabling and connectors must fit through a standard 1.5 inch wiring grommet on the CessnaCam, unless a larger hole is specially requested. Sensor power can be supplied via the aircraft’s cigarette lighter, or have a mechanic add a circuit breaker and dedicated power plug to supply sensor power. Most Cessna 172 and 182 prior to 1979 are 12 volt, and most 1979 and later are 24 volt, (but variations occur in 1978 and 1979). The OSAC system can use either 12 or 24 volt input, but other systems may require DC voltage converters to convert from 12V to 24V, or vice versa. Wireless transmitters can also be used for sensor triggering or other camera control.

How do antennas mount?

GPS or other antennas can be accommodated by a variety of methods. Simplest is putting the antenna temporarily on the glareshield, identical to portable aviation GPS antennas. For better reception, we offer a portable mounting bracket which locates the antenna inside the cabin but at the very top of the cabin windscreen, while still being portable. These trays can accommodate a variety of antennas including dual frequency GPS L1/L2 aero antennas for survey grade GPS. Antennas can also be permanently mounted on the airframe by a licensed aviation mechanic.

Does aircraft vibration make the photos blurry?

Not on a properly installed camera with vibration damping. We can supply a sensor mount which features vibration and shock dampening to isolate the camera from direct contact with the airframe, removing any image loss of sharpness due to vibration. For custom mounts, the vibration environment in the pod has been measured and found to be in the range of 60 to 250Hz when measured flying in a Cessna 172, very similar to the vibration in the cabin of the aircraft. This higher frequency vibration can be vastly minimized with proper mount design and the use of vibration isolation in the design of the sensor mount.

Pod and Sensor FAQ

Can the crab angle of the camera be adjusted, and can it be gyro stabilizated?

Not currently. The Basic Mount optionally included with the CessnaCam does not include any gyro stabilization, the pilot does need to fly reasonably level, just like conventional professional aerial camera mounts. The Basic Mount does not feature any crab adjustment, so crosswinds can produce image crab. The mount cannot be leveled in flight, but can be adjusted for level on the ground. A crab adjustable and gyro stabilized mount may be available for some sensor systems, ask us. 3rd Party gyro mounts and leveling mounts are available.

What about Forward Motion Compensation?

Non-specialized cameras, such as DSLR’s and most Medium format cameras using dual curtain focal plane shutters, used for vertical aerial photography can take outstanding photos without the need for any FMC capability. Set the camera aperture and ISO to make sure that shutter speeds faster than 1/250th of a second are obtained during exposure. The very high speed of dual curtain focal plane shutters, together with the small focal plane, does not induce perceptible image blur except under extraordinary circumstances (such as travelling 100mph at 10 feet in altitude).

Large format mapping cameras generally utilize a central rotating leaf shutter in the lens cone, and combined with a large focal plane ¾ of a foot in size, FMC noticeably improves image quality. This is not the case with modern small and medium format cameras which get great results without FMC.