Aircraft-Mounted Retractable Camera Turret

Brief: To design and supply a multi-functional retractable camera turret, to be installed into an aircraft.

Our client required a multifunctional ball camera to be mounted to an existing aircraft, therefore in addition to the clients design requirements, the finished installation also had to conform to EASA CS requirements, regarding the safe operation of the aircraft.

Initial discussions with the client prior to starting, revealed that the camera could not be belly mounted due to the length of the undercarriage legs, but as the camera required an unobstructed view below the aircraft whilst in flight, it was decided that a retractable unit was the best solution, adding to the clients design spec:

  1. Maximum weight of assembly 200lbs (91Kg).
  2. Must withstand flight loads at 180kts (73m/s) on camera turret ball.
  3. Must withstand 9G in crash conditions (Effective weight of 820Kgs).
  4. Three stop positions up down and an adjustable mid position.
  5. Have a manual override should the motor fail.
  6. Overall size was also restricted as emergency exists could not be restricted.

On inspection of the aircraft to find a mounting point for the camera assembly, it was decided that the most suitable location was close to the main undercarriage.  This provided the necessary space to mount the unit without detracting excessively from the cabin space and most importantly without blocking the emergency exits, whilst still being accessible by the operator inside the aircraft during flight.

Examining the undercarriage limits and operation it was determined that the camera would have to extend by 20″ (508mm) from the skin of the aircraft to provide the necessary viewing range.  This in turn posed a major problem as the further extended from the skin the camera unit was, the higher drag created thus increasing the loading at flight speed.  This then caused further problems as the structure needed to support the flight loading, had to remain under the strict weight limit imposed on the unit.

Various concepts were proposed and developed until a suitable solution that could satisfy all the design requirements was created.  Using Inventors mass properties, we were able to keep a record of the weight of each component as it was created to ensure the weight budget didn’t get exceeded.

The concept model was sent to the client for review and approval, using Inventors animation suite enabled us create a short film of the camera assembly working with supporting detailed images.  This allowed us to prove the concept, ensuring there was no interference within the mechanical system.

To support our presentation to the client we had also sent the model for stress analysis.  Using the file output from Inventor the stress engineers were able to subject the model to operational loads, simulating flight and crash conditions to ensure the assembly would be strong enough to perform as required.

The client was able to see that the concept would meet all the requirements of the initial design specification, without having had to build a prototype and conduct flight tests to achieve approval, offering dramatic cost and time savings.  Satisfied, the client approved the concept and production drawings were created from the model, to be sent out for manufacture.

The image above shows the base frame work assembled prior to systems installation.

The image above shows the full assembly of the mechanical and electrical systems of the camera mount, ready to accept the camera.