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Water Rocket Mobius Tower Camera

We wondered what the view would be like to a person standing on the tip of a Water Rocket as it was launched hundreds of feet into the air, so we came up with an idea to make a tower to mount a camera on the top of a Water Rocket, so we could find out what it would look like from that point of view.

The idea for making the Tower Camera is something we have wanted to do for several years. When we originally began designing the hardware for this project, we became sidetracked with the idea that the same system could be tweaked slightly to become a "Chase Camera", which used a small Camera Pod that follows the Rocket from behind. With the successful completion of the Chase Camera project, we decided to revisit the Tower Camera idea and finally see how it would work.

A still frame capture from one of the Chase Camera flights we launched with our Chase Camera Pod.  Original Concept Art for the Chase Camera was created from the Tower Camera Concept Art.  The first Chase Camera Pod that we built from bottles and an 808 Type #16 Camera.

We had recently obtained a full HD Mobius Action Camera and decided to use it for the Tower Camera Project. Unfortunately, the Mobius Camera was too large and would not fit in the existing Camera Pod Body. The Mobius Camera also has a Lens Module oddly offset from the centerline of the case, so in order to keep the design as compact and as light as possible, we needed to make a totally custom enclosure so that the lens and camera were both centered on the vertical axis of the Rocket.

We also needed to make sure the camera was completely waterproof, since our primary launch site is over a lake. This project would be a perfect chance to showcase out recently acquired 3D printer.

The Full HD Mobius Action Camera which was used for the Tower Camera Build.  The offset Lens of the Mobius Camera made it difficult to create a Tower Camera Pod with the lens centered on the rocket centerline.  The Mobius Action Camera was dismantled so that the innards could be transplanted into a more suitable enclosure which we would design and 3D Print.

The Tower Camera Pod was divided into two different major subsystems. The Camera Enclosure is made up of a Tray that holds the Mobius Printed Circuit Board in place, a Lens Holder to hold the Lens Module in position, and a aerodynamic shell to enclose the fromt of the enclosure to make it water tight. Places to attach the Enclosure to the Tower Structure on the top of the Rocket were also incorporated into the design.

The Mobius Printed Circuit Board tray Holds the circuitry, and  accepts the plastic buttons taken from the original Mobius Camera.  The Lens Holder was designed with holes to connect to the struts and also has hollow air filled chambers to provide flotation.  The front portion of the Tower Camera Pod is just a variation of our FTC Water Rocket Nosecone design.

The other major subsystem is an internal Framework Structure that is located inside the nosecone of the Water Rocket, which is made from a Soft Drink Bottle, making it too weak for our purposes. The Framework provides structural rigidity for the stresses the weight of the camera will place on the nosecone. The two subsystems are connected together by Carbon Fiber Struts, which fasten to the Framework with Aerodynamic Mounting Points. We also printed a matching Nosecone Tip to close the hole in the top bottle of the nose, matching the contours of the bottle.

Aerodynamic Strut Mount Fairings were used to connect the Tower Camera Struts to the Water Rocket Nose.  This internal bracket was used to provide a rigid framework to fasten the Strut Mounts to, using Nylong Screws.  Instead of cutting up Ping-Pong balls, we made a Nosecone Tip component that covers the hole in the nosecone where the bottle neck is trimmed off.

The camera circuit board is attached using the original screws to the Tray, which accepts the plastic switch buttons from the existing camera. The Mobius lens module is glued into the Lens Mount, which has holes to insert and glue the four Carbon Fiber Struts. The Tray fits into a slot in the Lens Holder, which mates with the front half of the Pod, sealing it completely.

The Mobius Camera Electronics were mounted to the Tray.  The Lens Module from the Mobius Camera was glued into the Lens Holder.  The front of the Tower Camera Pod slides over the mating surfaces of the Lens Holder, forming a waterproof case for the Mobius Electronics.

The Tower Struts connect to the Nosecone of the rocket by gluing them into holes in the aerodynamic Strut Mounts, which are are screwed to the Framework inside the Nosecone by passing them through holes cut in the Nosecone itself, and then fixing them in place with nylon screws.

The Bracket and Strut Mounts were printed simultaneously.  Using the internal framework as a template, holes were cut in the Nosecone for the Strut Mounts to pass through neatly.  The Nosecone components include the Nose, the Tip, the Framework, and the Strut Mounts.

The Tower Camera and Nose Assembly were then installed on the top of our Water Rocket. Our Rocket was already configured for using our Radial Deployment System, which is Servo Motor triggered by an inexpensive LaunchPad AlTImeter, which would also tell us how high the rocket went.

The Completed Tower Camera Pod.  The Tower Camera Pod before one of many Test Flights.  The Tower Camera is Launc on a Test Flight.hed

We then flew a number of test flights to see what the view from on top of the rocket would look like. We made a YouTube video to show the results of our test flights. Enjoy the video, and leave comments or suggestions in the video Comments Section.

Tower Camera Video:

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