The Public Lab Store Starter kits for DIY environmental science

Saturn V Adjustable RC Aerial Photography Rig

The Saturn V Rig is a kite aerial photography rig designed to use two micro servos (small motors) to adjust the pan and tilt angles of the camera. The servos can be operated autonomously by an on-board microcontroller or remotely via radio control. With a camera capable of being triggered remotely you can systematically capture photos to stitch into high resolution panoramas or just take lots of photos in all directions.

The Saturn V Rig was designed to be operated by the SkyShield autoKAP controller. The SkyShield is a custom circuit board which is a "shield" for an Arduino Nano. The Arduino can run a program ("sketch") which includes eight different regimes of pan/tilt/shoot sequences, any of which can be selected in the field using a DIP switch.The SkyShield allows easy connection of the camera, servos, and battery pack.  Up to two cameras (or other devices) and four servos (or other devices) can be connected for various applications. The SkyShield is open-source, and the circuit and software are available at the Guides page.

Two configurations of the Saturn V Rig are available (select one in the dropdown menu above). Both include version 2.4 (or later) of the SkyShield.

  1. DIY Kit $110 -- The Saturn V Rig must be assembled and the SkyShield and two cables must be soldered (5 hours total). For details of the assembly processes, see the Saturn V Rig and the SkyShield assembly instructions. A hi-res image of all the parts is below.
  2. Assembled Rig $160 -- No soldering or gluing is required. The rig is mostly assembled, and the SkyShield and cables are tested and ready to fly. (1 hour)

Both packages include everything for a working autoKAP rig except the camera. This includes the 3D printed pan/tilt rig and Picavet suspension, a SkyShield KAP controller with Arduino Nano compatible microcontroller, two micro servos, a gear set, battery case, cables, and all the straps, legs, and bumpers. Instructions and all the parts and hardware are included.

Flying weight without the camera is 340 grams (includes batteries, Picavet, legs, etc.).

The SkyShield is also available by itself either in kit form or assembled. 

The Arduino Nano is loaded with a sketch which runs when it is powered up. With the free Arduino software installed on your computer, you can update the sketch or modify it to alter any of the pan/tilt/shoot modes described in the sketch. The SkyShield has a 1.5 amp LDO voltage regulator and 270uF or 390uF capacitor to supply ample current to the servos. The SkyShield is a through-hole PCB and is easy to solder. Although the intended use is aerial photography, a SkyShield can be used to control six different devices of many types with battery power and DIP switch control of variables. 

Discussion and early results can be seen in research notes published at Public Lab.

Assembly and configuration instructions are available at the KAPtery along with the open source circuit design and software for the SkyShield.


All PLOTS content is CC-BY-SA and CERN OHL 1.1

This product is designed and developed by Public Lab contributor Chris Fastie and is completely open source. Downloadable instructions for 3d printing your own rigs and suspension mounts are available on Thingiverse. Instructions for building and assembling are available as a pdf.


Want to carry our kits in your own store? Order wholesale! Contact the kits team.

Community Science Forum: Frac Sand

Our quarterly print publication has a new name, and a wider scope. It's now called the Community Science Forum. This issue is focused on frac sand, and in particular on the work being done in western Wisconsin by community groups concerned about air and water quality impacts of mining operations there.

Usually $5, we're offering the new issue at an experimental price of $2 plus shipping.

Event Packs

Do you have an event planned and would like to introduce Public Lab to your community? Order a $10 Event Pack with GMF and foldout maps!


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