GoPro Hack Delivers Live Video Feed For Piloting Your Quadcopter

The GoPro line of HD cameras seem like they were specifically designed for use with quadcopters. We say that because the small, light-weight video devices present a payload which can be lifted without too much strain, but still have enough horse power to capture video of superb quality. Here’s a hack that uses the camera to provide a remote First Person View so that you may pilot the aircraft when it is out of your line of sight.

The camera in question is a GoPro Hero 3. It differs from its predecessors in that the composite video out port has been moved to a mini USB connector. But it’s still there and just a bit of cable splicing will yield a very clear signal. The image above shows the camera in the middle, connecting via the spliced cable to an FPV transmitter on the right. This will all be strapped to the quadcopter, with the signal picked up by the receiver on the left and piped to a goggle display worn by the pilot. You can see the cable being construction process in the clip after the break.

If you’re looking for other cool stuff to do with your GoPro camera check out the bullet-time work [Caleb] did with ours.

43 thoughts on “GoPro Hack Delivers Live Video Feed For Piloting Your Quadcopter

    1. I only looked at the image and read the text before sending in the above comment, but after watching the video it is even worse than I thought since you guys actually bought the official cable! It’s like the guy in the video says: “all we need to to is solder some wires”. Come on Hackaday! At the bare minimum you should have made your own micro-usb to rca cable…

  1. Where is the hack!? Just a cable splice? I was expecting an internal hack to be able to route video out of the USB on the 5’th pin or something along those lines. But a cable splice, is that a hack?….

      1. The worst thing is, he actually bought the cable and just cut it apart, replacing the RCA plug with one to suit his transceiver.

        So essentially he changed the plug of the cable. This is in no way a hack worthy of HaD.

      1. The antenna on the receiver is a ‘skew planar’ and the one on the transmitter is a ‘cloverleaf’. Judging from the look of the hardware and the size of the antenna, I’d go with 5.8ghz. I just got a similar setup, though I’ve still got the stock crappy antennas and a lower power TX.

        There’s lots of videos on youtube about making your own cloverleaf antennas, but I’d probably end up just buying a set someone else made off eBay for $40 since I don’t have the gear to test them properly. :S

        1. Hurr even less than that. It’s primary radiative pattern is a 90-degree sector. But it’s compact and does a good job when you want to radiate in a given direction (eg, not waste energy radiating at the ground) and need circular polarization (not really necessary here, but if the UAV is tumbling it can still be heard) but don’t need strong directionality like a helical antenna.

  2. So pretty much what some FPV pilots do anyway? Not to say it isn’t good work, because they can record good footage and see it as well instead of having to have 2 cameras which of course saves weight.

    I’ll also note that in some countries you’re not meant to fly out of line of sight due to local laws.

  3. not much of a hack, especially since they sell cheap cables for this specific application. plus, gopro = cmos. cmos = rolling shutter effect. crappy dynamic range. ccd camera is the best for FPV. no rolling shutter effect since it captures an entire frame at a time (versus cmos which does line at a time), and has really high dynamic range so you can fly directly towards the sun and still have everything else crystal clear in view.

    1. I’ve got no allegiance to gopro or anything, but statements like that are just annoying. Please, if you’re going to say something is shit, at least give a tiny bit of information as to why you would think that.

      My experience with the gopro hero 3? Decent picture, great construction, horrible battery life. Also, it occasionally locks up.

      Oh, I had Mike run this because I thought it was an interesting workaround. I didn’t realize there was just a cable you could buy. Still, it is a hack.

      1. Indeed. So much evidence-less GoPro bashing its ridiculous. As for the rolling shutter comment, he clearly hasn’t seen 60fps 1080p footage in the v3, I can’t detect the slightest ‘roll’ on any of my GoPro 3 Black footage.
        Go back to posting YT comments, seems its all your good for.

  4. Have you tried the bullet-time idea with a bicycle wheel instead of a lazy susan yet? I’ll wager you should be able to use a front wheel from any bike without doing any damage to it.

  5. If anyone has the external mic adapter cable and can find out where/what resistor they are using to enable the external mic feature instead of composite/audio out. I would appreciate it. I’d like to mix the audio from my motorcycle helmet headset into the gopro, but I didn’t want to spend a bunch on their special cable.

    blendz at

  6. I’m sure that at some future point, someone searching for a way to connect to the composite out – without paying $40 for the official cable or waiting three weeks for delivery from China – will find this HAD entry and appreciate it. Heck, I learned a bit about antennas just reading the comments.

    Making adapter cables isn’t exciting or inspiring, but still useful.

  7. That’s not a hack.

    This is a hack

    A single resistor and a 10 pin usb connector is all you need to make this work…the biggest challenge is finding the 10 pin connector. No splicing necessary and 10x smaller.

    But that all misses the point. Go Pros are horrific replacements for even the cheapeast CCD cameras. Anyone who’s flown FPV for any length of time knows how important WDR is for flying (sky exposes properly blacking out the ground), and that’s one area where the GoPro fails miserably. Even with the new firmware, it doesn’t take much to lock up the GoPro and if you lose your video feed – you may as well kiss your rig goodbye (unless you were smart enough to install a return to home feature, but if you’re using a gopro as a flight camera – RTH is a little out of your league).

  8. This is certainly an interesting article, but if you’re a keen quad copter enthusiast like myself you’ll know that this is really just exactly what the hardware was designed to do – so I’m with the trolls on that.
    It’s a little like saying, “Hey I have a great hack for my toaster that increases the range of bread items I can toast. I managed to put an english muffin in mine, and it works great. The muffin was smaller than the toast, so I had to improvise an extraction tool, commonly known as a ‘fork’ to remove the muffin. This is a slightly dangerous hack, but if you turn the power off you should be fine.”

    Happy to read these kind of things, but can they be filed inter “interestig stuff” rather than hacks?

  9. I looked at some sample videos and can’t help notice that the gopro is actually not the best of the action-cams, they just have better PR I guess, (and occasionally threaten to sue people to have them remove negative reviews..).

  10. As has been mentioned, the previous GoPros are already quite commonly used for FPV piloting & recording. Personally I’m a fan of using the $100 Canon cameras with the CHDK opensource firmware for aerial photography and video, they’re about the same weight as a GoPro in a plastic shield (130g), hackable, have 3x the sensor resolution (16MP) and are 3x cheaper. I’m not sure if a hack exists to stream the video out of them live though :(

  11. How can I control/turn on/off video signal of SYMA X5C drone camera from an independent CPU?
    Protocol and signal levels and timing.
    Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge.

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