Gliding To Underwater Filming Success

If you are a fan of nature documentaries you will no doubt have been wowed by their spectacular underwater sequences. So when you buy a GoPro or similar camera and put it in a waterproof case accessory, of course you take it with you when you go swimming. Amazing footage and international documentary stardom awaits!

Of course, your results are disappointing. The professionals have years of experience and acquired skill plus the best equipment money can buy, and you just have your hand, and a GoPro. The picture is all over the place, and if there is a subject it’s extremely difficult to follow.

[Steve Schmitt] has an answer to this problem, and it’s a refreshingly simple one. He’s built an underwater glider to which he attaches his camera and launches across the submerged vista he wishes to film. Attached to a long piece of line for retrieval, it is set to glide gently downwards at a rate set by the position of the camera on its boom.

Construction is extremely simple. The wing is a delta-shaped piece of corrugated plastic roofing sheet, while the fuselage is a piece of plastic pipe. A T-connector has the camera mount on it, and this can slide along the fuselage for pre-launch adjustments. It’s that simple, but of course sometimes the best builds are the simple ones. He’s put up a video which you can see below the break, showing remarkable footage of a test flight through a cold-water spring.

If you want to try your hand at underwater photography we can direct you to some underwater camera housings, but be careful that you avoid being attacked by a shark!

17 thoughts on “Gliding To Underwater Filming Success

  1. The footage shot here is stunning, Just looks like some dumb pond but when that glider gets in the water, It transforms into a place of amazing beauty. Great hack, next step adding some very low rpm motors for control without disturbing the water too much, So you can really explore some place bigger without just having to dunk and hope.
    Even if it is kept passive it still is something special.

    1. 12 volt computer fans, run slow with a PCM controller or just lower voltage.

      3D print some nose cones to glue to the fan hubs and to the back on the frame center. Get the cheap ones and it won’t matter when the bearings go or if the circuitry in them corrodes. Just replace them. Of course the rest of the electronics you’d want to waterproof. Ones that only have mounting holes on one face would be lighter and it would be easy to cut two of the holes off to reduce drag. Mount with the other two.

    2. Or a fishing reel. Cranking a reel would be way smoother than trying to use a hand over hand retrieve. Quiet, doesn’t disturb the water, ready to go again immediately. Cheap, too.

    3. “Just looks like some dumb pond…”

      No way!

      Look at the view at 00:10! If I stumbled upon that out in the woods (and it didn’t have the posted sign) I would be very curious what I had found. Clearly that is a huge, steep dropoff but in such a tiny pond. I would be immediately wondering what violent event created that and even more so when. Being so small I would imagine it must be pretty young otherwise it would have mostly filled itself in.

      Now, having seen the video… That sure did look like a tall vertical wall of mud to me. Now I am even more convinced this thing couldn’t be all that old (geologically speaking). Why haven’t those mud walls collapsed? And those trees in the bottom.. maybe they just fell in over the side but one sure did look like a stump to me. Did the bottom of that hole used to be up at the surface? And so recently that the wood hasn’t even disappeared yet? What happened here?!?

      I’m going to see if I can get it to zoom in enough to read that sign he focused on in the beginning now.

  2. I like the passive aspect of this – much less silt-stirring which would be the result of any propulsion system in a body of water like this and would take days to settle. It screams for wire-guided control like a Mk48 torpedo in order to control the shot (Up-nerding of all projects is the point of the comments section, isn’t it?). Simple R/C equipment and a single antenna strand in the retrieval line would do it, sparing the need for multiconductor cables etc.

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