Cheap Camera Gives Clay-Pigeon’s-Eye View Of Trap Shooting

Speaking from experience, it’s always fun to build something with the specific intention of destroying it. Childhood sessions spending hours building boats from scrap wood only to take them to a nearby creek to bombard them with rocks — we disrespectfully called this game “Pearl Harbor” — confirms this. As does the slightly more grown-up pursuit of building this one-time-use clay pigeon camera.

The backstory on this build, which dates all the way back to 2017, is that [Thomas] was invited to a birthday bash at the local shooting range for a round of trap shooting. For the uninitiated, trap is a sport that involves launching a clay disc (known as a pigeon) into the air as a moving target and shooting it down with a shotgun. It’s a lot of fun, but [Thomas] was looking for a way to make it even more fun.

After toying with the idea of buying a cheap drone for aerial target practice, he settled on the idea of making a clay pigeon camera. After procuring a cheap keychain camera, he designed a simple wind vane mount for the camera, to keep it pointed in one direction rather than spinning with the pigeon. The wind vane was 3D printed and attached to the pigeon with a skate bearing, and the rig was ready for the range. The snuff film below tells the whole tale; the camera performed admirably and the wind vane did a good job of steadying the camera for all of about five seconds, until the inevitable and dramatic demise of the pigeon.

Watching this makes us feel like we need more projects designed for intentional destruction. Safety first, of course, but we’d be keen to see what everyone comes up with.

23 thoughts on “Cheap Camera Gives Clay-Pigeon’s-Eye View Of Trap Shooting

  1. I think it’s fascinating that the camera survived (reasonably?) intact. I guess it would only take one pellet grazing that pigeon to shatter it, the camera could be totally unscathed.

    It really needed some stabilization though. XD

    1. Since I’m a cheapskate, I pick up my unbroken clays and throw them again. It’s really common for one or two pellets to go through a clay anc not break it.

      On another note, I don’t think it could be stablilized as is. The disc needs to spin to stablilize and the fins disrupt that. I’m no expert, but perhaps a sensor that takes a frame every spin of the clay when it is in a certain direction?

      1. The disc is spinning. The fins / camera mount are like a weather vane, and are on a pivot.

        Potentially, by using a ball joint or similar the camera could be stabilised in pitch too, preventing the wobbling from affecting video.

      2. That would require a global shutter camera, with a rolling shutter the image would be very distorted. Global shutter cameras generally aren’t cheap, and you are unlikely to find one is very cheap mass production.

          1. No, that’s wrong. Global shutter exposes the whole sensor in one go. It’s then read as a rolling shutter, row by row, but rows aren’t exposed while they are being read.

            This requires an additional transistor per pixel to handle exposure and that’s why it’s a bit more expensive (and also a bit less sensitive than RS, since this transistor add noise)

    2. I shot trap competitively through our 4-H program in high school, 1999-2003. According to the box on the brand of clay pigeon we used, they required four direct pellet strikes to shatter them. When we went down range to pick up the missed pigeons we routinely found some that were intact with several holes through them. Never more than three so I guess four really was the magic number. Sometimes it was just the thin center disk of the pigeon that was punched out.
      After they were holed they rarely survived being relaunched from the trap machine a second time.

      Given how slow and lightweight trap shot is, it may be possible to build a “bullet proof” camera housing to survive longer range shots. I’ve been peppered a few times by hunters not paying attention and friends who thought it was a good joke. Hurts like hell and the few pellets that did penetrate the skin weren’t much fun to dig out (or get hit with), but it was far from lethal at that range.

      Pro tip: DO NOT shoot your friends with bird or trap shot, even at longer ranges. It can rupture eyes, cause permanent disfigurement, do significant nerve damage, and if your friend survives they may beat with your own gun. I was lucky to be wearing heavy clothes and hit in the back and thighs.

    1. I want to see someone take the concept from “Twister” (and a similar, lower budget film made around the same time) of getting a bunch of sensors into a tornado for better precision reading of wind speeds, pressure etc, and use a rocket to launch the sensors into a tornado.

      A guidance system in the nose could be ridiculously low cost now. Most of the rocket could be a cardboard tube designed to be ripped apart in the tornado to disperse the sensors. Another thing that could be included is pieces of metal foil, all exactly the same size.

      Doppler RADAR could get very accurate wind speeds from the foil pieces since their exact size would be known.

      What would you put on the sensor probes for taking readings? How would you get the data from them? I’d make them with fluorescent orange parts so they’d be easy to see on the ground and would glow when hit with UV light.

      Launching rocket loads of sensors into tornadoes would be easier than dropping probes ahead of them and hoping the funnel runs right over them. That has been done successfully but rarely, and only a few seconds of data is obtained. That data has only been of ground level conditions.

      1. There are bunches of projects like this going on. The real problem is that we aren’t so concerned with how a tornado moves as we are understanding why one storm produces and another doesn’t.

        A few years back, I worked with a group called the “Sirens Project” that made disposable drones for launching into storms, and sending the data back wirelessly. It was a neat project, but incredibly difficult to get in front of storms to deploy.

        One of the problems with the radar targets of foil is that to understand the low-level dynamics of the storm, you (and the tornado) would need to be close enough to the radar site that it isn’t looking over them. With the Doppler on Wheels (DOWs), it’s enough of a headache to get them there, and that close, a tornado produces plenty of radar targets as is.

        Ultimately, the solution will be in remote sensing, using only drones, probes and others to verify data.

  2. Why no test flight videos? One and done?

    Also, they used a hand thrower to toss the clay. Would have probably gotten more airtime from a real deal hydraulic trap machine.

    1. Naw. The hand throwers and just as good for distance etc. much harder and you start throwing broken clays. One downside is singles only unless you have two people, obv. Plus the hand thrower is way easier to throw in the car instead of an appliance, essentially.

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