RMRC SkyWalker Pan/Tilt FPV Pod Review

I’m currently putting the finishing touches to my new Skywalker 1900 FPV plane build. One of the features I included on this plane was a pan & tilt FPV camera pod which can be remotely controlled by the pilot or automatically with a head tracking system. ReadyMadeRC make a wide range of bespoke FPV add-ons including this laser cut plywood FPV pan/tilt pod for the Skywalker 1900. Today I’m writing a review on this product to help any fellow Skywalker pilots looking to add pan/tilt capability to their plane.

Overview

Pan/tilt camera systems provide the ability for FPV pilots (or co-pilots) to look around at their surroundings during flight. Not only is this great fun, but it also enhances safety by giving the pilot more situational awareness. Typically pan/tilt cameras are used in conjunction with an autopilot system which keeps the plane flying straight and level while the pilot is not looking forward. The camera can either be moved manually using spare R/C channels (e.g. thumb sliders) or automatically using a head tracking controller. A head tracking system senses the movements of the pilot and translates this information in to control inputs for the camera servos, making the camera move with the pilot’s head. One of the most popular head tracking systems is the FatShark Trinity head tracker which is used in conjunction with FatShark’s brilliant line up of FPV video goggles.

The Skywalker 1900 airframe is sold with two different EPO foam canopies - one standard canopy and another designed for mounting an FPV camera. Modifying the FPV-specific canopy to mount a pan/tilt camera mounting is an option for this plane, but I decided to try ReadyMadeRC’s Skywalker-specific replacement plywood FPV pod.

The pod is sold in a kit form consisting of various pieces of lightweight laser-cut plywood, plastic gears and mounting accessories. I bought my FPV pod from RC-Log.co.uk via their eBay shop for £28.79 including delivery. More details are available on the ReadyMadeRC product page. Pictured below is a photo of my completed Skywalker pan/tilt pod using two Hitec HS-65HB Karbonite servos and a FatShark 700 TVL CCD FPV camera.

RMRC Skywalker pod pan tilt module.

Design & Assembly

The pod comes in two packages - the main body of the pod which replaces the foam canopy and the pan/tilt assembly. The camera mounting pod without the pan/tilt assembly is available from RMRC as a standalone item. The pan/tilt mechanism uses one servo for each axis of movement, allowing for 180° travel in both directions as standard - or full 360° movement with a servo stretcher.

Assembly using thin or medium cyanoacrylate glue to join the parts together is an easy process and takes about 30 minutes. The RMRC manual for the Skywalker pod is well written with lots of photographs to aid the process. The day before assembling the pod I sprayed the plywood pieces with a varnish aerosol, so that the wood wouldn’t be affected by rain or cloud moisture. The photos below show the key stages of the pod assembly.

RMRC Skywalker pod pan tilt parts.

The pan/tilt platform is assembled from a number of small pieces. It is designed to work with two standard 9g servos (not included). I chose to use Hitec HS-65HB Karbonite servos because they were recommended in the instruction manual and are also very reliable. Using good quality servos for pan/tilt systems is important to minimise the risk of having to fly a plane with the camera stuck facing sideways or backwards should a servo fail.

RMRC Skywalker pan/tilt pod pan mechanism (1). RMRC Skywalker pan/tilt pod pan mechanism (2). RMRC Skywalker pan/tilt pod pan mechanism (3).

The above photos show how the panning servo is fitted to the platform. The black nylon gear is glued to the servo horn and positioned to rotate a metal bolt which supports the camera platform. I used 2-part epoxy glue when attaching the gear to the servo, as this will be more durable than cyanoacrylate glue. I would also recommend adding some plastic-safe grease to the gears, even though this is not mentioned in the assembly instructions.

RMRC Skywalker pan tilt module camera attachment.

The tilt servo is attached to the camera platform using the included self-adhesive foam pad. I also used a zip-tie to provide some extra security for the tilt servo. After the glue was dry I used a HobbyKing Servo Tester to make sure everything was working as expected.

RMRC Skywalker pan/tilt pod pan servo.

The pan/tilt platform is then glued in to position on the main pod body. The platform can be fixed in two different positions, either at the front of the pod or in the centre. I chose to glue the platform in the forward position so that the plane’s nose was not showing in the FPV video. The photo above shows how the panning servo protrudes below the pod and in to the Skywalker fuselage. This could be a problem if using large batteries - there was about 1mm of clearance from the top of a MultiStar 10000mAh 4S battery mounted sideways in my Skywalker 1900.

RMRC Skywalker pan/tilt pod without camera. RMRC Skywalker pan/tilt pod with camera.

These photos show the finished Skywalker pan/tilt pod with and without the FatShark 700TVL CCD camera attached. I attached the camera using a self adhesive foam pad and two zip-ties. The camera was a perfect fit for the standard baseplate included with the kit, with the socket cut-out in the correct position.

RMRC states that the standard backplate is compatible with the RMRC-420, RMRC-420XV, RMRC-520, RMRC-LL600, KX131, KX171, KX191, IF Cam, SN777, and SN555 cameras. Other camera backplates are available seperately from RMRC with different shapes, for cameras such as RMRC-480, RMRC-540, IF OSD Cam, DPC OSD Cam and the DX201.

RMRC Skywalker pan tilt camera testing.

At the rear of the pod there is a compartment which can be used to mount a video transmitter and/or dedicated FPV battery pack. The product description says this is designed for a 3S 620 mAh battery. I didn’t mount my video transmitter on the pod as it is fitted to the tail of my Skywalker, and camera power is provided by an Eagle Tree Vector flight controller.

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The pod is attached to the Skywalker using a combination of plywood tabs at the rear and a thumbscrew at the front. The thumbscrew mates with the standard recessed nut on the Skywalker’s nose. I also added a small piece of self adhesive Velcro where the pod meets the foam at the back of the canopy area. The kit included a thin Velcro strap which was supposed to be for securing the pod but it wasn’t entirely clear to me from the instructions how this was intended to be used.

When setting up the pod with my Hitec Aurora 9X radio it was necessary to change the servo throws to +/- 125% on both the pan and tilt channels to achieve the full 180° movement. As the Hitec HS-65HB servos are very fast I also decided to lower the maximum servo speeds to avoid over exerting the camera assembly. I also added some cable ties to the servo/camera cables, as it was clear during operation that it would be easy for them to get caught on the pan/tilt platform if they were not kept clear.

Here’s a video demonstrating the finished pod kit in operation:

Conclusion

This is a very well designed product by RMRC which fulfils its stated purpose perfectly. Assembly of the kit was relatively easy and it was a great fit for my Skywalker 1900 fuselage. The parts used in the kit are of good quality and there is minimal play in the gear assembly when moving the camera. The plywood parts are accurately cut, slotting together precisely and look like they should cope with a few unplanned landings too. RMRC’s provided instruction manual is of decent quality and has a good selection of photographs to help with the assembly process.

If you have more than one Skywalker plane this product offers a great way to conveniently move your entire FPV system between planes quickly and easily. The only downside to this product is it is relatively expensive, with the pod kit and required servos costing about the same as the Skywalker 1900 airframe. This is understandable as RMRC has obviously invested a lot of time in designing this product and the market for this item is rather small. There are alternatives available however, such as the HobbyKing Skywalker Plywood FPV Canopy which costs about a fifth of the price. However the HobbyKing version does not include the pan/tilt assembly.

In conclusion, I am really pleased with this product and definitely recommend it. If you are looking to add a turn-key pan/tilt FPV camera platform to your Skywalker 1900 plane, then look no further.

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