Recommended camera arrangement for mapping missions

My use case is mounting a camera on a drone and taking periodic downward-facing pictures for mapping purposes.

I have searched for drone-specific cameras, but was not able to find it.

I currently have a solution of using a Raspberry Pi with Wifi dongle connected to a Sony RX100 Mk IV.

Running Gphoto2 on the Raspbbery PI. (Another setup with Canon and CHDK was used with reasonable success as well)

Apart from carrying a camera with various unused features (display, controls, separate battery), there are suboptimal aspects to this setup.

The primary issue is that I cannot get it to be reliable, in the case of the Sony RX100. I might be able to get it reliable through consultation with the libgphoto2 community.
Secondary (perhaps primary) issue is that it is inelegant and cumbersome, a lot of unused and redundant hardware is carried by the drone.

My question is: Is there a more elegant approach?

Ideally:

  • Shutter triggered from waypoints rather than a fixed timer (I am aware this can be achieved with Sony/Canon camera through special shutter wiring)
  • Transfer images using MAVLink (Camera Protocol · MAVLink Developer Guide), as opposed to separate radio link (wifi) on companion board for image transfer.
  • A camera with only minimal hardware (USB, no physical controls or display needed, no battery).
  • The radio would have to be fast enough. My current radio is based on a standard SiK Telemetry Radio, which can handle 115200 baud rates, not enough for image transfer.
  • The camera would integrate somehow with arducopter.

TLDR: What elegant and recommended camera setups, minimizing complexity?

PS. Resuming work on drones after a few years of doing other things. There seem to be no obvious hardware options that integrate well with MavLink and/or Ardupilot, but I might have missed things.

Regards, HC3D

I would recommend the Seagull #MAP2 Seagull #MAP2 - UAV / Drone Camera Trigger to have a simple setup, without the RPI (but no real-time image transfer to the ground).

Sophisticated setup: RPI + Sony A7C using Sony Camera Remote SDK Camera Remote SDK | SONY

Thanks for pointing out the Sony SDK. It will likely be quite reliable. It seems more cameras will be supported in the future.
With the Seagull, a setup with a RPI and Gphoto could be used, perhaps, for automated photo extraction.

I wonder if there was any camera suitable for integration into an (aerial) robot that I am overlooking. I still believe there must be something more elegant. Robotics are not something new. There must be an option to avoid having all that unneeded hardware such as physical controls, LCD screen, battery etc.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX0 II, compatible with the Sony SDK, it quite interesting for its small form factor, but only has a 1" sensor, which may be just enough sensor real estate for aerial mapping.

Arducam sells USB UVC cameras and RPI camera with autofocus and IMX298. This is a very elegant minimalist solution, although here the sensor size of 6.521 mm (Type 1/2.8, 16MP) is not ideal.

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