Merging my computer science background and love for aviation, I hacked a Flir i7 thermal camera and placed it on a homebuilt multirotor. I had to do this because I wanted a thermal camera on an aerial platform, but there weren’t any. This was July of 2009, and drone manufactures weren’t selling drones ready-to-fly drones. In 2008, while working at Knife Edge Software, my co-worker Aaron Moore showed me a multirotor he built. His build was a quadcopter that had four airplane propellers and basic IMU that assisted the platform to keep it flying level. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the sensors that could be placed on a multirotor. Until then, the best I was able to do was attaching my mother’s digital camera to a collective pitch RC helicopter as seen in this video.
If you’ve ever been on a conference call with me, you may have noticed a tri-copter hanging on my wall.
This tri-copter was built in 2009 and stabilized with an Assan GA410 Gyro (and other RC helicopter tail rotor gyros). I modified the EXTECH / FLIR i7 infrared thermal camera and placed on the aircraft. Camera control via PWM for basic camera functions using a converter I programed on ESP32, and LCD was cloned, converted, then sent to the pilot over 900mhz for real time thermal and visual video feed. Here is a video I posted on YouTube on May 14, 2010.
This video was seen by people in the Oil and Gas community, and eventually turned into GIS radiometric deliverable contracts. Other LDAR – Leak Detection And Repair contracts were secured using aerial thermography to locate water, gas, and other discharges.