Author Topic: Strange Idea  (Read 712 times)

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Offline KJ_Lesnick

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Strange Idea
« on: July 08, 2018, 02:57:19 pm »
I have kind of an alternate-history that involves two people using drones as part of a P.I. firm during the 1980-1988 period (yes, inspired by the timeframe of Magnum P.I.) and the idea would be cool drones that could be produced with the technology of the era either by the ordinary public, or what a private investigator would be privy to (cameras and so forth).

It's kind of a weird idea, but it was kind of inspired by science-fiction, Magnum P.I., an episode from an MTV cartoon and so forth.
That being said, I'd like to remind everybody in a manner reminiscent of the SNL bit on Julian Assange, that no matter how I die: It was murder (even if there was a suicide note or a video of me peacefully dying in my sleep); should I be framed for a criminal offense or disappear, you know to blame.

Offline Snowtrooper

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2018, 03:41:05 pm »
An intriguing idea. What's the size of the drone? Predator or quadcopter? I'll assume closer to the latter...

RC helicopters exist already during the timeframe, so that's one obstacle cleared. Conceivably, you could perhaps jury-rig one to carry a commercially available video camera. The battery technology would probably not have been the limit, since the camera would have weighed enough that a combustion engine would have been needed anyway and that could have driven an alternator powering the electric equipment.

Of course, combustion engine is noisy, but I can't realistically think of a way how with the battery technology of the time you could lift a video camera in the air and keep it aloft longer than a few seconds (car batteries? can't be bothered to calculate whether their power/weight ratio is good enough for this kind of purpose). Could be a plot point that the noise from the engine has to be masked somehow, eg. only using the drone in city centre during the busy hours, mowing the lawn with copious volume, arranging a noisy house party next door, or something similar. The resulting "drone" won't probably look much like a model helicopter, since you would want a much enlarged fuel tank compared to the standard model, and that would in turn favour night surveillance, but with the cameras of the time, that's not really doable. Long-distance zoom? Will add weight, but since "drone" does not enter the public vocabulary for good 20 years, nobody will probably have the idea to watch the skies for odd-shaped flying things if you stay high and far enough.

A further problem might be getting the video signal from the camera to the ground unit - were transmitters capable of sending video signal but small enough to fit on a RC chopper commercially available at the time? At least for consumer RC flying, "first-person view" kits did not take off until the 2000's, but of course for a private eye the cost would not be an issue if he had wealthy customers ready to pay for such a fancy way of surveillance (if the technology was available for public; of course, what would be a good private eye without a contact in the military/intelligence/law enforcement smuggling him the latest hardware off the books, off the record, under the desk?).

The RC copters of the time required constant manual control though. Fitting the repurposed innards of a home computer such as Commodore 64 and programming it to perform autopilot functions would be one solution, however using computer control at the controller end could perhaps be the better way (saving space, weight, and power requirements) as you would want to keep the weight and size of the drone to a minimum.

The ground unit with the monitor, flight controls, videotape recorders and computer control would certainly not be inconspicuous or portable though - could be hidden in a van, or more discretely, in a station wagon (though latter will be very uncomfortable for extended surveillance).

Offline KJ_Lesnick

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2018, 11:39:19 pm »
Snowtrooper

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An intriguing idea. What's the size of the drone?
I haven't worked that out, but it would be dictated largely by the equipment to be carried aboard.
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RC helicopters exist already during the timeframe, so that's one obstacle cleared.
I didn't know that, but I did some online checking.  I was thinking something fixed wing mostly because I know fixed wings better than helicopters, though I'm willing to learn.
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Conceivably, you could perhaps jury-rig one to carry a commercially available video camera. The battery technology would probably not have been the limit, since the camera would have weighed enough that a combustion engine would have been needed anyway and that could have driven an alternator powering the electric equipment.
I figured there would be two ideas

1. Loft a video camera with enough film.

2. Loft a camera and transmit to a source that would record the data and transmit it: I know it was possible for some time to transmit images, though I'm not sure how the FCC would like it, it could theoretically be beamed to a source such as a non-descript van with a TV screen, and possibly some means of recording the information onto film.  I'm not sure how many cameras worked in VHS format, though VHS existed as of 1977.
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Of course, combustion engine is noisy
Yeah, I had thought about that and I'm not sure if there was any kind of battery system for this purpose.  It would clearly be important to operate the drone under conditions where the noise could be masked.
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A further problem might be getting the video signal from the camera to the ground unit - were transmitters capable of sending video signal but small enough to fit on a RC chopper commercially available at the time?
I'm not sure how much power would be required or the size of such a system.  That would ultimately dictate the design.
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The RC copters of the time required constant manual control though. Fitting the repurposed innards of a home computer such as Commodore 64 and programming it to perform autopilot functions would be one solution, however using computer control at the controller end could perhaps be the better way (saving space, weight, and power requirements) as you would want to keep the weight and size of the drone to a minimum.
Put all the brains on the ground basically?
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The ground unit with the monitor, flight controls, videotape recorders and computer control would certainly not be inconspicuous or portable though - could be hidden in a van
That's kind of what I thought about.  Another idea would be launching the device off a boat and recovering it on land or vice versa.  I'm not sure how you'd do all that.
That being said, I'd like to remind everybody in a manner reminiscent of the SNL bit on Julian Assange, that no matter how I die: It was murder (even if there was a suicide note or a video of me peacefully dying in my sleep); should I be framed for a criminal offense or disappear, you know to blame.

Offline PR19_Kit

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2018, 12:19:22 am »

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RC helicopters exist already during the timeframe, so that's one obstacle cleared.

I didn't know that, but I did some online checking.


Dieter Schluter demonstrated his proototype R/C helicopter at the first World R/C Scale Championships at Cranfield in 1970. I know this for sure because I was there watching him do it.........
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Offline KJ_Lesnick

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2018, 03:42:53 pm »
Dieter Schluter demonstrated his proototype R/C helicopter at the first World R/C Scale Championships at Cranfield in 1970. I know this for sure because I was there watching him do it.........
That's quite awesome
That being said, I'd like to remind everybody in a manner reminiscent of the SNL bit on Julian Assange, that no matter how I die: It was murder (even if there was a suicide note or a video of me peacefully dying in my sleep); should I be framed for a criminal offense or disappear, you know to blame.

Offline JoeP

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2018, 03:53:21 pm »
I watched a man wreck an R/C helo in the summer of 1984. Noisy, though, so not great on the stealth aspect, so your P.I. won't be sneaking up on his targets. Perhaps there would be targets, though, where stealth didn't matter, like flybys of hotel rooms or private homes.

I do not recall how small video cameras were in those days. A talented electrician would have been able to rig a remote shutter trigger for an SLR, of course. And perhaps a long enough lens would allow the helo to fly at a distance sufficient to reduce the noise.

An intriguing idea! :thumbsup:
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Offline sandiego89

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2018, 07:00:04 pm »
I always though the Gyrodyne DASH QH-50, a 1960's drone helicopter designed to operate from small destroyers was way ahead of its time.  Never really made it to widespread service, but pretty bold for the era. Could drop a torpedo so obviously payload was there.  Later versions were using TV cameras for gunfire spotting in the 1960's. Unsure of the data link.  So a bit large for your Private Eye to have in the trunk of their car, but still pretty impressive.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyrodyne_QH-50_DASH 
Dave "Sandiego89"
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Offline KJ_Lesnick

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2018, 04:24:56 am »
JoeP,

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I watched a man wreck an R/C helo in the summer of 1984.
What happened -- he crash it into something?
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Noisy, though, so not great on the stealth aspect, so your P.I. won't be sneaking up on his targets.
What about something that could be launched vertically but could fly horizontally?
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I do not recall how small video cameras were in those days.
Well, security cameras might have already existed and they could fit in those black domes, regular cameras seemed to be the kinds that were about the size of a boombox if I recall.
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A talented electrician would have been able to rig a remote shutter trigger for an SLR, of course. And perhaps a long enough lens would allow the helo to fly at a distance sufficient to reduce the noise.
You could use some kind of device that's not totally dissimilar to a bomb-sight in that the camera could be aimed at an object when flying at a specified speed: As the camera is moved, the degree per second rate combined with the pitot-static system (determines altitude and airspeed) determine ground-speed and then it holds that position until it reaches the gimbal limit (if it has one).

I suppose you could use a more sophisticated arrangement whereby if the vehicle turns, it will also continue to turn the camera to keep itself on target as long as speed stays the same.  This could either be based on some kind of pivot or gimbal-in-a-gimbal system that uses the movement of the aircraft (degree per second and ground speed) to keep the camera where it should be


Sandiego89,

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I always though the Gyrodyne DASH QH-50, a 1960's drone helicopter designed to operate from small destroyers was way ahead of its time.  Never really made it to widespread service, but pretty bold for the era.
I'm not sure how semi-automated it was, because that could be interesting with drones and nukes.
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Could drop a torpedo so obviously payload was there.
That would cover the camera...
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Later versions were using TV cameras for gunfire spotting in the 1960's. Unsure of the data link.
I think it used multi-channel FM: I'm not sure exactly what multi-channel is (I wish radio/electronics were taught better to us Americans from 1979-present), but regular FM would require one to have knowledge of the radio frequencies in the area.
That being said, I'd like to remind everybody in a manner reminiscent of the SNL bit on Julian Assange, that no matter how I die: It was murder (even if there was a suicide note or a video of me peacefully dying in my sleep); should I be framed for a criminal offense or disappear, you know to blame.

Offline JoeP

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2018, 04:26:16 pm »
JoeP,

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I watched a man wreck an R/C helo in the summer of 1984.
What happened -- he crash it into something?

Yes, that most immovable of all possible objects - the ground. Lost control in flight and it went over and wrecked the main rotor and snapped the tail boom.
USS New Jersey, BB-62, Vietnam
USS Neshanic, AO 71, out of Lindberg Neches and a WHOLE lot of extra details
And several other vessels named after NJ, locations and battles herein, and people herefrom

Offline KJ_Lesnick

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2018, 09:06:56 pm »
JoeP,

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Yes, that most immovable of all possible objects - the ground.
That would do the job...
That being said, I'd like to remind everybody in a manner reminiscent of the SNL bit on Julian Assange, that no matter how I die: It was murder (even if there was a suicide note or a video of me peacefully dying in my sleep); should I be framed for a criminal offense or disappear, you know to blame.

Offline perttime

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Re: Strange Idea
« Reply #10 on: August 06, 2018, 05:13:49 am »



I watched a man wreck an R/C helo in the summer of 1984.

What happened -- he crash it into something?
Yes, that most immovable of all possible objects - the ground. Lost control in flight and it went over and wrecked the main rotor and snapped the tail boom.
I watched a man wreck an R/C helo a few years ago at a cozy airshow. He was doing pretty impressive aerobatics and said he got fuel residue in his eyes, from the Internal Combustion exhaust. The best he could see was to crash it away from the crowd. Lots of small pieces....

I suppose the mist of methanol, nitromethane and oil can sting a bit.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2018, 05:19:13 am by perttime »