You’re on Camera

You’re on Camera

You’re on Camera

Adding a webcam at your club field

By Grant Schulte, Dan Fitzgerald, and Kevin Hyde grantpschulte@gamil.com | Photos by the authors

As seen in the December 2023 issue of Model Aviation.

Anytime you want to see whether someone is flying at the Omahawks R/C Club’s field in Omaha, Nebraska, all you need to do is check the club’s website. Near the bottom of the homepage are two high-resolution photos. One offers an expansive view of the club’s pit area, pavilion, windsock, and runway. The other is a sweeping shot of the parking lot and access gate. Both images update automatically, once a minute. Check them out at the club’s website, listed in "Sources."

The two webcams at the Omahawks R/C Club’s field capture still images from multiple angles and broadcast them to the club’s website. The setup allows viewers to see whether anyone is at the field or in the parking lot. You can also see the weather at the

The two webcams at the Omahawks R/C Club’s field capture still images from multiple angles and broadcast them to the club’s website. The setup allows viewers to see whether anyone is at the field or in the parking lot. You can also see the weather at the field.

The online cameras have proven hugely popular with our members, and creating your own club setup is easier than you might think. Aside from the obvious security benefits and the chance to see whether your friends are out having fun, field cameras serve as a useful tool to attract visitors. Nonmembers who want to watch RC flying in person or try the hobby themselves can check our webpage to confirm that pilots are at the field before deciding whether to visit.

Setting Up

We installed both 4K cameras on a storage shed with mostly unobstructed views of the field. They’re attached beneath roof overhangs to provide additional protection from rain and to minimize their exposure to the sun.

We also opted for cameras that can withstand Nebraska’s frigid, icy winters and ferocious summer heat. The cameras are hassle free, reliable, easy to maintain, and rugged enough to work in all kinds of weather.

 Kevin Hyde and Dan Fitzgerald install a webcam on a shed at the Omahawks field.

(L-R): Kevin Hyde and Dan Fitzgerald install a webcam on a shed at the Omahawks field.

 Authors Dan and Kevin stand beneath the newly installed webcam at the Omahawks R/C Club’s field in Omaha NE.

(L-R): Authors Dan and Kevin stand beneath the newly installed webcam at the Omahawks R/C Club’s field in Omaha NE.

The ethernet wires for the camera and the puck antenna wires for the mobile router run through a hole we drilled in the overhang and into the shed. The mobile router and ethernet switch are stored inside on a metal storage shelf where they aren’t likely to be disturbed.

 The setup to capture live images at the field is pretty straightforward. The router and power over an ethernet switch are located inside the shed to help protect them from the elements.

The setup to capture live images at the field is pretty straightforward. The router and power over an ethernet switch are located inside the shed to help protect them from the elements.

Helpful Features

Both cameras are high-resolution, wide field-of-view outdoor models with a large operating temperature range and internet File Transfer Protocol (FTP) capabilities—essentially, they can move files from one location to another on the internet.

The camera’s features allow us to influence the size of the image and how frequently they’re posted, which, in turn, lets the club control our bandwidth usage. The high-resolution photos give club members the option to zoom in when it is desired to see additional details. Simply refreshing the club’s website displays the most recent image.

Both cameras rely on a Power Over Ethernet (POE) switch that serves as both an electrical and data connection. The cameras are hooked to the switch through outdoor-rated ethernet cables. The switch, in turn, is linked to the mobile router, which connects to the internet over our provider’s cellular network.

The newest camera to be installed shows a view of the club’s parking lot. Club members added it after the first camera proved to be extremely popular among members.

The newest camera to be installed shows a view of the club’s parking lot. Club members added it after the first camera proved to be extremely popular among members.

What You Need

Creating an outdoor webcam requires an up-front investment that we believe was well worth it. Following is a list of everything we purchased for a solid, reliable setup with high-quality images:

  • Axis Communications M2036-LE 4MP Outdoor Network Bullet Camera: $429
  • SanDisk 32GB Extreme microSDHC UHS-I memory card: $11.89
  • Netgear Nighthawk M1 MR1100 4G LTE Mobile Router (T-Mobile): $429.99
  • Proxicast Ultra Low Profile MIMO 4G / LTE Omni-Directional 2.5 dBi puck
  • Magnetic/Adhesive Mount Antenna for TS9 connector: $54.95
  • Netgear 5 Port PoE Gigabit Ethernet Plus switch (GS305EP): $64.99
  • Outdoor 25-foot, Cat7 outdoor ethernet cable: $12.99
  • Basic internet service: $30-$40 per month

Cheaper cameras and equipment are available as well but might not yield the same quality of images or durability. It all depends on your club’s budget and how you intend to use the technology.

We started with one camera, which is more than enough for a basic setup, but we recently installed a second one to expand the available views. Our board enthusiastically supported the idea, having seen the benefits of a live, high-quality view of our field.

Internet

To improve cellular reception for internet service, we mounted an adhesive puck cellular antenna to the outside of the metal shed.

For internet access, we first considered asking a local provider to lay a cable to our field, but that would have been very expensive because there were no other potential users to share the cost. That left satellite or cellular service. Satellite service costs roughly $50 a month and was based on availability in the area. Our club was reluctant to explore it because no one had any experience with it.

So, we examined Verizon and AT&T cellular plans. Verizon had data-only plans but only offered Wi-Fi modems. For simplicity, we needed a mobile router that could connect to the cameras through the POE switch. Fortunately, AT&T offered a Netgear Nighthawk LTE Mobile hotspot router that met our requirements. The prepaid, data-only plan provides 10 gigabytes of 5G service for $30 per month or 30 gigabytes for $40 a month.

We’ve found that 10 gigabytes is plenty for most of the year. However, we did exceed 10 gigabytes one month in the winter, so we increased our plan to 30 gigabytes and chose to refresh images more often.

At first, it was one new image every five minutes, and then one every three minutes. We eventually moved to one image per minute from both cameras, which uses approximately 1 gigabyte per day (roughly 30 gigabytes per month). We’re watching our data usage again to determine whether we want to reduce the capture rate. Obviously, the rate doubled when the club added a second camera.

To update photos, we set up the cameras to send images to the club’s website using the FTP internet protocol. New images replace the previous ones, ensuring that only the most recent image is displayed on the website and that we don’t use too much server storage space.

The cameras also record 10-minute videos that are saved on a microSD card for six months. Posting or streaming full videos on our website wasn’t practical because of cell bandwidth limitations and cost, but it does allow us to review videos of the flying field in case there is ever an incident.

A Strong Website

For our website, we turned to DualRates, a web provider with an easy-to-use interface that specializes in serving RC clubs. The DualRates website gives us many useful features through a simple interface without the need for complicated tools or the knowledge of programming languages. Its comprehensive services also help us distribute our monthly newsletter, track membership information, and process member payments.

When we contacted DualRates, they helped establish the FTP protocol connection and a front-page photo link on our homepage that shows our camera’s latest image. The Omahawks camera refreshes photos around the clock, but the setup can be adjusted so that photos are only updated during the day.

A super high-speed internet connection isn’t necessary. Ours uses a connection roughly equivalent to phone internet.

The view of the Omahawks R/C Club’s field, as seen from the first of two webcams. The cameras allow members and visitors to see who is flying and provides security benefits as well. You can view the webcam on the club’s website.

The view of the Omahawks R/C Club’s field, as seen from the first of two webcams. The cameras allow members and visitors to see who is flying and provides security benefits as well. You can view the webcam on the club’s website.

Looking Ahead

Overall, we think the camera has been a tremendous asset for our club, and our internet opens the door to other useful services. One option we’re considering is a weather station, which would give us detailed weather information at the field. If your club has the means to try any of this technology, you’ll quickly discover its value! See our website for yourself!

SOURCES:

Omahawks R/C Club

www.omahawks.org

DualRates

(440) 299-8008

www.dualrates.com

 

Facebook Twitter Share

Add new comment