It so happens that I gifted myself a cheap quadcopter for Christmas (although it arrived shortly after New Year) – the Syma X5C, as it has good reviews and is about as cheap as you can go (which also means, there are tons of them around, and replacement parts are widely available and cheap as well). This quadcopter also happens to have an HD camera that, given the price of the whole package, doesn’t suck.
The camera mount is not really well-thought. The camera is screwed on the battery compartment lid, at an awkward angle as well. Given that this drone has not much power to spare, flying it without the camera gives both better performance and better runtimes, so I decided that I wanted a better, quicker way of adding or removing the camera as I wished.
I thus hacked together a magnetic mount, using a total of 6 neodymium magnets (I had a few 5mm diameter * 0,5mm thickness N35 magnets available, so I used those) and – as every hack requires to – some hot snot to keep everything in place.
First step: I grabbed a cutter blade (but any straight ferrous thing will work), I applied a layer of adhesive tape on it, and attached the magnets over the tape, orienting them with alternating polarity (that is simply the only way where 3 magnets will stay attached together without repelling laterally). The tape prevents the glu from sticking to the blade, which would be a pain in the ass to un-stick afterwards.
Then, I applied a generous amount of hot snot on the camera and used the blade rig to easily set the thickness of the hot snot and the position of the magnets; I put them roughly in line with the existing mounting screw holes. Once the glue has cooled down, the blade can be removed, and the magnets will hopefully stay attached to the camera.
I left the tape in place and moved to the second part of the hack: the magnets on the quadcopter. I attached the remaining 3 magnets on top of the 3 magnets already on the camera (leaving the tape between them), applied hot snot on the battery lid, and positioned the camera giving a bit of an angle to correct for the overly downward-facing default mounting position of the camera. Don’t be shy and use as much glue as you wish, because it’s very easy to clean up afterwards by using a simple cutter or any sharp blade (xacto knives work great, but their 3$ clones do as well). This is the result after removing the tape and a minimal cleanup:
All in all, I am happy with the result: camera can be mounted or removed in a few seconds, and the added weight is not a huge deal (probably a couple of grams). The mount is surprisingly sturdy and has survived a few voluntary crashes without detatching.
N.B.: although this mod could in theory be applied to any quadcopter, I would advise to NOT use a magnetic mount on quadcopters with a compass because magnets will screw up with orientation and could cause unwanted results. In general, if the quad has headless mode or one-button return home function, that means that it has a compass and you shouldn’t really add magnets. As always, In no respect shall we incur any liabiity for any damage to people or things happening due to you doing what is written in the previous article.