Hello! I'm Straw Hat Sam and I am the original creator of "Le Pigeon". The image above is a bit symbolic because I joined the U.S. Peace Corps and went to Zambia with the true goal of trying to find out what I wanted to do with my life. My educational background is mechanical engineering and I have worked at companies like 3D Systems, Daimler, TriMet, and Maersk. These experiences helped me learn some of the skills I have now today, but I was looking for something more beyond the typical 9am to 5pm job.
Toward the end of my nine months of Peace Corps service (cut short due to medical issues), I found myself still obsessed with FPV drones and from my bunk at the medical office in Lusaka, I drew out the plans and components for my first cinema drone in September 2018:
This was my first attempt at a dual operator compact FPV "cinematic" drone which allowed for independent movement of the GoPro with analog direct video output to the camera operator who is also my good friend. This little beasty we named "Lawnmower Man 1" as an homage to the cheesy sci-fi film loved by both my friend and I. This got us some of our first footage that I felt unashamed to show publicly. From then on I sought to achieve the perfect FPV cinema platform and from 2018 to present I have been developing all kinds of wacky drones.
This one I named "Scorpion" was a total disaster. The gimbal was too weak, even for the tiny Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera and the arms were too skinny for the large 3115 motors. I cut the frame from 1/8" thick G10 sheet using a Dremel tool.
The "CineBeast" I called here is more of a "CineSenior" as it required crutches to land and I knew so little about X-class components and tuning that this thing could hardly get up out of bed.
I then learned how to properly design a beast class rig and the 8S monster I am holding proved to be quiet smooth, but heavy and underpowered. It would also play a role in the demise of my pocket 4K camera...
My little secret to getting the Osmo Pocket to work on a ultralight drone was using zip ties as vibration isolators. Some of my best early footage came from this little guy and the quality was good enough to submit clips to BlackBox.global. I still make about $24 every year from a single 15 second long sunset clip I submitted.
Another duel operator drone I created right before COVID, this one was absurdly heavy and could only fly for three minutes maximum and was quite scary to operate. But at least I did get a nice little video out of it.
This was the first version of my fixed angle cinema drone the "Osprey". Just a simple 9" or 10" quad. This camera mount, although a clever use of wire rope to act as both angle adjustment and damping, flopped around too much during even the most gentle acro maneuvers.
This is were things started getting serious, with videos I was really proud of like my adventure at a rock quarry. I found that rigidly mounting the BMPCC4K with a ball head actually worked quite well. The downside of this drone was that micro vibrations did appear occasionally and it was a bit underpowered so I had to be conservative on the sticks.
This abomination I got the idea from Catalyst Machine Works and I just had to try it myself, on 6S... It worked, but because I had a flight controller with only 4 PWM outputs, I daisy chained the signals to each arm and this caused the motors to start making a scary ticking noise after each flight. It flew reasonably well, but was just way too big and had terrible yaw authority.
Now this beast class drone I built from scratch using aluminum tubing and cutting G10 sheet with a Dremel tool. The vibrations were so bad though that I didn't even get much useable footage out of it.
With my self-discovery of the magical X8 platform, I now ventured into a territory where I could really fly how I wanted to fly and get smooth motion with very little propwash. This frame was made from two 5" miniquad unibody frames and some 3/4" aluminum square tubing.
Now, to get the X8 platform lighter I Frankensteined two iFlight DC10 frames together and drilled out the motor holes, then added some janky G10 motor mounts I Dremeled out. With the lighter weight I was started to get a little too comfortable with these cinema rigs.
This was my first cinema frame I designed myself from scratch using CAD and I had it cut by cncmadness up in Vancouver, BC. The camera mount didn't work so well and had some bad oscillation issues, but that's nothing that some squishy foam and battery straps cannot fix!
With this setup (2812 900kV motors and 9" props) I was really able to throw the camera around like I always wanted to. Now I was feeling like I was able to not only get smooth-ish footage, but fly aggressively as well.
And this is where it all started! I crashed my BMPCC4K while messing around with my beast class 8S cinelifter. It didn't quite have the juice to pull out of the dive and after bouncing off the ground, I disarmed and the drone landed right on the camera. This marked the beginning of my journey into the naked BMPCC4K territory.
After a lot of design work and investigation into what it takes to keep the camera operational in the air, I came up with "Le Pigeon". Named after the dumpy city bird for its fat body and skinny arms, it flew surprisingly well and I knew I was onto something great.
Things just kept getting better and better with the naked BMPCC4K route and I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the footage was despite the small size and light weight of the drone. I was starting to get closer to the holy grail of cinema FPV.
I wanted to share "Le Pigeon" with the rest of the world and this was when I decided to release my first frame kits for purchase. I only sold 25 frame kits, not due to lack of demand, but because my life circumstances changed and I quit my job at Portland State University to move down to Los Angeles to work at Performance FPV designing full size FPV cinema drones.
After quitting my job once again, separating myself from Performance FPV, I decided to pursue my very own company and make Le Pigeon my flagship product. This meant I had to greatly improve the workflow of the naked camera drone though because dependence on a Bluetooth connection was not going to work for most people on serious sets. That is why I spent many months developing flex PCB extensions to take Le Pigeon to a whole new level.