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Cost vs Mast Material vs Performance

From time to time we are asked why we don't use lower cost glass fibre, or even hybrid glass fibre / carbon fibre material for our aerial imaging mast systems and camera pole systems. 

So why have we carefully chosen not to offer cheaper material to our customers? 

Essentially, we have built our reputation on prioritising product safety and performance at height, rather than sales alone. 

Let's explain things a little further by detailing the pro's and con's of each type of material on the global market for mast or camera pole systems, and most importantly, what affect this has on safe, stable, quality aerial imaging. 

 

Basic Aluminium (often painted black)

 Advantages:

  • Very low cost to manufacture
  • Low retail price

 

Disadvantages:

  • Heavy to transport (usually 10kg plus)
  • Heavy to push and extend upward (especially with camera payload)
  • More flexible at height than carbon fibre (greater wind effect and sway)
  • Tripod supplied with light stands do not have a wide spread and supports the mast too low (designed for indoor use in a studio, not outdoors in the wind)
  • Mostly un-useable without a tripod (not all surfaces suit a tripod)
  • Cannot extend very high (15-30ft model dependent)
  • Durable material (but the operator’s back will wear out before the mast does)

 

Conclusion: Basic Aluminium (often painted black)

This type of mast is designed to be used only as a light stand, but is often re-purposed and retailed as a low cost aerial imaging mast system – but is still not suitable for aerial surveys above 25ft

    

    Quality Aluminium / Steel

     Advantages:

    • Very strong (capable of safely elevating 5-30kg model dependent)
    • Very rigid at height (can be safely extended to 50ft plus model dependent)
    • Often pneumatic pump up mast for elevating payload (no push up effort)

     

    Disadvantages:

    • Expensive to build and ship
    • High retail price (often well engineered)
    • Extremely heavy (30-100kg plus model dependent)
    • Very difficult to transport (usually requires a large 4x4, van or trailer)
    • Very slow to set up and move positions (one to two operators)
    • Requires a tripod that can be heavier than the mast itself (due to height and weight of system)
    • May require mounting on vehicle (engineering, bespoke vehicle and high fuel costs)
    • Pneumatic masts need to be pumped by hand, or powered requiring local or portable power source
    • Pneumatic masts need regular maintenance (i.e. at least seal and joints need lube and servicing).
    • Highly durable material (but the operator’s back and vehicle may wear out before the mast does)
    • Cannot be used without a tripod (not all surfaces suit a tripod)

     

    Conclusion: Quality Aluminium / Steel

    Excellent tool for elevating heavy payloads for long periods with high stability up to 50ft, but extremely heavy to transport, slow to set up, and costly to maintain over time.

     

      Glass Fibre (100%)

      Advantages:

      • Very low cost to manufacture
      • Very low retail price
      • Does not conduct electricity

       

      Disadvantages:

      • Heaviest composite material
      • Very flexible under load
      • Very unsteady in windy conditions

       

      Conclusion: Glass Fibre (100%)
      Unsafe, unstable and unsuitable for aerial imaging above 15-20ft in real world conditions

         

        Hybrid Glass Fibre / Carbon Fibre

        Advantages:

        • Low cost to manufacture glass fibre element
        • Low volume of carbon fibre so lower cost
        • Lower retail price than 100% carbon fibre
        • Slightly stiffer than 100% glass fibre
        • Slightly lighter than 100% glass fibre
        • Glass fibre element partially non-conductive

         

        Disadvantages:

        • Heavy material (often mostly glass fibre)
        • Still too flexible under load
        • Unsteady in windy conditions

         

        Conclusion: Hybrid Glass Fibre / Glass Fibre

        Unsafe, unstable and unsuitable for aerial imaging above 20-25ft in real world conditions

         

        100% Carbon Fibre - standard modulus density + 3K outer layer

        Advantages:

        • Much stiffer than glass fibre or hybrid glass fibre / carbon fibre
        • Much stronger
        • Much lighter

         

        Disadvantages:

        • More expensive to manufacture
        • More expensive to purchase (unless it is low modulus hiding as standard modulus material)
        • Useable at height up to 25-30ft
        • Conducts electricity (avoid power lines)

         

        Conclusion: 100% Carbon Fibre - standard modulus density + 3K outer layer

        More safe, more stable and more suited to aerial imaging at 25-30ft

        We used this material for the last few years, and with good success, but we’ve now developed a stronger, stiffer, taller product range to benefit our customers – see below

         

        100% Carbon fibre - high modulus density core + 3K outer layer

        Advantages:

        • Optimum strength, stiffness, stability
        • Proven to safely elevate 4kg of camera hardware to 20ft (only weighs 2kg, without tripod, 4.7kg with tripod)
        • Proven to safely elevate 3kg of camera hardware to 30ft (only weighs 2.85kg without tripod, 5.55kg with tripod)
        • Proven to safely elevate 2kg of camera hardware to 40ft (only weighs 3.5kg without tripod, 6.2kg with tripod)
        • Proven to safely elevate 350g of camera hardware to 50ft (only weighs 4kg - tripod not recommended)
        • Minimal flex up to 40ft under load (least flex with tripod keeping mast vertical, some flex without when handled without tripod)
        • Manageable flex at 50ft under load (see product images for real life examples)
        • Due to our product design, our masts can take more weight than we advertise openly (as above), but we tailor the above payload limits to ensure an average person can safely handle that weight at the maximum height, and still control the mast in real world conditions.

         

        Disadvantages:

        • Expensive to source higher modulus material (we use tubing made from world leading Toray raw carbon fibre material)
        • Expensive to manufacture
        • Slightly heavier than standard modulus as high modulus is higher density overall
        • Conducts Electricity (avoid power lines)
        • Usable at heights up to 50ft (any taller or heavier requires ultra-high modulus material which is extremely expensive to source and retail).

         

        Conclusion: 100% Carbon Fibre - high modulus density core + 3K outer layer

        The professional’s choice in safe, stable, accurate aerial imaging by mast or pole, at heights ranging from 20ft to 50ft.

        Contact Us:

        We are always happy to help! Contact us using our online form and we will reply within the day (usually within 2 hours!). Or you can speak directly to Tom on +44 (0) 23 8098 2366 or email tom@vantagepointproducts.com

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