Jim Foley has posted an interesting question on the Ask a Flight Instructor site about the regulations for mounting a camera (a GoPro HDHero2) on the outside of his aircraft. Specifically, Jim wrote:
I have been filming flights for a couple months, and then was told by my CFI that the cheif CFI said not to do it. When I asked him directly abou it, he said it would disrupt the airflow too much and your lift wouldn’t be sufficient. (Obviously, that’s not at all true.) When I told him that was just stupid and that my self and thousands of other people fly with them daily without problem, he then changed and said it was against some FAA reg. (Which he couldn’t find to prove it.) He told me if I could prove it was legal, it would be O.K.
However, Jim has not been able to find anything in FAA regulations either allowing or disallowing it.
Bill Trussell replied by writing that a modification will typically require a STC to be issued by the FAA but its also possible that a STC already exists for cameras. If so, there can be several ways to get permission off an existing STC. Otherwise, the process can be found here.
On the other hand, Carl Tyler wrote that he read many different things and that no one seems to agree. However, Carl had also heard that so long as you attach the camera to the aircraft without using tools, you are technically not modifying the aircraft structure. Hence:
I attach my go pro to the tie downs on the plane. I attach it with a mount I made that I tighten with wing nuts, no tools. It’s on and off in seconds. I’ve used the tie downs below the wing and also on the tail of the plane where it has zero impact on lift.
Carl also noted that his camera is under the wing and he has not noticed any difference to lift but he also wishes that the FAA would make a firm statement on cameras as you get different interpretations depending upon who you speak to.
Finally, avid aerial photographer and GoPro user Jonathan Silva wrote that lift would not be an issue but the camera coming loose would be as there have apparently been lawsuits over cameras falling and damaging people’s homes plus a swinging camera could damage the aircraft – something insurance would not be to excited to cover. Hence, Jonathan wrote that he understands the Chief CFI’s concern as “there is hell to pay if something goes wrong.”