GoPro camera captures free-fall from 12.5K feet when skydiver drops it (video, not safe for epileptics)

[Video Link] Warning: do not watch if you're epileptic. "MartialArt23," the YouTube user who shot and uploaded this video, explains:

[I] bumped my head on the door frame on exit unclasping the latch on the box. The camera popped out on exit at 12.500 and fell straight down onto the landing area at the DZ and was recovered by a fellow skydiver. It even caught our landings. Not one scratch on the body or lens. Still can't believe that I got it back and that it is totally fine. A buddy the same day who is one of our camera flyers had the same thing happen but with his SLR....not the same result. I'm definitely a gopro fan for life these little guys are bomb proof.

(thanks, Joe Sabia)


  1. Wow.  Someone should rig one of these with fins and weights (like a gravity bomb) so it can show us freefall without spinning around.

  2. I jumped out of a plane once, so I imagined a fast but level plummet by the camera. Of COURSE it was going to go end over end over end dizzyingly. Ugh, j’ai mal a ma tete!!

    1. lol go re-watch the landing.  The cam appears to have bounced once, quite high, and the first hit shaved quite a few RPMs off the spinning.

  3. From 0:32 to 02:40: the greatest film Stan Brakhage never made (including soundtrack).

    From 2:40 to 6:50: the apotheosis of Terrence Malick (I see God, and no characters, and no dialogue).

    From 6:50 to the end: V/H/S failed outtake.

    1. it’s been my view for a while that the miniaturisation and mass production of dirt-cheap camera chips, along with youtube, is driving the most radical experimental video seen for a long time – especially in the amateur rocketry community. this is the sort of film that chris wellsby would have made in the ’70’s had he gone sky-diving.

  4. All of these GoPro videos (seagull-steals-gopro is the other one I saw today) are almost certainly viral marketing jobs. There’s no way “MartialArt23” is a real person.

    I wonder if they filmed it by straight up dropping one from 12500 ft, though. That’d be pretty cool.

    (Edited to be less weirdly snippy.)

    1. Interesting.  It is quite suspicious that both videos are specifically labeled as being filmed by GoPro’s.  (“gopro freefall from 12500 without case” and “Seagull stole GoPro.”

      1. It’s not that suspicious. GoPro by far and large have the biggest market share for this style of camera, people know this is what they make and its much shorter than saying: “Seagull stole small rugged camera used for filming extreme sports and other wacky adventures.”

      2.  Are all still-pics on Flickr that include the camera model in the title likewise quite suspicious?  It’s analogous to including the model of your video camera in the title of a video on a video site.  How many Flickr pics have “5D” in the title after-all?  Are they all whoring for Canon?  Get off it.

    2.  yeah, a little too coincidental that it would frame the landings of the parashootists thus. Megawoosh?

      1. It’s the brand labeling of the videos, the too-perfect timing and arrangement of some of the shots (or angles, I guess, since they’re both single shots), the Uncanny Valley-ness of the youtube accounts and the descriptions/testimonials of the uploaders…
        For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s impossible that the camera actually survived the fall, or that the video was accomplished by tossing one out of a plane and then having some guys drive around dressed like parachutists until they found it.  Terminal velocity’s probably pretty low. They probably did a bunch of takes. My guess is that threw a TON of cameras out of that plane and then drove around collecting them and being amazed, and then checked the footage of the ones that were still working to get the best.

        1. I work for GoPro and am the sister of the guy who invented the camera, and I promise you that none of the viral GoPro videos were made by us!  You can see all the videos we have made on our YouTube channel.  This one, the seagull stole a GoPro, the skier falling backwards off a cliff, the mountain biker taken out by a wildebeest in Africa (ouch!)… all user generated.  And much more awesome than we would have come up with if we’d set out to try to fool people.  As for the GoPro branding and testimonials in the comments, our proud users just like to announce that they are rocking GoPros in the titles of their videos and also tell the world how much they love their cameras – yay for us!

    3. They opened a youtube account in 2006.  Spent a lot of hours commenting in a pro-atheist, anti-organized religion fashion, and also some ogling half naked girls.  Doesn’t seem very corporate.  I think there’s a lot of unremarkable aviral videos that nobody sees, that’s more likely than assuming that the one in a 1000 that’s interesting must be faked. 

    4. I think James has a point here I have seen about 4 virals recently with ‘GoPro video camera’ in the title posted on all the main sites

  5. does anyone know / can calculate at which point in the video does the camera reach terminal velocity? – i assume its quite soon in to the video? how much does a gopro weigh?

  6. Epilepsy warnings should come BEFORE the trigger, not AFTER it.  Thanks for the throbbing head guys.. 

  7. Well apparently terminal velocity for the gopro isn’t all that high.  There wasn’t a long period of time between the time the camera hit the earth and the skydivers landed.  

    1. Short Answer: Terminal Velocity is about 66 mph.

      Long Answer: The camera’s fall time was 131 seconds (0:32 to 2:43).  To go the claimed 12,500 feet the camera fell at an average velocity of 66 mph (95 ft/sec).  Terminal velocity is higher than the average velocity due to the time accelerating to terminal velocity.  However, it would only take about 3 seconds to accelerate to this speed in a vacuum (g=32 ft/sec/sec) and I don’t think air resistance would increase this time significantly.  Therefore, the terminal velocity would be about the same as the average velocity because time accelerating<<time at terminal velocity.

      1. That’s terminal velocity for the human body.  It’s faster for a brick, and slower for a feather.  I’ll bet the camera has a faster terminal velocity, but I haven’t run the numbers.

      2.  I suppose that if you knew how much the camera weighed, you could figure that the downward force and the air resistance at terminal velocity were equal, and then using the approximation that drag was proportional to velocity to  figure how long it took to get to terminal velocity.  But you’ve already done more math that I care to.  Of course I’m suspicious of the 12.5k feet figure, could be less

  8. Not sure why but the  “FPPT!  FPPT! FPPT! FPPT! FPPT! FPPT! FPPT! FPPT! ” noise made me giggle a lot..

  9. Epileptic here, but not photosensitive so I watched the whole thing when it popped up on reddit yesterday. I thought it was interesting that the jumpers almost beat the camera to the ground.

  10. Reminds me of the whale’s short life:
    Or is it the wind?There really is a lot of that now isn’t it?And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like … ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground!I wonder if it will be friends with me?

  11. I was surprised by the speed of rotation, but given the narrow circumference, I shouldn’t have been. I was surprised that the camera only barely beat the parachutists to the ground, but given that modern electronics boxes are pretty hollow, maybe I shouldn’t have been. I am still surprised, though, by how stable the axis of rotation was. I still feel like the fall should have been more chaotic than that, but as far as I could pick up, it added no new vectors after other than the slight spin it picked up when it broke loose. Fascinating experiment.

  12. I wonder if you could stabilize the video frames during the fall? Similar to what somebody did to the Mars landing video.

  13. Did some quick math, and an estimate for the terminal velocity of a GoPro is between 65 and 75mph. I didn’t bother to calculate how long it was accelerating for and calculated 68mph based on the camera leaving the holder at ~12,300ft and then treated it as if it was immediately traveling at terminal velocity (this means that terminal velocity will actually be a bit faster than calculated). The camera, after leaving the holder, fell for ~126s.

  14. I’m a born cynic, but… You can hear a little “bump” when the skydiver moves through the airplane door, apparently the moment when the camera housing hit the top of the door frame. And just as he jumps, the camera turns to the left, and you can see the shadow of the camera on the outside of the airplane. The GoPro top latch shadow appears to be larger than it should be, indicating it’s in the unlocked position. Finally, the disengagement of the camera from the housing appears authentic—it stays inside for a second or two, but then you can clearly see the housing’s lens port moving away from the camera as the camera begins its fall. As for the final video of the skydivers landing, it’s just the physics of any falling object combined with the camera’s wide field of view—rare, but not impossible.

  15. I’m calling bullshit on those calling this bullshit- the fall time is right, the way it pops out has happened to me before, and this would be a really hard/expensive thing to ‘stage’. Think about it, with everyone strapping these things everywhere, odds are they will pop out and fall, get picked up by seagulls, etc…. 

  16. “A buddy the same day who is one of our camera flyers had the same thing happen but with his SLR….not the same result.”
    Did you miss your Physics class at High School? Two objects, no matter how much they weight, suffer the same acceleration (g). BUT the impact is just an instant deceleration, so the force is F=m·a. So, obviously, the GoPro is lighter and suffers a lot less stress.

    Anyway: I DON’T BELIVE someone jumped with an SLR. But if so, I WOULD NEVER BELIEVE that in the very same day he also lost his camera. 

    Trying to sell a GoPro over a SLR… shameful.

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