Fusion 360 Helps Deliver EarthCam’s New View from the Washington Monument

Heather Miller Heather Miller April 21, 2023

4 min read

See how EarthCam quickly brought a camera to life with Fusion 360 to provide a view from the iconic landmark.

Every spring, more than 3,700 cherry blossom trees reach full bloom at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. But you don’t need to be there in person to experience the magic. A tiny camera near the top of the Washington Monument provides a bird’s eye view of this scene and the changing seasons and weather across the entire Mall — every day, 24 hours a day.  

EarthCam is a leading network of live-streaming webcams. Its cameras manage thousands of live streams worldwide, both public and private. Want to see what’s going on in London, New Orleans, Dubai, or Miami Beach? Or take in the view from the Statue of Liberty’s torch that has been closed to the public since 1916? It’s all available from your browser at any time. 

Some installations are more difficult and sensitive than others. The camera for the Washington Monument was certainly one of EarthCam’s more challenging projects. You can’t just mount a camera on the side of a national treasure. Partnering with the National Park Service, EarthCam devised an innovative solution to provide a new view of Washington, D.C.  

After an earthquake struck Washington, D.C. in 2011, engineers enlisted climbers to embark on a risky mission and rappel down the Washington Monument to inspect it for damage. Their footprint—quite literally—had to be very small. They drilled a 3”-diameter hole at the very top to hold the ropes. That tiny, secret hole is where EarthCam discovered they could install a camera. 

EarthCam uses Fusion 360 to design, prototype, and fabricate a number of different solutions for their business. “We’re always innovating and challenged with new locations all around the world,” says Lisa Kelly, Vice President of New Business, EarthCam. “We are the go-to company for custom solutions for cameras.” 

Designing and fabricating a custom camera enclosure with Fusion 360

In 2014, the first EarthCam camera was installed in the Washington Monument so anyone could view “Out of Many, One,” a 6-acre “facescape” on the National Mall by artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada. It was a massive, composite portrait of people photographed in Washington, D.C. created with soil and sand. The tricky part? It couldn’t be viewed from the ground. EarthCam came to the rescue with the camera installation. 

Over the years, it became apparent that the camera could be significantly upgraded. Last year, the team innovated a new camera with a custom lens that was designed and cut at EarthCam and then connected to a 5G modem. This new camera has superior low-light capabilities and a much higher resolution. That allows the camera to perform well even under difficult conditions, like weather events and smoke from fireworks. 

“We’re always innovating as better technology becomes available, and we wanted to find a way to provide the public with the highest quality images and video,” says David Iglesias, Product Manager, EarthCam. “The National Mall is an important part of the country. When we had the opportunity to create something that would bring a more vivid stream to the world, we brought our team together to accomplish this. That’s what led our engineers to create a custom camera housing in Fusion 360.” 

Prototyping on a tight deadline

But the deadline was tight for installation last summer. It needed to be ready for the annual 4th of July fireworks show to provide the live stream to the media broadcasting the event. The team turned to Fusion 360 to quickly prototype and create the enclosure.  

“First, we laser scanned the hole where the camera would fit,” a member of the EarthCam engineering team explains. “With Fusion 360, I could create a design that met our constraints without physically going to the location. We were able to do that digitally and make sure it was right the first time.”  

The EarthCam team used Fusion 360 to design a total of 18 different parts for the camera enclosure. All the parts were then 3D printed and laser cut in their New Jersey office. The EarthCam team also designed and installed a new adjustable mechanical arm for the camera. This new installation was one for the record books — it was all done in only eight days. 

“One of my favorite features in Fusion 360 is rendering. I’m able to design a custom solution or new product and put it in the location that it’s intended to be used. Seeing it go from digital to reality always makes me smile, especially with all our innovative products.” 

– EarthCam Engineering Team

Diverse solutions with Fusion 360

EarthCam’s cameras aren’t just pointed at locations for a public, online audience. The company also provides solutions for construction companies to monitor progress, safety, security, and more. All images and data are pushed to Autodesk Construction Cloud, creating more efficient workflows and analyses. For custom installations, the EarthCam team uses Fusion 360.  

“I really enjoy Fusion 360 because it allows me to collaborate with my team very easily,” the team says. “We can restrict permissions based on confidentiality, which is really important for us.” 

The ease of use and ability to incorporate the model into instruction manuals so clients can install the camera themselves is also another important aspect of their workflow. “We don’t have to worry about making a line drawing until after the model is finalized,” says the team. “We can create mechanical drawings for manuals directly from the finished model, which is huge. Fusion 360 is really a fantastic tool.”  

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