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PublicLaboratory is a fantastic citizen scientist organization with really useful projects like DIY spectrometers (for finding out what’s really in stuff) and aerial mapping for monitoring of oil spills, landfills, etc. They’ve done some fantastic work using the continuous shooting mode of consumer cameras, including converting them to near infrared. The problem is that there is little or no control over the camera and you need to process the images later.

Craig Versek of PVOS had the idea to use a Raspberry Pi and a webcam to wirelessly stream images back to earth. The Pi is ideal because it’s lightweight and takes relatively little power. Here is a system description  and a writeup (with video) of their first launch.


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  1. [...] Read the full article on MAKE [...]

  2. John Surmont says:

    Great stuff! Take a look at the MAKO (rucksack portable tethered aerostat) for aerial imaging, etc.. http://tinyurl.com/a3uj5oz

  3. I remember speaking to the OpenLab folk at the New York Maker Faire, really interesting projects!

  4. it’s useless once you get out of wifi range… why not set your iphone to 3G, turn on tethering, and send that up in the air too!

  5. Don Blair says:

    Ben — thanks! John — great link — love the “balloon / kite” designs there, very inspirational! Kenneth — good point — range with our wireless R-Pi setup is definitely an issue, and it’s particularly challenging for the use-case we’ve been interested in — receiving live images from a kite, which may be as far as 1000+ feet up. We’ve been talking about constructing a directional WiFi antenna in order to extend the range. Using the cell network would be another good option. Because we’re envisioning flying kites quite high up, over forests and water, we’re less excited about sending a smart phone up, simply because the cost of losing one would be higher than a $35 R-Pi (though the cost of an R-Pi solution does start to add up when adding a battery, a webcam, and a WiFi dongle).

    1. John Surmont says:

      Thank you Don! The MAKO Hybrid Air System has been in development for almost five years – it can lift between 2-4lbs payloads to 400+ ft above ground and stay aloft for days. It flies like a balloon until it can’t and then acts like a kite when it must.

  6. [...] Raspberry Pi in the Sky! (makezine.com) [...]

  7. [...] you rather stay on land? Launch the Pi into the sky and stream images back to [...]

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