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Tiny Raspberry Pi Camera takes photos from weather balloon

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David Akerman's Raspberry Pi camera and computer were housed in a raspberry-shaped protective casing. Akerman's second attempt at Raspberry Pi photography from a weather balloon produced better results than his first try.

The credit-card-sized Raspberry Pi computer has been the toy of choice for DIY-computer enthusiasts since it was released last year. So when the Raspberry Pi Foundation started selling an equally tiny $25 5MP camera module recently, a new world of possibilities opened for technologically-inclined photography enthusiasts.

David Akerman, a high-altitude ballooning hobbyist in England, is a pioneer of the technology who has been working with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to use their products for high-altitude photography. The lightweight computer/camera combo appealed to Akerman because it seem capable of delivering a higher quality output than the webcams that he had used before. (Note that actually configuring the camera board is not for the faint of heart.)

Akerman's previous attempt with a pre-production version of the Raspberry Pi camera sent back some photos via radio transmission, but the SD card was never recovered because the device likely landed somewhere in rural Switzerland or France.

But Akerman recently tried again with a newer version of the Raspberry Pi camera and computer packed into a raspberry-shaped protective case. Using new camera software, Akerman was able to change the Raspberry Pi camera's metering mode from spot to matrix — allowing for better exposures in dramatic high-altitude conditions. After flying up to 38.9km (127,625 feet) in the air, the weather balloon and Raspberry Pi camera contraption landed just a short drive away from where it was launched, this time with full photographic results. The full details of the flight can be found on Dave Akerman's blog.

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Comments

Total comments: 20
Camediadude
By Camediadude (10 months ago)

The photos of our planet and atmosphere are amazing, thanks for sharing this.

0 upvotes
daveake
By daveake (11 months ago)

For those interested, I found that the RPi software I used had a bug in it where the "full res" (5MP) images were actually upscaled from 1080p!

I'm not sure how much sharper the images would have been otherwise, as clouds are fluffy and there was a lot of haze that day as you can see.

The bug was fixed 2 days before launch but I didn't find out about the fix, or the bug, till after.

0 upvotes
AndreyT
By AndreyT (11 months ago)

Where's the mandatory "edge of space" reference? As in "he sent the camera to the edge of space".

1 upvote
RichRMA
By RichRMA (11 months ago)

"-and it helps with an understand of our Earth and ourselves."

0 upvotes
Biowizard
By Biowizard (11 months ago)

Serious Kudos to Dave Ackerman! Brilliant project, amazing results, fascinating blog article. Made my day! :-)

Brian

1 upvote
ryanshoots
By ryanshoots (11 months ago)

Very nice. Good thing in was on here as opposed to the regular site. Because over there, if it's not a D800E doing stuff like this, it's crap. Of course if we we're over there, these would have to be cat photos.

4 upvotes
groucher
By groucher (11 months ago)

That sounds like sour grapes to me. And anyway, what would a cat be doing at 125000 feet?

1 upvote
Alex Efimoff
By Alex Efimoff (11 months ago)

The last shot is really cool (and cold)

0 upvotes
TacticDesigns
By TacticDesigns (11 months ago)

Ok. That's just down right cool!

0 upvotes
samhain
By samhain (11 months ago)

Good job David Ackerman!

0 upvotes
huyzer
By huyzer (11 months ago)

That is quite cool seeing the transition of height. Neat!

0 upvotes
ptodd
By ptodd (11 months ago)

Why the perpetuation of the idea that "configuring the camera board is not for the faint of heart"? That article didn't really show that it needed any significant configuration at all; just plug everything in and run the simple precompiled, bundled, program to operate the camera. Their only real complaint was that there wasn't an icon on the desktop... come on!
Much easier to write a little bash script to automate the command line utility than to keep pressing a button on the desktop while the camera's up in the clouds...
[edit] admittedly the path to the executable may not be entirely obvious, but still this is not in the realm of things that won't be answered by a quick google "I'm feeling lucky", followed by entering a single simple command.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 7 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (11 months ago)

Let me guess, you're a software developer? ;-)

5 upvotes
daveake
By daveake (11 months ago)

No, the camera s/w is pretty easy to get running now. The pre-production stuff was a bit harder but still easy enough. I don't use the Pi desktop (and it wouldn't be much use in the stratosphere anyway!).

The photography was indeed controlled by a bash script, and the rest (encoding, GPS, transmission) by some C programs.

1 upvote
ptodd
By ptodd (11 months ago)

Maybe ;-)

The RPi is specifically designed to encourage people to engage with hands-on DIY computing. How high up the list of challenges faced in this project do you think "actually configuring the camera board" might have been?
There needs to be a balance when reporting on things like this between inaccessibly technical and dumbed-down. You can guess where I'd place that BBC article.

0 upvotes
ptodd
By ptodd (11 months ago)

Nice to have Dave's input; I didn't see that when I wrote my last comment, not that it changes much (the comment was a response to Lars in case that's not obvious).

Great work, anyway.

0 upvotes
Peanut88
By Peanut88 (11 months ago)

Be careful as this may have military surveillance applications well favored by the terrorist as it is cheap, good and effective.

Be careful. Not too much details.

0 upvotes
ptodd
By ptodd (11 months ago)

If the terrorist wants to do something like this, I'm afraid they'll work it out even if every last detail isn't spelled out.

4 upvotes
fad
By fad (11 months ago)

AFAIK, cameras are not a terrorist thing.

In an open society, there is no need to snoop to find vulnerabilities.

0 upvotes
memau
By memau (11 months ago)

come on, terrorists have website teaching how to make bomb out of pressure cook, do you think these kinds of basic prototyping tools are difficult for them? you can't hold back information nowadays, the only thing you can do is being more creative than your enemy.

1 upvote
Total comments: 20
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