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$50 Aerial Digital Photography from a Balloon 205

jizmonkey writes "This guy built a balloon to take digital aerial photographs from thousands of feet up. It cost less than $50 altogether, including the image sensor, controller, and balloon. The circuit is surprisingly straightforward: just a hacked Vivitar minicamera, a 555 timer chip driving a relay through a voltage regulator, and a one-meter party balloon like the ones you see at used car dealerships. It just so happens that the entire circuit, strapped to a piece of a pizza box and tied to a really long string, is light enough to be lifted by the balloon. What could low-cost aerial photography be used for? I'm sure some people have some ideas...."
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$50 Aerial Digital Photography from a Balloon

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  • by mgcsinc ( 681597 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @08:55PM (#6537250)
    Implications? An increased number of one-meter-balloon purchases and camera-raining-down-from-sky events in suburbia... Incidentally, you can get nice high-res aerial images of almost every major populated area in the US for just under the price tag of this rigged weather balloon: Keyhole's Earthviewer software and service, $49.95 a month... By all means, though, if it's an image from above of the new 2:1 scale Star Wars vessel you built in your backyard that you need and Keyhole's archived shots won't do it for you, be my guest and rig one of these babies up!
    • Would someone 'splain to him that it's "upskirt" shots, not "upINABALLOONLOOKINGDOWNskirt" shots?
    • by Zakabog ( 603757 ) <> on Saturday July 26, 2003 @04:50AM (#6538733)
      Yeah and why even buy a camera to take photographs, you can just hire a photographer to take pictures of people doing other things you did once. Sure they might pictures that you don't want but who cares right?

      The reason you would do this is not to get just any pictures from the sky, it's to get YOUR pictures from the sky. Like a picture of your house, or your car, or your neighborhood (all of these with you standing in the picture (or out of it depending on how YOU feel) controlling where the balloon goes to take pictures. Not an archived photo of someone elses. And that's $50 A MONTH, not close to a one time fee of $50. And also these are your pictures to share with the world, I'm pretty sure I can't go around sharing keyhole's earthviewer pictures with all my friends.
    • There's a missing component for making usable/tilable aerial images -- you'd want position/orientation tracking of the camera.

      If you want to do a EarthViewer-like flyover of your house, you'll need that and a little extra horsepower to orthorectify the images and do some stitching -- not quite as simple as it sounds. Mounting two GPS units some distance apart could give you enough position/heading info (or three if your balloon tilts, which is likely).

      But you could always use this _with_ EarthViewer,
  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by James A. A. Joyce ( 681634 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @08:55PM (#6537254) Journal long will it be before he gets sued by Barbra Streisand?
    • "ow long will it be before he gets sued by Barbra Streisand? "

      I missed this story. Explain?
      • Re:So... (Score:2, Informative)

        Somebody (not the person in this story) was doing a coastal survey of a US coastline (Florida, I think, though I could be wrong) and this involved taking lots and lots of overlapping photographs of it. Streisand has a house on the coastline and she's trying to sue the people taking the photographs for some sum of money, claiming that they're violating her privacy by taking photographs of the coast in and around her house.

        Here's a link I found [] from some quick Google searching [].
        • Re:So... (Score:2, Informative)

          by kimgh ( 600604 )
          Not Florida. Malibu, California. And you can see the results of the "coastal survey" at

          You can get details on the Streisand lawsuit there, also...

          • Re:So... (Score:2, Interesting)

            by hazem ( 472289 )
            The funny thing is... I would never have known about hte pictures of her house, let alone have looked at them if she hadn't filed this suit. I imagine this is the case with most people who've looked at the pictures. I would say that she has done more damage to her privacy than the original project.
            • You hit upon a point that I and many others have noticed. I'll go further: her lawsuit and her attitude have guaranteed that the picture of her house will never be unavailable on the web, even if it gets removed from the CCL project! It'll be cached by Google and a dozen or a hundred other websites.
      • by xkenny13 ( 309849 )
        If you don't want to spend all the time, you can download some pretty cool aerial maps from Terra Server USA []. The pics are B&W and circa 1994 (at least, in Southern California), which makes them less current, but kinda cool to "look back in history".

        Additionally, MapQuest [] has added aerial maps as an option (enter address, retreive regular map, then click the "Aerial Photo" tab ... these are in color, and might be a year old.

        has a link to the latest in Barbra Steisands lawsuit.. Her house is on the coast and is included in there CA coast photo collection.

        This is the page on the lawsuit [] with links to stories and a picture of her house on it.. Funny those guys. I hope they win.
      • Re:So... (Score:4, Informative)

        by wideBlueSkies ( 618979 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @12:28AM (#6538127) Journal
        There's a guy who's been flying around the Oregon and California coastlines taking aerial shots and putting them on his website. It's actually quite nice. He has documented the entire California coast except for the restricted area around an Air Force base.

        Goregeous photos.

        And one can tell that he's put a lot of hard work into his project.

        Here's the problem. Barbara's got her panties in a bunch because this guy's photos show exactly how to get to her secluded beachfront mansion. So she's trying to sue him for invasion of privacy or some such BS.

        She seems to not know that any deranged fan who has her address could get directions to her house from Mapquest. Who knows, if she realized this, she'd probably sue them too.

        Sorry, I don't have the project's URL handy.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Since most are private - no public access - then .... well .... here's the soution
  • so slashdot is now accepting news from a guy called 'jizmonkey'?

    I guess after you publish a 6th grade book report as a review, there's no point left in pretending to have any shame.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    You have the perfect "It was an alien spacecraft that crashed" story which the government tried to cover up by saying it was a photography balloon.
  • Good thing it's so cheap -- he'll have to study the photos very carefully if he wants to recover it when the helium finally leaks out!
  •, what does the Stanford quad look like from the air?

    Being near the SF Bay Area he could have come up with better picture locations. How about the Golden Gate Bridge? Palace of Fine Arts? Nice job with the balloon and camera though.
  • Cf. (Score:2, Informative)

    by andbutso ( 637818 )
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Anybody know the regulations that apply for balloons? I know the rules for gliders (I'm a glider pilot) but I have no clue about balloons.
    • A quick search on Google [] provided this link [].

      It reads as follows:

      No person may operate an unmanned free balloon- (a) Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, in a control zone below 2,000 feet above the surface, or in an airport traffic area; (b) At any altitude where there are clouds or obscuring phenomena of more than five-tenths coverage; (c) At any altitude below 60,000 feet standard pressure altitude where the horizontal visibility is less than five miles; (d) During

      • Not a free balloon (Score:5, Insightful)

        by localroger ( 258128 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:26PM (#6537387) Homepage
        No person may operate an unmanned free balloon

        This is an unmanned tethered balloon. Unless I'm missing an obscure bit of aeronautical jargon here, this regulation doesn't apply. And for good reason I'd gather, since a tethered balloon can be reeled in, but a free balloon (like most weather balloons) goes where it wants once you release it.

        • by sglider ( 648795 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:39PM (#6537454) Homepage Journal
          Excellent point. The regulations for a Tethered balloon are:
          (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate a moored balloon or kite- (1) Less than 500 feet from the base of any cloud; (2) More than 500 feet above the surface of the earth; (3) From an area where the ground visibility is less than three miles; or (4) Within five miles of the boundary of any airport. (b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to the operation of a balloon or kite below the top of any structure and within 250 feet of it, if that shielded operation does not obscure any lighting on the structure.
          This regulation is even worse, due to the limitation of 500 feet above ground. Again, thanks to Google [] and to these guys [].
        • by powerg3 ( 22943 )

          No person may operate an unmanned free balloon

          You may, however, operate a manned free balloon. See Lawn Chair Larry [].

  • Planes... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Romeozulu ( 248240 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:03PM (#6537288)
    As a private pilot, I hope he keeps this thing below 1,000 feet.
    • Re:Planes... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Penguinshit ( 591885 )
      Even an old cloth-covered, tail-dragging, C-150 throttled back to near-stall would have no problem slicing through this little balloon without even noticing. You're in good shape.

  • This guy is building weapons that rival Iraq's []! Invade!
  • AAAAAAARH (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Pictures of healthy people doing fun things outdoors in the sun!??!

  • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:05PM (#6537300) Homepage Journal Kite Aerial Photography []. Same idea, except you suspend the camera from a kite.
  • Two Words (Score:5, Funny)

    by mhesseltine ( 541806 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:05PM (#6537302) Homepage Journal

    Naked Sunbathing

    • Uhm ...
      you do realize this is Stanford University right? Most of the chics that would be sunbathing nude would cause whoever downloaded the pictures to go a) blind b) insane c) celebate

      I should know, I go there :P
      • I worked at Stanford back in 95 for a year and there were alot of stunningly gorgeous gals walking by my desk to go into the computer lab all the time.

        I must admit that maintaining a professional demeanor was difficult at times, but somehow I managed.

        • But those girls arn't about to be nude sunbathing except in the perverted dreams of /. geeks. If you've ever been to a UC school (particularly UCSB) you'll realize why the running joke exists among students at Stanford that we happen to have the lowest demographic of hot chics in Cali. And yes, its a running joke.
    • I live in an apartment where a newlywed couple sneaks up to the roof to do something every night. So, I am going to build one using a big yellow smiley-face balloon to find out exactly what these two are up to =).
  • by aaky ( 691910 )
    I'm sure some people have some ideas....

    You know what every guy is thinking...some sweet shots of your neighborhood babe [] suntanning!

  • Other solutions... (Score:3, Informative)

    by pen ( 7191 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:08PM (#6537314)
    Cheap aerial photography has already been around for a while. A lot of people have been using kites to accomplish this, but a cheap balloon is much less dependent on the environment being just right. (It doesn't have to be windy.)

    Kite Aerial Photography []
    Mosaics of kite aerial photographs []
    Aerial photography using a balloon at Burning Man []
    Other types of aerial photography (balloon, helicopter, kite, even periscope!) []

    • (Troll? Seems pretty on-topic and informative to me.)

      I know of at least one older form of amateur aerial photography: the Estes Cineroc [], an 8mm movie camera launched as the payload of a small solid-motor rocket. I remember seeing one of these advertised in an Estes catalog back in the late seventies and drooling over the idea. Unfortunately, I was just a poor kid with little pocket money for rockets.
      • I remember seeing one of these advertised in an Estes catalog back in the late seventies and drooling over the idea. Unfortunately, I was just a poor kid with little pocket money for rockets.

        Estes had another version with (I think) 110 still camera film. We had a group of about ten of us that all saved up and bought one back then. The pictures were OK...... Sometimes all you got was blue sky, but other times they were pretty good except that you could never get the fins and the base of the rocket out
    • While a 555 timer offers flexibility, I decided a christmas tree light and relay required less effort. Let's see if I've got that page up. Yep [] Dinky Cox page lacks space!
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:15PM (#6537343) Homepage
    Speaking of gadgets to use in projects like this one...

    In the July 24th Boston Globe, Ritz is advertising something called a "Dakota Digital Single-Use Camera."

    Now, I've seen a "digital single-use cameras" from Kodak which just used film, and the only thing "digital" about them is that when you send them in for processing, they scan the negatives and send you a CD along with the prints.

    But this one SAYS "Delete and Retake Last Shot," which, to me, suggests that it really IS digital. It's $10.99. It says it will take 25 images. No indication of resolution. And no indication of precisely what you do after you have taken the pictures.

    I probably need to get one and crack one open. It sounds like a very interesting device for hacking.

    It will be very annoying if it turns out that $10.99 means that you pay $60.00 up front and get $49.01 back when you bring it in for "processing," though.

    Googling on "Dakota Digital Single-Use Camera" and even "Digital Single-Use Camera" doesn't turn up anything except that phony Kodak film camera...
    • by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:48PM (#6537492)
      I think Walgreens beat them: Walgreen's single-use digital camera []

      "it's 'the only single use camera' with a delete button to let them retake shots"
    • The one I made used a "single-use" film camera. It turned out that with a little care, I could reload it with a higher-resolution (extremely fine grain Tech Pan) film plenty of times.

      I made a frame out of balsa and spruce that the camera slid into. Mounted on the frame was a small servo. I had it rigged so that a full throw in one direction would trip the shutter. Moving the control back and forth near the other end of travel would move a pawl back and forth over the film-advance wheel. I could load it wit
    • I saw an ad for this in Ritz Camera (they are also Wolf camera I think) It is only in selected stores (and doesn't seem to be on the web site. I had the same thought you did, I haven't seen it, but I bet it uses some funky connector on a USB cable to unload the pictures and recharge it.

      I just saw the ad and from it I was unsure if prints/cd was included or if that was another $11 and it also didn't give the resolution. Anyone try it?
  • Uses (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I spoke to a guy doing aerial photogrophy using a blimp (not motorized ... essentially a balloon). He said his main business was doing promotional photos for land developers and local governements (Gold Coast, Australia).
  • by darnok ( 650458 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:18PM (#6537355)
    I just had a vision of releasing prisoners early, and using this balloon/camera thingy to track their every move. It hovers over them all the time, and feeds pictures back to some central point so their whereabouts can be monitored at all times. They're free to go wherever the rest of us can go, but they have this camera hovering over them all the time until their sentence is up. Think of the savings in jail accomodation!

    Then the fatal flaw hit me: the ex-con goes for a job interview, holding a 1m balloon with a camera suspended below it, on a piece of string, in an office trying to describe how he'd be a great employee.

    The local bad guys' public bar would look like a fairground, full of shiny balloons. "Mum, can we go play in that new inside park?" would be the cry from the kindergarten set.

    Or imagine a typical NBA game. With the number of balloons that would be floating over the players, nobody would be able to watch the game. Hold on - there's no reason the balloons couldn't contain advertising.

    Well, actually that's several fatal flaws, but I still think it has "weird and cool" merits that override the "it's a really, really dumb idea" issues. This idea has a really great application somewhere, but I just can't see it at the moment.

    Gotta get more sleep tonight
    • Until I (the prisoner) pull out a BB gun and shoot the balloon...

      (bulletproof balloons might raise the cost a bit.)

      I like the NBA image though.
      • All you'd have to do is make the balloons out of something pretty tough. Steel reinforced concrete ought to do it.

        There's gold in these ideas, I tells ya.
  • Uncompressed Bitmaps + Slashdot = Very Bad
  • If the government wanted to use this baloon to spy on its citizens, this would cost 50 million dollars.
  • by TibbonZero ( 571809 ) <> on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:26PM (#6537391) Homepage Journal
    Ok, so I have two ideas here. One i think someone has already implemented.

    I'm first thinking that balloons could be a really easy way to get a wireless network to cover a large area. A stripped down wireless unit, a super light battery ( or solar/wind power source), and a really large balloon. Put a few of these up on long strings, and i could cover cambridge or back bay (Boston) pretty quickly I would think.

    Ok, second idea. What about some wireless hookup for the digital camera, so that you could put a camera up there, and not take it down often, but control the camera (zoom?) - or at least take the pictures, and then transfer them to the ground. I would think that this could really rock. Get 4-8 of those party balloons (at what point is this a 'weather balloon' and are there any laws about these?), so you could pick up 2-4 lbs, then, mount the stuff on a little box. Put a few strings on it, and let it fly. Snap snap snap, download the camera, zoom in, etc...
  • by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:30PM (#6537409) Homepage
    Funny that this story should come up; I was making an exceptionally long commute to a project today (80 miles each way, 40 of which were in heavy traffic) and was thinking about an analysis of traffic patterns - starting with the hypothesis that the density and speed of vehicles in each lane constitutes a form of pressure and the how this is affected by the number of cars entering and exiting at each intersection, and also the addition / subtraction of lanes along the course of the route. I was thinking that this could be accomplished with some custom image recognition software and a medium-resolution video stream from a several cameras a few thousand feet up (I was thinking helicopters, circling aircraft, and even blimps, but all would be much too expensive). I hadn't considered that a balloon might work so well.....
    • Congratulations, you just turns something extrenely awesome and fun into something painful and boring. You work for the government right?
    • when driving thru Los Angeles traffic every morning, i would do my own traffic pattern analysis.

      here are my results:

      brakelights. that's right, brakelights is a serious cause of traffic.

      currently, brakelights are either on or off, there's no middle. from a small distance, it's hard to tell weather someone is braking hard or soft. result? you end up using your brakes a little more than the person in front of you.

      so if one person taps his brakes, it could conceivably cause a traffic jam 5 miles down th
      • Wasn't there some Cadillacs that blinked the brake lights really fast when the brakes were pressed hard? I remember reading about it, but maybe it never actually made it into a production vehicle. Still not a bad idea as long as they wouldn't be confused with the blinkers/hazard lights.
  • by AmigaAvenger ( 210519 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:32PM (#6537414) Journal
    Or, for only two or three hundred more, you can get pictures from the edge of space on a balloon. We have gone to over 110k feet and recovered inexpensive film cameras, and have some incredible shots.

    Photos []


    High Altitude Balloon Project []

  • by Kheldar99 ( 614654 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:32PM (#6537415)
    William Freeman has a good page on his MIT AI lab homepage about doing the same thing except using kites to take pictures. (Btw, check out William T Freemans MIT e-mail address...) []

    And another link to a good site is Charles Benton's site. []

    Its interesting to note that there are lots of methos for creating unstructured panoramas. Where you have a set of images and the algorithm does its best to determine how to stick the images together to form a panorama. You could imagine a similar algorithm using these images to auotmatically create aerial maps... might make a good paper.
  • Slashdot linked to a similar story here. []

    The article is located here, [] and it basically talks about a guy who built a balloon with a mobile computer accessible over ham radio through ssh. It is a very good read and he gives plenty of technical details and photos (though not the kind of photos you might be looking for).

  • Outside? (Score:5, Funny)

    by matguy ( 7927 ) <.ten.noivilbo. .ta. .yugtam.> on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:33PM (#6537422) Homepage
    Wait, so this involves going outside? Forget that.
  • m anybody?

  • Not fun for GA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ehintz ( 10572 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:49PM (#6537500) Homepage
    In populated areas fixedwing can't go below 1000' (legally) but rotor can. I routinely fly between 500 and 1000' feet. I'd probably see one of these things in time but if I didn't it wouldn't be fun. Probably wouldn't damage the aircraft (unless I got real unlucky and a blade hit the camera itself) but it would surely scare the bejeezus out of me. Birds are bad enough, lots of little cameras in ballons does not sound fun.
  • by pm ( 11079 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @09:52PM (#6537511)
    For a modest increase in budget, you can get a big increase in the quality of the photos. In the really light, fairly cheap, and better quality digtal camera catagory are the AIPTek Pencam 1.3 and Mustek Mini3 cameras. I bought my AIPTek Pencam for about $70 and it takes pretty good digital photos at 1.3MP.

    Both of them are fairly easy to modify as well and there are sites that show in detail how to take them apart and enable other triggering options - such as a 555 or a radio controlled trigger. One example:
  • how about this [] cheaper alternative.
  • USB Remote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Friday July 25, 2003 @10:03PM (#6537562)
    I'm working on a similar project (well, if you consider trying to raise the money to be "working"). Being a professional photographer, I want professional results, and that means remote preview through the camera via USB (why oh why don't prosumer cameras come with FireWire?) and of course USB craps out after about 5 meters. But I just found out that someone finally did the impossible, a 1000ft USB extension device. It's an active microprocessor controlled relay device, you need one at both ends, runs off 12v so I could use a 12v battery to power it. But now I can't find the damn vendor. Anyone know who makes this device?
    • I mean, do you realize how much 1000 ft of cat5 weighs? Unless you are planning on using many, many tens of cubic feet of helium, the cat5 is going to weigh it down.

      If you really want to do this, you are probably looking into a *very* custom board - I would be thinking something like a camera connected to a microcontroller communicating via 802.11 to the ground. It would have to be completely wireless for what you are wanting to do, unless you are planning on using a very large balloon envelope, or hydroge

    • I'm working on a similar project (well, if you consider trying to raise the money to be "working"). Being a professional photographer, I want professional results, and that means remote preview through the camera via USB (why oh why don't prosumer cameras come with FireWire?) and of course USB craps out after about 5 meters.

      I would personally would try to go wireless instead of trying to pull a 1000' cable with the baloon. You could plug your USB cable to a very small computer (Soekris []) and have that co

  • This is nothing new. This has been done in agriculture for decades. A guy at my church, who is an agriculture professor at a local community college, used this method to take aerial photos of the site for our congregation's new church. I know him pretty well, he said that method has been used for a long, long time.
  • And don't forguet to drop one in roswell... :)

  • I bought a $37 Sipix Digital Cam [] which is pretty much identical to the Vivitar one used in the article.

    It took one AAA battery but on a little sticker on the battery case it said it was rated for 3V. Which explains why it was crap. It was horribly under powered. Out of a several dozen pictures all of two came out. I took it back and got the AipTek Trio [] for $10 more and it works far better. Every picture I take comes out fine. It takes 2 AAA but that makes all the difference.

    • The AipTek can run on a single 1.5v battery but it has the same problems as the Sipix: it can't process an image fast enough and ends up with horribly blurred and underdeveloped pictures.

      It's trivial to take the camera apart and end up with a 1"x2" camera. A small wire is needed to hold the lens in place and then a 2 AAA holder can be wired up to it. The LCD status display isn't needed.

  • Voila! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Valar ( 167606 )
    Total (Balloon) Information Awareness. That's right. I can see you, right now. By the way, put that down, it's disgusting.
  • Cool... (Score:3, Funny)

    by The Master Control P ( 655590 ) <ejkeever@neDEBIA ... com minus distro> on Friday July 25, 2003 @11:26PM (#6537913)
    Set them up and use them for Airborne recon of M$ and RIAA Headquarters, and if the returned pictures show the HQ below, you press a button to release a small canister of urine, or other disgusting liquid of your choice.

    Just a sec, there's some guy in a black trenchcoat at the door...
  • This isn't a good idea unless you are a terrorist.
  • Many states require that you have an overhead shot of large parcels of land ie. farm sales before the deal can be compleated.
  • Sometimes I by those cheap plastic delta kites and see how high I can get them. It's a cheap date and alows for much much more talking and getting to know a girl than a movie.

    They mentioned using $2 900 yard spools of monofilament at Target and Wal-mart. In my expirience the $2 spool are adequate but they break easy, have horible stretch characteristics, have massive diameter (thus weight) and are just a general pain to work with.

    When I fly kites past 1,600 yards I much prefer Berkely XL or XT (6lb or hi
  • To get the camera in the air, there are basically three options: a balloon, a kite, and a rocket. ...or a helicopter or a plane or a trebuchet or a ballista or a bow and arrow or a bird or...
  • by dcigary ( 221160 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @01:29AM (#6538306) Homepage
    That's pretty cool, but check out Kite Aerial Panoramic Photography [] from one of my heros, Philo!
  • Weight (Score:2, Informative)

    by brakk ( 93385 )
    He could save some weight with just a few little mods. First, get rid of the voltage regulator and just put a current limiting resistor in series with the relay. Second, use the 9v battery as the power supply for the camera. All he would have to do is measure the current the camera uses and put a resistor in series with it to drop the voltage (or maybe two resistors acting as a voltage divider if the camera doesn't use much current). Third, remove the case from the camera and just use a couple pieces of tap
  • I did this, almost... At least I downloaded a whole suite of high detail aerial photographs of our lake, which is fairly big (about 20 by 4 km).

    Then I glued all aerial photographs together in Gimp [] producing a huuuge map.

    Then I imported it into Sodipodi [] and drew a vectorised contour.

    Now, I am searching for a nice GIS program where I incorprate my freshy-fresh +4000 GPS-coordinates! Any help appreciated! Perhaps Grass is the best? It seems intimidating however.
  • I'm sure some people have some ideas....

    They're going to take aerial photos of CNN transcripts?

  • Photoplane [] takes aerial pictures using a small remote-controlled plane.
  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Saturday July 26, 2003 @02:39PM (#6540588) Journal
    Ok, I'm an EE so I need to offer some advice...

    First, I don't see a protection diode on that relay. You need a diode that will be normally reverse-biased on the coil... otherwise, when the relay clicks off, the inductance of the coil will kick back enough voltage to blow out the 555. It's a reliability issue.

    Second, the 555 is a nice analog circuit that's rated for 4.5-15 volts, so no need to use a 7805 voltage regulator; you can connect to the battery directly.

    Third, a battery idea: Radioshack has some 12 volt batteries that are about N-size (sub AA). They are typically used for lighters, pagers, or remotes.

    Lastly, as you mentioned, the ultimate would be to get rid of the relay and connect directly to the camera. The CMOS version of the 555 would be ideal because (1) it's low power, so you might be able to drive if from the camera's step-up power supply and (2) it has a FET output, so it'll drive much closer the the GND&VCC rails than the TTL version (this should help compatibility)

    Good luck, and nice photos!
  • As long as they can make an infra-red version, anyway. Suppose you were leasing a house to a bunch of hippies and you suspected them of growing some happy herbs in the attic using high-powered electric lights which give off infra-red radiation. If a police helicopter with infra-red camera were flying overhead, you might get asked some awkward questions. So it would be good to use to make sure that your tenants weren't doing anything naughty. You could get an overhead infra-red image before the helicopte
  • The guy didn't think of a remote control model aircraft. These can be built either from scratch or in kit form in sizes that can lift far more weight than a balloon. Do-it-yoursel Predator, anyone?

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson