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The Crawlspace Tankcam 167

Saint Aardvark writes "Here's a page on the fun you can have with a remote control Abrams tank and a wireless video camera. "I really wanted a way to look for under house leaks and stuff and, in the manner of a responsible home owner, get early warning so I could increase the effectiveness of... Ok, that's a lie. In reality, I wanted an excuse to put a camera on my R/C tank and drive it around scary tunnels, and this just happened to fit my purposes perfectly." Movies included!"
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The Crawlspace Tankcam

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  • ThinkGeek (Score:5, Informative)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:28PM (#11649360) Homepage
    Like the bigger version of these Desktop R/C Mini-Rovers [thinkgeek.com] with optional wireless video cam [thinkgeek.com]?

    Here's the Coral Link [nyud.net] since this guy put so many photos on one page, I read its hit counter at 230, we'll see how long before it's dead :)

    Movies Included = Slashdotted Soon
    • Re:ThinkGeek (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tenebrious1 ( 530949 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:49PM (#11649453) Homepage
      Like the bigger version of these Desktop R/C Mini-Rovers with optional wireless video cam?

      The difference being the tank camera is mounted on the gun barrel and can be moved up and down, giving you a little more field of vision. The rotating turrent is nice as well since you can pan around without having to move the vehicle itself.

      • Re:ThinkGeek (Score:3, Interesting)

        by whoever57 ( 658626 )
        The rotating turrent is nice as well since you can pan around without having to move the vehicle itself.

        If it works. Last October, I bought what looks to be a similar tank (different colors, but otherwise the same) from II Sports.com. [iisports.com]

        On Christmas day we opened it to find that the turret only rotates through a few degrees. II Sports would not replace it because more than a month had passed since we bought it. One MONTH -- that's the length of their guarantee. I searched the packaging and handbook and

        • Nah, not the same tank. I got one from Walmart for $10 on clearance, complete with Nicad battery and charger!

          The one in the article is (was) made by Motorworks and doesn't fire pellets, rather it has some foam missiles it can launch. The barrel moves up and down as in "push button, barrel moves up and then down". It is cool that the missiles can be fire by remote.

          The thing cries for variable speed control on the tracks, dang thing is way too fast to control at full speed all the time.

          The missile launcher
    • At 1:19 AM, it was at 16,475 and growing about 20/second....

      See what happens when you moderate fairly and have good Karma? Your home gets posted on /. !!!

      • Just as a reference point, at 9:50 AM (EST) it was up to 32,687. Basically 16,000 hits in a little more than 8 hours.

        Surprisingly, the webserver seems to be holding up to a Friday night/Saturday morning /.ing very well.

        I wonder what would have happened if this had been posted on a weekday...

    • I've always wanted to put a video cam on a remote-controlled airplane, possibly even a jet.

      If you can get a RC plane with mounted videocam that's fast enough, you can use it on road trips by having the plane fly ahead and recon the upcoming freeway for speed traps. plus, take off and landing could be interesting as you just stick the plane out the window and let go (or catch). it would sure make those incredibly boring road trips much more fun.

      Couldn't you also use an RC plane with explosives and videoc
      • ... I particlarly like the "(or catch)" part of your plan.

        Errm, buddy, I hope somebody else is driving the car and somebody yet else is flying the plane while you hang out of the car window on the interstate, getting your fingers trimmed by a propeller.

        Pure genius at work!
      • Couldn't you also use an RC plane with explosives and videocam attached as an assissination method?

        Yes. It's called a RQ-1 Predator [wikipedia.org], and the US military has a bunch of 'em. Your question was probably "could a modestly resourced group of people build something big enough to carry an assassination bomb?" The answer to this is also "yes" - check out this 1/8th scale B-52 [stukastudios.se], and weep at the crash pictures. Note that this thing was designed specifically as a B-52 replica and not as a utilitarian aircraft; i

    • Anyone else have thoughts of battery powering a Mac Mini, equipped with airport and an iSight for applications like this?

      Seems to me you could plop a Mini and an iSight on just about any remote controlled vehicle and have quite a bit of fun with it. You could use iChat to get high-resolution high-framerate remote video and audio.

      Hell, the mini could be the robotic brain for the vehicle as well. This sounds like a great new project - the "Mac Mini robotics project!"

      Gotta get me one of those now...
  • by mboverload ( 657893 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:28PM (#11649362) Journal
    "Nothing to see in these dark tunnels, move along..."
  • Laser Tag! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now all we need is laser tag gear and it's ready for front yard battles!
    • If by 'laser tag' you mean '12 gauge shotgun', then I'm way ahead of you.
      • Without adding to the the further /.ing of his site, instead of laser tag, you could attach the flame cannons he ALSO has videos of!

        I leave it as an exercise to the reader to find the flame cannons on his site.

  • Putting a camera on my R/C tank
    Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

    1. The Problem
    I had to crawl around under my house recently to figure out where to run some wires, but it was dang uncomfortable. My foundation isn't a slab, at least not on the top.

    It's gravel.

    The sharp kind.

    So after throwing away my bloody shirt and healing, I put some cardboard down and crawled around some more, and it was better. ...but it was still uncomfortable. The floor was something like 18" from the 'ceiling' o
  • Windows Computer?

    Boys! - were going in. Shoot it in the CPU!

  • by soimless ( 651224 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:30PM (#11649373) Homepage Journal
    Also This sould be useful for upskirting and makeing fortunes (9.95 USD) on the interweb
  • Something like a little Mindstorm 6-legged crawler would work well. And the camera movement would be more like Doom with bouncing rather than a flat, linear camera movement with the tank.

    The mini-Maglite was a stroke of genius.
  • by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:30PM (#11649375) Homepage
    I have good Karma, I moderate fairly. What did I do to deserve this?

    My hosting service just caught fire.
  • Mirror (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:30PM (#11649376)
    Mirror if needed [dealsites.net]
  • All I know is, when I write Porky's IV, it'll have this device in it.
  • ... but, it'd be fun to use it with this:
    http://www.thinkgeek.com/cubegoodies/toys/5b5f/
  • Look! (Score:3, Informative)

    by writermike ( 57327 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:32PM (#11649386)
    From TFA:

    After a minute of trying, I realized I would have to go down myself and unstick it. I climbed down the hole and looked down to see that it was about 10 feet away, apparently jammed up on a rock.

    I dropped to my stomach and began to crawl towards it, pushing as much cardboard ahead of me first to minimize my time in the pain zone. I crawled ahead and made it to the tank, then pulled it free of the rock.


    Ummm... I appreciate the geekiness and all, but couldn't you have just looked around at this point! ;-)
  • Slashdot effect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FiReaNGeL ( 312636 ) <fireang3l@OPENBSDhotmail.com minus bsd> on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:33PM (#11649388) Homepage
    The page include a 6 digit counter at the bottom of the page. As we speak, its increasing by about 100 hits every 10 seconds... poor guy :)
    • There's only 50 people watching, it's just that they're all hitting reload over and over to watch the counter climb. Amazingly, it does...

      The slow response is due to another 50 slashdotters trying to leach the entire site so they can post 'It's slashdotted already, but here's a cache'.
  • by mboverload ( 657893 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:34PM (#11649390) Journal
    Just tell me when they get a fricken argon laser beam on it.
  • This-site-is-hosted-on-a-toy-tank jokes begin!
  • by Tenebrious1 ( 530949 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:38PM (#11649408) Homepage
    It looks like he was almost eaten by a grue.

  • Rover! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Claire-plus-plus ( 786407 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:39PM (#11649412) Journal
    Got stuck on a rock? Maybe it has the same syndrome that the Mars rover had ;)
    • Talking of which: I kinda lost track (no pun intended) of the mars rovers. Are now they stuck, are the solar cells clogged with dust?

      Somehow, part of me hopes at least one of them still crawls about on the red planet.
  • ... the best part of both vids is the soundtrack. That kid sounds so cute! esp the "My pizzaaa!" bit.
  • by astebbin ( 836820 )
    ..that this guy is married and not in attendance at any middle school/high school/place with changing rooms, heh.

  • Interesting idea.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WhatAmIDoingHere ( 742870 ) * <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Friday February 11, 2005 @10:52PM (#11649460) Homepage
    Why not drag a power/control cable behind it? The battery wouldn't be a limitation and if it gets stuck, give the cable a light tug. Also, you would lose a lot of weight from the battery. You could upgrade the motor to the gun turret allowing a greater range than "down" and "slightly less down"

    I read a story about exploring small tunnels in the pyramids using things like this (not toys, but the same idea) and the people doing it were finding lots of neet stuff.
    • by Chairboy ( 88841 )
      I thought about doing that, and probably will in a future version for exactly the reasons you mention.

      If not a control cable, at least I could do a thin gauge metal cable for the tugging part.
    • I saw something about this on I think the Discovery channel. The remote vehicle got to what seemed to be a sealed doorway and could go no farther. Kind of a let down after an hour of watching. Would have been much better if they just let a rat go into the tunnel, then put a cat with a camera in after it.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You mean like these guys? ASR [asrobotics.com]
    • You could upgrade the motor to the gun turret allowing a greater range than "down" and "slightly less down"

      Just install a counterweight of some sort- put a mass behind the point of movement of the gun barrel which exerts a torque balancing the weight of the barrel+camera.Then you're only fighting the inertia of the setup, instead of the weight of the camera. Or you could just move the camera back on the gun barrel, although I suspect that you want it as far forward as possible, given the limited range of

    • Control cables are definitely a good idea. You should think twice about taking out the batteries - you want to have a lot of friction between the wheels and the ground.
  • by AmigaAvenger ( 210519 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:12PM (#11649540) Journal
    A friend of mine did this years ago, used the tank for pulling cable in a network room.

    http://blizzard.rwic.und.edu/~nordlie/robotics/mar k6.html [und.edu]

    • Same here. I ran CAT5 to every room under my house using an R/C truck with 2 lines of dental floss tied to it (one as a sending line for the cable length, the other as a safety line). I had straight lines of sight to every target location, so I didn't need to mount a camera. It beats crawling under there yourself and disturbing nests of yellowjackets, brown recluse spiders, fire ants, etc. as you go.
  • by Marran Gray ( 722447 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:12PM (#11649541) Journal
    Obviously, now that we have recon covered we need to think about adding offensive capabilities. I mean, what good is it to identify all the major structural supports if you have no way to take them out? Robot Wars-esque saw blades are probably unsuited for implementation on the existing hardware base, even if external power could be supplied (viz. those "anemic motors"), so I'm thinking along the lines of a small thermal lance or incendiary package.
  • by Infinityis ( 807294 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:24PM (#11649587) Homepage
    welcome my new tank-driving, mini Mag-Lite toting, camera carrying overlords.
  • A page? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:27PM (#11649605)
    > "Here's a page on the fun you can have with a remote control Abrams tank and a wireless video camera.

    I kinda stopped reading at "remote control Abrams tank". That's just plain fun, with or without the wirless video camera. I don't need no webpage to tell me that.

    I mean, come on. As if driving a remote control M-1 Abrams blind isn't "fun" enough in the first place.

    (Although I admit - probably more fun if you have a remote control video camera, rather than having to be anywhere near the tank in order to get footage of all the car-smashing, lightpole-snapping... well, like Mom said, it's all fun until someone gets their house crushed like a bug.)

  • Home Alone 3! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr. Cancelled ( 572486 ) on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:39PM (#11649658)
    Ever since seeing Home Alone 3, I've thought that something like this would be a lot of fun (it never occured to me that it'd have practical applications also).

    What would be even neater is if you could interface a computer with the remote and camera feed. You could, theoretically at least, take pictures of it's path through the house, and then write a small program to steer the vehicle around a pre-determined path, based on where in the cameras vision known objects are.

    From there it wouldn't be too big of a chore to have the program notify you, or react differently, when unknown objects come into view, or if it gets into unknown territory. Just think, your own sub $100 roving security system!

    Oh! And as for Home Alone 3... While it's by far not a great movie, it's actually pretty good, and is by far the best of the series (Yeah, I know that doesn't say much for it still...)
  • Next Improvement? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by earthforce_1 ( 454968 ) <earthforce_1@yahoo . c om> on Friday February 11, 2005 @11:40PM (#11649659) Journal
    Wire the camera up to a DSP running image stabilization and enhancement software. An perhaps a PWM for the motor, (similar to those used to creep electric trains) so that he can drive at variable speed.
    • Naw.. Far easier in terms of battery life, platform reliability and cost/ease of implementation to use commercially available routes to do image improvement/stabilization at the control end. TV card, openly available image filters, some thin code to string it together.

      As for adding a variable speed option to the vehicle, it's probably more cost effective (and less work intensive) to start over on another platform, like a $9 Rat Shack remote control car.
      • I picked up this exact tank from Walmart for $10. It cries for variable speed and will make a good robot base. The author failed to mention the foam missiles the tank can fire (from the remote!).

        There is Missile Launcher from the same company that fires 10 missiles in sequence as well and yes I got one on clearance from Walmart for $10.

        Did I mention this includes a Nicad battery and charger?
  • You should have used a Big Track! (Just kidding)

    I think a large-wheeled vehicle would have navigated the terrain a bit better. The BigFoot [bigfoot4x4.com] might have worked better....and saved you a half pint of blood.
  • by auburnate ( 755235 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @12:12AM (#11649779)
    No reason to skirt around the issue, the videos from the tank I watched were very poor quality. I understand they were wireless, but why not stash some treasure in the crawlspace to let all the /.ers take part in the discovery. I mean if through all the darkness and quick jerky motion, the tank could have discovered this [ebay.com], how flipping sweet would that have been?!
  • Infrared (Score:5, Insightful)

    by null etc. ( 524767 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @12:35AM (#11649861)
    One thing I noticed during testing was that the camera had poor low-light performance despite the 6 infrared LEDs on the face, so I included a mini Mag-Lite in my plans.

    I have the same camera. The 6 infrared LEDs on that camera are inoperative. They only work on the black & white camera model, which shares the exact same housing. The circuitry required for infrared to augment an RGB display is much more complex than the circuitry required to augment a monochromatic display, and thus couldn't fit within the housing.

  • Yes, it was great fun!

    I picked up this little wireless camera at first with the notion that I'd place it on a kite and play with aerial video. But in testing, my brother an I came up with the brilliant idea of attaching it to his RC corvette!

    The results were terrific once we got it all tuned in. We were driving this vette all around his house based on what we saw on his big projected TV image. Then a HUGE DOG (actually, a relatively small dog in real life... some kinda rat terrier or something like tha
  • My 10 year old son built one of those screaming fast RC cars in camp and I mounted one of those cameras on it. We stayed in the garage and ran it up and down the street, even UNDER moving cars (they honked like mad).

    Try it! It's a blast. A couple of elderly neighbors were not amused though.

    The one trouble we encountered is that the cameras are analog and any 1.2 GHz digital portable phones in the area make a good deal of interference so you may have to try a 900 MHz camera as well to see what works in
  • I'm paying like $7 a month for hosting via http://www.hostsave.com/ and I'm hoping this plug will help me avoid getting a huge bandwidth bill.

    Hah! Good luck.
  • I use a wireless cam mounted to a RC Jeep augmented with a bunch of white LEDs to chase my cat around. Always good for a laugh.

    Boston Water & Sewer has been doing something similar to the article for ages. RC Car with a camera mounted to inspect pipes. Not so fun to watch. Basically looks like a looped tape.
  • http://www.lynxmotion.com/images/jpg/eh209.jpg

    more practical

    http://www.lynxmotion.com/Category.aspx?Category ID =57

    Easy to modify to use with larger wheels for a bit better clearance and differential drive so you still maintain the agility of the tank.
  • Way back in 1987 or so, I got permission to purchase a Radio Shack R/C tank on the company dime. We needed to pull cables through an already overcrowded cable raceway, and there were severe access issues in certain areas. The R/C tank worked wonders, drawing a chase-tape through the confined spaces. We used the chase-tape to pull the bigger cable bundles through. We'd tried the tennis-ball-and-string trick earlier. I'll bet the ball it still dangling from the trusswork it got stuck on.

    The fun part wa
  • Well, actually, I wanted to put one of those damn x cams or whatever they were called on a Kyosho Mini-Z [kyosho.com] (I highly recommend this site [hobbyonsale.com] -- they were super friendly with good prices).

    This was supposed to be a combination of an "I can do this" project combined with an upskirt cam for the bank I worked in at the time. Unfortunately, in between my "ooh ooh ooh I want the Porsche" RC car spending spree (4 grown men buying about $2k worth of toys at once) and "oh fine I'll buy a goddamm camera just to see what i

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