The Power of Pi

http://dennox.nl/4625-csnl89414-vals-spelen.html I quite like pie, and I quite like raspberries, combine them, add cream and wow! Delete an E or call it 3.14159 and you get something even better – the Raspberry Pi! The Raspberry Pi is a small computer but has an amazing amount of potential. I've been working on a few projects since I got my first one early last year, there's a lot to learn from different programming languages, to running motors and sensors but that's half the fun. It is British made (actually Wales!) and is aimed at education, mainly kids and I can see a huge potential for it in the classroom. Some schools are using them a lot already. It is important for kids to learn programming for the future not just how to use Facebook! It would be exciting to be able work with a school using them. My bent however is how can I use it for wildlife?

The Pi

At first I was wondering about the camera capabilities of the pi. It was fairly easy to get a webcam up and running. This could be used to do timelapses and motion detection. The video streaming rates aren't that good. This is a timelapse of the garden for the month of April taken using a cheap webcam (excuse the camera moving half way thro!)

Then, the pi foundation released it's own camera module. It took me ages to get this working, and then it turned out there was an issue with my pi that meant it didn't work. When I eventually got a new pi this was solved. The pics were fantastic! Timelapse is superb, but the video was a trimmed down version of the sensor, good quality but a bit small. This is what I captured using the video and motion detection.

Then, exciting news, the Raspberry Pi foundation released code for more functionality in the camera module, including full sensor video! All systems go! The blue tits had already started building their nest in the normal box, so getting the camera in was a case of waiting for them to leave and getting it in as quickly as possible. I had to hack the camera first to change the focus, deep breath then in with a scalpel and a microscope! The pi is taped to the side of the box, all very Heath Robinson, but I couldn't risk upsetting the birds. The results however have been superb. I can record on motion detection and stream into the house in HD. I haven't put it on my website yet, I know what to do, it's just that I don't want to take the pi down whilst there is action in the box! Next year the box will be pimped up with a pi, HD streaming, and the pi reading sensors such as temp, humidity, luminosity, it will also log the number of visits. I also plan to get it to control the lights automatically, so turn off at night, on at dusk. So lots of work to do! A cam monitoring the fledging is going to be set up too!

Here it is in situ at the moment. Waterproofing courtesy of a sandwich bag 🙂

The results! I am incredibly pleased with these 🙂

There is also a NoIR camera module for shooting at night. This has obviously lead me to PiTrailCam! The pi is housed in a plastic box, to keep it dry, and I place it near one of the CCTV cameras I already have to utilise the IR from it. The problem is power. I've overcome this by using a portable battery that you use to recharge phones, it provides enough power to record through the night. The next step is to equip the PiTrailCam with it's own IR array. This is it at the mo

Again the videos are excellent quality!

With the better video and stills now available I have set up a new timelapse system. A very long project!

My garden from the pi

One of the things I have wanted to do the most is use it to monitor and record the weather. For years I have kept manual records, writing down max/min and rainfall everyday. With the combination of a maplins usb weather station and a pi it is all now automated and sent to my website every 10 minutes! I've even got it going to my phone so I can see what's been happening, yes I'm a geek 🙂 The Pi reads the data from the unit, produces tables, graphs and publishes to the web. If you check out the Weather Page on my website, you can see the data for the day, week and months and eventually years. There are even graphs! Every page on the website now shows the current weather here at The Lilac Grove 🙂

Pi and Weather Station Base Unit

The unit that does the measuring is set up in the garden

Obviously the pi has limitations, power and waterproofing being some the major obstacles to overcome with it working outside, but the fun in experimenting and getting something to work is great!

I have lots of other projects on the go and planned for the pi over the coming months (and probably years). Here's a few ideas I'm working on, there are more but….. 😉

Hedgehog monitoring – weighing, tracking, install in a hog box for temperature etc

Sound capabilities – recording, streaming and also making music

Automate the Moth Trap – on at dusk off at dawn. Close the lid to save the moths and keep birds out!

PiRoboCam – you could have guessed I would! This is coming along quite well!

Sorry if the post was quite long, but I had a lot to share. If anyone is interested in any of the projects I have done and want anymore info on doing them yourself, drop me a line or a tweet and I will help, I'm going to add a raspberry pi section to the website and write some PiGuides too if people are interested. The Pi is all about experimention, learning and sharing!