Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Shoot the Amazon

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Executive summary: Mass produce cheap, remotely-addressable camera traps using mostly-standard cheap cellphone parts. Drop thousands in remote areas. --------

The more jungular parts of the world are host to a huge diversity of animals, and most of them are under-explored. A fair proportion of explorations in the more remote areas turn up new species of mammals and birds, as well as many smaller species.

A common strategy for these explorations is to leave camera traps (motion-activated cameras) in likely areas for a few nights, and then go back to retrieve the images. This is a very effective way of surveying the wildlife, and has quite often led to the initial identification of new species.

However, camera traps are expensive, and have to be set and revisited.

Given the cheapness of modern electronics, it should be possible to produce a small camera trap in large numbers, for a few pounds each. It needs to have a camera (obviously) - but cellphone camera modules can be bought in bulk for very low prices. It also needs some memory to store the images, and an infra-red sensor to trigger it when a warm-blooded animal passes by. For night photography, it also needs an infra-red LED flash to illuminate animals.

I'd also like these cheap camera traps to have the ability to transmit images wirelessly over a distance of maybe 500m or so. It might be cheapest to do this using mobile phone technology, or some other short-range radio transmitter might do the job. It should be possible, from a few hundred metres away, to ask the camera trap if it has any images and, if so, to upload those images.

Finally, I want these traps to have a small, cheap solar cell. There's not much light in the jungly jungle, but there should be enough to trickle-charge a battery, even if it's only enough for a few photos per day.

Post-finally, each camera is going to have a long ribbon tied to it. I'll get back this point.

Now, if these things were made in large numbers, I think they could be made cheaply. After all, we can make single-use digital cameras that are cheap enough to throw away.

So, we make maybe a few thousand of these things. We then fly over an interesting bit of jungle, and drop them at intervals of a couple of hundred metres. Each camera will drop, trailing its ribbon. Most of the cameras will snag, by their ribbons, in trees or undergrowth, where they will dangle happily (and right way up). A proportion will make it to the jungle floor, and some clever design will ensure that many of these land right way up. Overall, maybe half of these cameras will land in a position to take photos.

A week, or a month, or a year later we fly over the same area. Gadgetry on the plane polls each of the cameras in turn, uploads any images they have caught, and asks them to erase the images to free up their memory. We can do this as often as we want, until the cameras eventually die.

The result will be a huge number of images. Many will show nothing (since the IR sensors on the cameras may respond to moving branches or whatever); most of the remainder will show known species of birds and mammals. But, based on the results from conventional camera traps, it's likely that a very small proportion (but a large number) of these images will show tantalising images of new species.

Another application of this would be to look for my favourite probably-extinct animal - the thylacine. There are sporadic and unconfirmed sightings of this animal still, in parts of Tasmania and Western Australia, but the areas are so vast and remote that thorough searches are impractical. Camera- bombing these areas with a few thousand cheap, remotely- addressable camera traps would be interesting.

MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 11 2015

I dunno, seems cruel, but it's been done before, so (not really) baked http://girlfight.ru...Wounded-Amazons.jpg
Warning - images of beautiful fantasy women wounded [normzone, Feb 12 2015]

Argo http://www.argo.ucs...ow_Argo_floats.html
Robot buoys! Nothing to do with fembots, though. [bungston, Feb 18 2015]


       I don't like the idea of leaving so much electronic junk all over the rain forest.   

       How about a parachute that is designed to snag in the upper-most branches. Include a small winch that can lower the camera on a pair of fine wires. Choose between having a very small motor that can only lower the device vs. a larger motor that can also lift the device. If we can incorporate some solar cells into the parachute stuck in the tree canopy we might get a bit more solar power as well. Hopefully the system can be retrieved after an appropriate length of time in that location by snagging the parachute from a dirigible-based drone.
scad mientist, Feb 11 2015

       "Shoot, the Amazon."   

       - some conquistador, while searching for the Orinoco
the porpoise, Feb 11 2015

       //I don't like the idea of leaving so much electronic junk all over the rain forest.//   

       I sort of agree but, from a conservation point of view, it doesn't really matter. OK, you might want to make the ribbons and camera body of something that'll break down over a few years but, to be honest, wildlife doesn't really care about most litter.   

       You'll have a few undesirable elements in the electronics, but not enough to do any harm. If challenged, I would be prepared to eat a digital camera if it were ground to a fine powder.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 11 2015

       I challenge you.
pocmloc, Feb 11 2015

       I double dog challenge you.
Voice, Feb 11 2015

       A challenge requires (a) a slap round the face with a kidskin gauntlet and (b) some sort of financial incentive.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 11 2015

       Okay, I've skinned a kid. What's the next step?
AusCan531, Feb 11 2015

       The idea fails to explain how the device actually kills the target, so [-].
8th of 7, Feb 11 2015

       //What's the next step?// Make a gauntlet.   

       //explain how the device actually kills the target// Did I forget to mention that the camera weighs approximately 250kg?
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 11 2015

       hmm, the use of solar hot air balloons with altitude regulators and grapples would greatly extend the range and life of the cameras before they eventually plummeted.   

       //favourite probably-extinct animal - the thylacine. There are sporadic and unconfirmed sightings of this animal still, in parts of Tasmania and Western Australia,//   

       Firstly, people are unreliable, and bad at differentiating Thylacines from dogs and dingoes.   

       Secondly, Willem Dafoe shot the last Thylacine, in order to preserve them, or something. I dunno, the whole thing was a little ambiguous.
Custardguts, Feb 12 2015

       but... but... Wonder Woman has these bracelets, y'know...
lurch, Feb 12 2015

       //people are unreliable, and bad at differentiating Thylacines from dogs and dingoes// Absolutely, and most of the claimed sightings are probably either mistakes or hoaxes. But there's still a quarter of half a chance that there are thylacines out there still...
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 12 2015

       Shoot the ebay?
popbottle, Feb 12 2015

       Sgt. Stedenko: "Shoot the moon!"
DrBob, Feb 12 2015

       Yeh, a bunch of rodents and such. A tapir if you're lucky. Plus probably the thing would land behind a bush.   

       These things need to be dropped into the ocean. Like those long floating atmospheric buoys. Dropped and left, with satellite upload now and again. The ocean has lots of large photogenic creatures upon which me need to marvel, plus a larger variety of nonrodent medium size creatures, for daily bread and butter ogling.
bungston, Feb 17 2015

       //These things need to be dropped into the ocean.//   

       Yes, I thought about that too. The ideal would be for them to sink and photograph things on the way down, and then sit there on the bottom for a while. But as far as I know you can't transmit wirelessly from under the sea, so they'd need to periodically float back up to upload images. Then you're talking greater cost and complexity.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 18 2015

       Actually there are autonomous remote buoys that do exactly that:they sink to a depth, take readings there for days to weeks, then bob back up to transmit. Let me see if I can link.
bungston, Feb 18 2015

       The description of the Argo floats says they use pumps to change buoyancy. It seems to me that there should be some way to take advantage of the temperature gradient to eliminate the need for a power source.
scad mientist, Feb 18 2015

       //autonomous remote buoys that do exactly that//   

       Yes, but then you're talking serious money.   

       For a cheap (disposable) version, how about a weight attached via a glue that slowly dissolves? Drop it in the ocean from a plane or boat; it sinks and takes photos to the limit of its battery; a few days later the weight drops off and it bobs up, and small solar cells charge the battery so that it can transmit.   

       I wonder how deep a small camera could go, if embedded in a sphere of solid transparent resin? I'm guessing that it wouldn't be too difficult to make something that would survive the deepliest deepths.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 18 2015


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