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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.
of explorations in the more remote areas
up new species of mammals and birds, as well as many
A common strategy for these explorations is to leave
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
Given the cheapness of modern electronics, it should be
possible to produce a small camera trap in large numbers,
a few pounds each. It needs to have a camera (obviously) -
but cellphone camera modules can be bought in bulk for
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
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
metres away, to ask the camera trap if it has any images
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
be enough to trickle-charge a battery, even if it's only
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
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
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
happily (and right way up). A proportion will make it to the
jungle floor, and some clever design will ensure that many
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
erase the images to free up their memory. We can do this
often as we want, until the cameras eventually die.
The result will be a huge number of images. Many will
nothing (since the IR sensors on the cameras may respond
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
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
remote that thorough searches are impractical. Camera-
bombing these areas with a few thousand cheap, remotely-
addressable camera traps would be interesting.
I dunno, seems cruel, but it's been done before, so (not really) baked
Warning - images of beautiful fantasy women wounded [normzone, Feb 12 2015]
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
||- some conquistador, while searching for the Orinoco
||//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.
||I double dog challenge you.
||A challenge requires (a) a slap round the face with a
kidskin gauntlet and (b) some sort of financial
||Okay, I've skinned a kid. What's the next step?
||The idea fails to explain how the device actually kills the target, so [-].
||//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
||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.
||but... but... Wonder Woman has these bracelets, y'know...
||//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...
||Sgt. Stedenko: "Shoot the moon!"
||Yeh, a bunch of rodents and such. A tapir if you're
lucky. Plus probably the thing would land behind
||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.
||//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.
||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.
||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
||//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.