Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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terran rover camera

video camera on a little car to see under your house
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So last weekend I had to go under my house. Needed to see if there was any water leaking from tub, toilets, or sink drainpipes.

Like most houses around here, there isn't any basement. What you got is a crawl space. With the emphasis on crawl.

There's 18" to 2' between the ground and the subfloor, and that's where you crawl. You share that space with dust, rust, mold, and rat turds. It takes about 10 minutes to move 30 feet. You're wedged in there tight. Definitely not for the claustrophobic. Not fun for anyone. You're wise to wear a mechanic's jumpsuit (you can buy them around here at auto stores) but the dust and mold still get into your hair, eyes, face, and quickly go up your arms and legs.

On the other hand, if you need to check a leak, it's very serious, and you gotta do it. As your home inspector told you when you bought the place, lotta people have slow leaks and don't even know it until the toilet falls through the floor. Awkward socially, and the repair will end up costing you big bucks. So if you even think there might be a leak, you get your ass down there and check.

Plus if you need to know the truth about your phone jacks, or cable wiring, or whether your water pipes or furnace ducts are adequately insulated, again, you gotta get your ass down there. It's the only way.

Until now.

Why can't the people who gave us the Mars Rover, the star of the Pathfinder mission, give us the same damn thing to scoot around under the house and send back video pictures?

I mean, how many times have you heard that lecture about the space program delivering benefits to the rest of us? And here all I want is what they have, in a home version.

Hell, half the components already exist in low-end form. The rover is just a ruggedized version of a remote-control model car. Give that thing a webcam and a WiFi hookup, and it's ready to go. Send it down there and have it start shooting pictures back. Oh yeah, guess it needs a light. Hell, it doesn't need WiFi, just have it broadcast at low power to channel 32 or something. Just so's it doesn't need a wire dragging around.

So there's the idea. An affordable home version of the rover to send under your house and see what's there. It doesn't have to be so cheap that everyone can buy one; it could be rented from your local Rent-A-center, same way you rent that rototiller you're not going to use every day.

Then whenever you need to map out what's down there, you rent it for the day, open up the access, put it in, and start having fun. Twiddle that joystick.

No rat turds for you! Hell, you can send it places you wouldn't have even been able to get to. Under that furnace duct. It'll zip anywhere you want it to go within seconds. Find out the truth about that funny smell coming from the front right corner :-)

jpk, Sep 11 2002

Desktop Rover http://www.plantraco.com/product_dtr.html
[egnor, Sep 11 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Video camera for the Desktop Rover http://www.plantrac.../product_ptv16.html
You'll need to strap on your own flashlight. [egnor, Sep 11 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Stealth Lawnmower http://www.halfbake...Stealth_20Lawnmower
An added bennefit for owners, and so reasonably priced ... [8th of 7, Sep 12 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Nikko Camera Car http://www.firebox....ion=product&pid=397
Short range and probably doesn't have the all terrain functionality for under-foor word, but at least it has headlights. [st3f, Sep 13 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

[link]






       The Mars Pathfinder mission cost about $165 million dollars US. I'm sure you could knock a significant amount of that off due to the fact that you won't need to send this thing to Mars, likely a huge chunk of it. So that would probably bring the price of your device down to, oh, $4 or $5 million maybe. Easily done.
waugsqueke, Sep 11 2002
  

       Just as long as it's fast enough to chase the cat.
RayfordSteele, Sep 11 2002
  

       Hell, have a dusty, rusty, moldy, and rat turd covered Croissant
thumbwax, Sep 11 2002
  

       I thought thats what we had kids for, to send them under the house with a camera and take pictures of wireing and pipes. Seriously though, this sounds great. Like Rayford says, just as long as it's fast enough to chase the cat.
barnzenen, Sep 11 2002
  

       This is pretty easy to do - a decent R/C model tank will cost about GBP £50, and the camera with transmitter about another GBP £100.   

       It sounds so much fun, I might just build one.
8th of 7, Sep 12 2002
  

       I doubt the average video camera (let alone the cheap ones you strap onto a R/C tank toy) gives enough resolution. I spent too much of last weekend under a house spraying for borers, had to tap on the wood to see where they were. And draw rings around the holes to check later for new attacks. For leaks you'd have to feel for damp too.
pfperry, Sep 12 2002
  

       Depends which ones you get, but most of them will do 350 lines vertical by 280 horizontal, which is as much as most domestic TVs can display. The trick is to change the lens stack for a tele-macro. The lens barrel just unscrews from the front of the CCD carrier. If you pick the CCD well (trade sensetivity for better resolution) and then use spectrally matched LEDs as your illuminator, you can get pretty good imaging. You're only looking at a 1 metre range, but good resolution.   

       The toy tank makes the ideal mount because you can traverse the turret to see what's on each side of you.   

       Don't know about leak detection for water. For gas, add a spark coil. That will find any gas leaks pretty effectively.........   

       Thinking about it, my Stealth Lawnmower (link) could do this too ....
8th of 7, Sep 12 2002
  

       [pfperry] I feel your pain about the borers. Not content with pestering you at the pub, yours even follow you home, christ, and lurk under the floorboards! Remind me not to move to your area. Oh, Australia isn't it. No reminder necessary.
General Washington, Sep 12 2002
  

       True, but it's not specially autonomous with that thick cable, and they aren't cheap either. I think a toy-tank-and-camera would be an inexpensive and effective way to meet ther requirements spec.
8th of 7, Sep 13 2002
  

       Looks a lot like the "Matchbox car" I saw in another thread. Okay, I can see some commercial applications with this, for inspecting things like oil pipelines or sewers (amphibious version there, like a little Dutton Mariner.) There should be some wireless hardware out there so I can operate it from my PC... As far as gas detection, install some gas detectors- like the ones the gas company uses.
whlanteigne, Oct 20 2002
  

       I actually did this today before I found this article. I put a wireless camera on my R/C tank. I taped the tiny wireless camera and a tiny flashlight to the barrel (so I could pan up and down, etc). I'm sending it 'down under' tomorrow, but I've already succesfully tested it with other obstructions in the way, so I know it'll work.
chairboy, Dec 31 2004
  

       [chairboy] any linked images would be appreciated.
bungston, Dec 31 2004
  

       A year gone by and here I am reading this again. It strikes me that one could use an exceedingly long colonoscope for this purpose. It could have two fat wheels on either side of the camera head.
bungston, Jan 02 2006
  

       Its an understandable frustration leading to a good idea. If you have an RC car and a camera I dont see why you cant rig one up youself. If you have a wireless web cam thats even better. If not what you need is a way to extend your usb cable. Those can be bought Im sure.   

       As for cost. You can get an rc car for 50 bucks and a wireless web cam is going to run you 150+ dollars. SO lets say you could set this up for 250 bucks.
Antegrity, Jan 02 2006
  
      
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