I am a recent business grad so I finaly have some time on my hands.
I want to make something cool that people can use. I want to make a battery operated PTZ camera system that can be controlled by smartphone or computer. The camera should send data over the cellular network as well be controlled over the cell network.
I'm not trying to build this myself, I was disenchanted about being an engineer when I got to Kirchoff's laws. But I found my own path to creating cool things. I want to help idea's get off the ground by enabling the process (getting money for smart people who like Kirchoff's Laws).
The device has some cool uses including ground-based drones ( Cell is illegal in airplanes?), wildlife research, surf reporting, property management, etc. It's not a billion dollar idea, but I think with the right marketing channels and value proposition this could make an honest living for everyone involved. It's more about creating something than anything else.
I have some basic questions regarding the concept.
How much will a prototype cost? Or rather, what components will it likely consist of and about how much do those components cost? I know it needs an xbee gsm module which costs about $60.
The specs of the final product should be
-~3x Zoom (mechanical)
-Live streaming video (low resolution)
-Still images at high resolution (>5 megapixels) can be taken and sent to GCS while video is streaming.
-Controllable by smartphone or computer
-Battery powered, solar cell or ac adapter modules available.
-Power save options such as motion detection to turn on camera, send low res photos instead of stream.
Getting a new product made on time, to spec, and on budget is a big undertaking. I've done it before with volunteer organizations and my pops own a small business so I know what it takes to get something like this done from a business perspective. You need investors which requires market assessments, prototypes, detailed business and operational plans, potential buyers, etc. All of that is what I want to do in this project.
Where can I find people who might be interested in the most important part of the project, the engineering and programming?
What you are describing is something I have a serious interest in using. If you get any traction on getting this built, be sure to let me know.
I drew up something similar about 6-7 years ago for a wildlife camera (I'm just an idea guy not an engineer) and the 2 things I ran into were; 1) power 2) Even tho the pieces are out there, you would have to have it drawn up from scratch. 2 reasons, better power efficiency and even with all the homebrew stuff out there, it became too complicated to plug pieces together.
Power is really main problem. PTZ's, as they exist then and now, need a wall outlet (for any extended period). There are both heaters and fans that suck a ton of juice. And the camera itself eats 0.5Amps. But forgetting that for the time. This is what I wanted.
A ground based PTZ that was mobile (not hardwired) that had 2 modes. Auto and Hands-free
Auto-Needed motion sensors to determine when to turn on.
Auto Tracking software to follow the object (software exists but expensive) not sure how this would work if aerial
Hands-Free- Needed Gyro & Compass chips and hat clip sensor (This was important, I wanted the ptz to also have the ability to point and record where ever I was looking, even if I wasn't controlling it with my hands. Like a mini-gun on the front of an Apache helo and the pilots helmet)
Built in DVR with some removable memory (SD or whatever)
Cell and or WiFi capable (Smartphone Controllable but I like hands free better)
Solar charging and swappable rechargable batteries.
If you could get it do all this stuff and a price point under $600, you could sell a ton of them. But you'd have to re-designed the PTZ to be micro and the size of an egg instead of a watermelon......That's a lot more doable now....Hmmmmm. Now I'm thinking again.
I needed a circuit engineer (still need one) to lay it out. In the last 7 years, I've seen a couple things close to our ideas but none that match either. Production price too high, Market to small, price point to high.. i don't know why it isn't out there but if i had a circuit engineer as a best friend, I'd have one by now.
Come to think of it, I think I saw your idea on the Military Channel but nothing mainstream.
Forget the ball embrace multiple cameras
PTZ = Pan-Tilt-Zoom in case anyone's wondering.
I think this is a great idea. Kind of surprised there aren't a lot of them out there already.
What you basically want to do is combine a camera with a cellular modem.
I have one of these...
I can't remember which one I got. I think it was the fake dummy one, but white. Maybe it even has the camera, I need to dig it out.
What I was thinking is that I'd put this on the nose of the plane, or maybe even on the belly, or somewhere in between. It's small and aerodynamic and even the dummy has the gimbal in it. I plan to attach two servos to the gimbal mechanism. I thought I'd modify the "pan" servo so it could spin all the way around (fairly easy). That should give it 90 degree tilt and 360 deg. pan. So it would look anywhere from straight ahead to straight down.
I'm sure if you ordered these right from China you'd get them for $1-3 each in any quantity.
I think the easiest way to do what you want is essentially what I'm suggesting, then adding a camera, a computer (gumstix), and the cellular module.
I don't think it would be too hard to combine the webcam, dome /w gimbal, servos, Gumstix computer, and cellular modem. The only real difficulty I see is the zoom part. But if you can find a camera with a zoom that's small enough to fit in the enclosure it shouldn't be too hard to hook up a servo to zoom it.
There are tons of cellular modules out there, some very cheap. I wouldn't settle on the xbee, as I don't think it's very price competitive.
You will need a computer though. To compress the video is going to take an expensive custom design or a computer. The gumstix has lots of optimized video compression codecs for it and could do everything you need.
If you want to go cheaper than this I would just put a cell phone on a gimbal mount. You can use an android phone and control it from the APM or other autopilot if you wrote some fairly simple code. There should be examples in the Audrino forums. Otherwise you could just open any sort of phone and tie into the keypad scanner or just solder right into whatever buttons you need, then use this to control it from the APM through GPIO pins.
I'd put something together and start selling them. Once you prove the concept and determine the market demand you can probably secure financing for a manufacturing run on a custom design. Or they might start selling like hotcakes and finance themselves. DIYD/3DR has shown that a somewhat cobbled together solution can drive the demand for a product and start a community, when the APM2 came out they had tons of preorders and I still don't think they've caught up to the demand yet.
Update: Glad to see a lot of interest here. The good news is I got a good job to finance projects. Unfortunately I still don't know any tech people, nor has my understanding of how the modules will communicate grown.
I found software to control a camera via usb, but it has to plus into a computer http://www.extrawebcam.com/
As for the multiple cameras thing, the camera is supposed to be high quality. The pan and tilt servos are only about $12. a good camera is like 90.
The quest continues...
More research has taught me this is possible and a crude version of what I want exists.
The idea is to use a cellular router and IP based webcam. This will cost about $80 for the router, $69/mo for the service, and another $80 for the webcam. Total cost is $229 down then $69 every month after. MUCH cheaper than the cheapest commercial "solution".
For another $200 I can probably hook up marine battery and solar panel for 24/7 power. Motion detection? I don't know yet.
As for UAV use, the cell router should work. But i think it's illegal to use cell to fly a uav right? That's what my previous research indicated but I never saw a law cited.
More excitingly, I'm working on an asset protection project, which will give me an excellent excuse to try out this solution. Once I run the numbers and make phone calls to find the best place to look for theft, i'll get the technology and try this out.
Also, one cannot control most cameras via computer. Only Nikon and Canon make "tethered cameras".