$25 Space Camera: Raspberry Pi Camera Snaps Photos of Earth on a Balloon


Raspberry Pi‘s new Camera Module is starting to hit store shelves, and we’re starting to see some interesting photo experiments being done with the simple programmable camera kit.

High altitude ballooning enthusiast Dave Akerman recently decided to send his $25 module up to the edges of space to snap photographs of Earth and beam images back during its flight.

The project started last May when Akerman built a tracker using a Model A Pi and a pre-production unit of the Pi camera. Everything was housed in a foam replica of the Raspberry Pi logo:



Akerman wanted to beat his personal record of sending a balloon to 40.35km up, so he designed his space camera to be as light as possible.

Some challenges for this type of photography include framing and exposure. First, the camera needs to discard shots that aren’t of the Earth below, lest you end up with shot after shot showing the blackness of space. Another problem is exposing shots properly: spot metering makes things difficult when there is solid white cloud cover. Everything easily ends up being dark and gray.

Thus, Akerman carefully built his craft, programmed it to detect and discard “black” photos, and set his camera to expose in matrix metering mode. The camera was also set to snap a photo at a rate of about one per minute.

This past weekend, Akerman doubled check everything and then launched his Raspberry Pi-powered balloon camera. Matrix metering went well, and the camera beamed photos down to Earth throughout its flight using 2 onboard radio transmitters.

Fellow balloonists located in various European locations (e.g. Ireland, Holland, and France) were able to receive the photos that were being beamed and send them back to Akerman. First came low-res shots beamed by the first radio channel:



Then came slightly larger shots sent through the second channel:



Akerman was able to track and plot the camera’s movements using the information from the camera’s tracker:



After the balloon popped and landed, Akerman recovered it from a passerby who found it, and then downloaded the high-resolution photos from the onboard SD card. Here are some of the shots:







You can find more photos and more details about the project over on Akerman’s blog. Full resolution photographs captured during the camera’s flight can be found in this Flickr set.

(via Dave Akerman via Gizmodo)

Image credits: Photographs by Dave Akerman and used with permission

  • Typical PetaPixel Comment

    Riiiiight. We’re supposed to believe that Joe Schmoe is putting cameras into space with a baloon on a string. How dum do you think we are?

  • Kuiper

    I lol’d

  • MarvinB7

    Nope. It was Dave Akerman, not Joe Schmoe, and he used a balloon, not a baloon. You must have him confused with somedumy else.

  • Tommy Sar

    Someone missed the joke.

  • MarvinB7

    No way! Just playing along. ;)

  • Tommy Sar

    Oh. Well, then. Carry on.

  • Anon

    SO how long before one of these things gets sucked into a jet engine and kills 456 people

  • Grokukar

    You forgot to criticize the lighting, composition and everything else the couldn’t have been manipulated because its a camera on a balloon.

  • David

    Probably never.

    Source: I’m a pilot.

  • darelmiler

    I also agree with you, to make new and delicious product is so difficult. But I am sure after launched, you are very happy. Raspberry pi camera have best feature to downloaded the high-resolution photos from the onboard SD card.

  • codemonkey

    How can people comment on this type of achievement and bad mouth it or not believe it. As a fellow computer programmer and raspberry pi owner, this is very real and awesome. For those of you that can’t appreciate this type of stuff keep your comments to your self. It so frustrating to read this stuff and always have someone post negatively about it. Your either jealous because your not smart enough for this work or you just have personal problems.