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PiPole-Cam First Flight

Late on Sunday afternoon, much to the amusement of the local kids, PiPole-Cam managed to take to the air down at the local park.

The previous week I had a walk around the local Bunnings hardware store and found the following items:

  • Aluminium Pool pole. 2.4m to 4.8m. $36.80 - 1,210gm
  • 18x18mm x 2.7m - $4.50ea pine (light) - 452gm (later only using it cut down to 1005mm x 290mm long)
  • 25mm x 3m - $25.28 wooden tassie oak
  • 18mm x 18mm x 2.4m - $8.65. wooden Tassie oak
  • 19x19mmx3m - wooden jarrah pole. $8.37ea
  • Wooden Paint pole. 1.8m to 3.6m. $29.95. Thread top, very heavy!

I purchased the two top items, which once strung together, put the PiPole-Cam 7m up in the air.  Higher, if I lifted the pole up off the ground.  By the end of an hour or so of playing around with it, the top pine pole was quite droopy, and looked like it was going to snap.

Ok, here are some action shots:

PiPole-Cam Can Fly! It can fly!  Looking Up At PiPole-Cam  Looking 7m (~23') up the poles to thew suspended PiPole-Cam

So, what can the PiPole-Cam see?  It was suprising that it could see above the nearby housing roofs and into the distance:

Scenic View

Well, it wasn’t quite 100% self-levelling.  On-line, people recommend to use the special kite string for the picavet suspension system.  I couldn’t find any on Sunday, so I ended up using builders chalk string.  I found that it would catch in the eye screws as they are not quiet 100% continuously round and wasn't as slippery as it should have been.  At 7m up though, it does give a different prospective to the surrounding area. 

Just for the record, three minutes of RPi camera video at full resolution takes up between 190MB and 240MB of file space and a 2592x1944 jpeg photo takes up around 1.8MB or more. Looking at the recorded video, I noticed some 10 second gaps in the recording.  It turned out I had left raspistill timelapse running in one console and started a video recording in another.  Nice to see that both would sort of work with out interfering with each other.

At this stage, I wasn't using the GPS data and I was controling the photos via the CLI raspistill and raspivideo commands.

What could be improved if I was to do this again?

  •  With a bit more planning, I think I could shave perhaps 100gm of weight (mainly excess wood) off the rig.
  • Centre the battery a bit better, or build it so the battery can be moved around to adjust the centre of gravity.
  •  Install a buzzer, to give some programmatically audible feedback about the status of the board.  There is no indication of a photo being taken
  •  Add a power switch.  It’s a bit of a struggle to use the battery plug as the on/off switch.  It could also be used to shut it down correctly.


  • Get NTP and GPS data fed into the jpeg EXIF meta data section.  I have seen references that there might be a bug in in this area [edit: this was fixed in August-ish 2013].
  • Extend the pole out to 10M+ high.
  • Bonus:  get a remote image stream going.  I have seen this done with video down onto a PC and the ‘motion’ software is just being updated (As of June 2013: currently Alpha status), to work with the RPi camera.
  • Grow two more arms and hands  ;-)