PiCam360 Surface Walker Is a Drone for 'Remote Snorkeling'
Tom Spendlove posted on November 08, 2018 |

Takuma Hirayama has a simple goal for his work, he wants to ‘change the world by open source hardware.’ After developing the Picam360 as a remote reality platform, he worked to gain funding for the project through the Makuake platform. The Picam360 is open source Raspberry Pi based camera that takes panoramic pictures in 360 degrees horizontally and 235 degrees vertically, controlled through a web browser. The next project developed around the camera was the Ground Walker, an unmanned ground vehicle with omnidirectional wheels and a laser. Hirayama is now crowdfunding the Surface Walker, an open source aquatic drone built around his Picam360 platform.

The long term goal of the Surface Walker is the creation of a visual database of natural environmental features. The Great Barrier Reef, the American Pacific Coast, and Okinawa are the three regions where the Surface Walker will take large sets of visual data and create a record that can be compared to data at future states. The engineers are working with an unnamed university to create OpenCyanoMap, a tool to visualize cyanobacterial concentrations in lakes built from OpenStreetMap. OpenCoralMap is also planned to show the amount and condition of coral over time.

The Surface Walker is a watercraft with a urethane foam hull, a 100 Watt solar panel, a rudder, and the Picam360 camera unit on the bottom of the hull. The campaign video shows how the ship was designed in CAD, then mold components were 3D printed and the urethane poured into the mold to create the hull. The hull is 1500 x 650 x 100 millimeters in size and weighs 5 kilograms before the 12.6 Volt lithium ion battery is added. The solar panel on the top surface is 18 Volt and 100 Watts while the solar charging unit is 20 Amps and 20 Volts. The system uses both Arduino Uno and Raspberry Pi Model B 3+ boards for control, and the craft can reach speeds up to 5 knots.

This project is ambitious. For most of us it would be a great accomplishment to develop a solar powered aquatic drone equipped with a camera, but the addition of the mapping expeditions and the desire to create new mapping tools greatly widen the scope of the project. Making the world a better place is never easy, and I’ll be watching to see what happens with the Surface Walker in the next few years. This Kickstarter campaign is set up to find support from citizens but will also sell Surface Walker kits to users. The campaign ends on December 20, 2018.

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