Timelapsecamera for research project of AWI in Siberia

Hey,

we - Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research - are doing an Expediton to North-Eastern Siberia and i am trying to build a time lapse camera that does at least 1 picture a day. My shot so far is something like this:

Since there will temperatures down to -60 °C i thought it is a good idea to connect the camera via a long wire to the controlpanels and burry them together with the batteries in the ground (onyl down to -10 °C).

Does anybody have experiences or tipps for building such a time lapse camera?
Does anybody know what will happen to the electronics at such low temperatures?

Thanks in advance for possible answers.

Johannes

Carefully study the datasheets for all chips and modules involved for information on temperature effects.

You are likely to have problems with timing due to clock frequency changes, and of course, batteries work very poorly at low temperatures.

I certainly would not trust hobby shop modules for long term research projects expected to operate under harsh environmental conditions. Glacier researchers would be a good source of information on time lapse equipment.

Guten tag Johannes,

Alfred Wegener, the man who saw as first the drift of the continents!

Just a brain dump,

Many electronic components exist in "military spec", meaning among others they have a bigger operating range guaranteed.

Is it an option to have the camera in an isolated box that opens when photo's need to be taken?

Tip: add a feature that you get every day (if possible) a message (SMS) about the status of the equipment.
I talked to people with equipment in Antartica that after a few months went to their equipment to find out it had stopped working after only a few weeks. If they had been notified they could have "rescued" the mission.

+1 for keeping clocks in sync:
Idea is to add a "circadean" clock. Determine sunset and sunrise by measuring light levels and "average" them to estimate noon (12:00). As you know these times in advance you can adjust your RTC if needed.

Add different type of batteries: your backup powersources should use different technology if possible.
Add solar and/or wind to charge batteries if possible.

Place a small mirror in the system so that every photo is a "selfie of all the equipment". It helps to see how the equipment behaves and if it failes somehow you might have a visual log (sort of fisheye mirror).

Can you tell more about the project as it sounds very challenging.

Rob

Hey,
thanks for the quick and good answers!

First of all some intel about the project. The idea is to build two climate stations, one "near"Lake Ilirney - Wikipedia and one "near" Khamra - Wikipedia. The spots will be reached by helicopter just once and we return after one year to collect the data. At each of these spots should also be a time lapse camera that takes a foto of a measurment pole and/or the station itself to evaluate the snowfall and depths. This will be a high cost Campbell product. Furthermore it would be nice to have "low cost" options that could be placed nears those spots to cover the overall change. This is where i would like to use a DIY Arduino TLC.

robtillaart:
Is it an option to have the camera in an isolated box that opens when photo's need to be taken?

I dont think so, because most movable parts tend to freeze. Thus wind as a power source is also a to unreliable option.

Considering the time sync problem, i thought of a GPS that gets booted once a day to connect and thus get the time. I dont know if there is sufficient reception to send and recieve SMS. The "circadean" clock idea is really nice, but unfortunately one spot is north of the polar circle so there will be multiple weeks without sunlight at all and poor solar radiation around that period. So sadly solar power is neither an option. Maybe to keep the batteries loaded long enough to survive fully charged the polar night.

robtillaart:
Place a small mirror in the system so that every photo is a "selfie of all the equipment". It helps to see how the equipment behaves and if it failes somehow you might have a visual log (sort of fisheye mirror).

Good idea! But i am not so sure if the mirror wont freeze/be covered in snow (this could happen to the camera to). Furthermore the resolution will probably not high enough, to "cut of" valuable image size. A Fisheye camera would be a good solution i think.
It is always a trade of either the whole system drains to much energy or you dont get your desired accuracies....

I am quite new to the arduino world, i just have experience with the raspberry so i dont know if it is really possible to build a TLC that needs not so much energy.

jremington:
I certainly would not trust hobby shop modules for long term research projects expected to operate under harsh environmental conditions. Glacier researchers would be a good source of information on time lapse equipment.

Do you have something specific in mind? Most Glacier time lapse shots, as far as i know, are either operated with a connection to the power supply network or be located insided the polar circles to be powered via solar.

The "Hobby"-solution is considered because i hope it wont drain so much energey and is more cost efficient. The general concern is:

What happens when there will be short periods with no energy supply due to voltage drop? Are those board wiped if this happens? I am not so sure how they manage their intern time control, like the featherboard e.g.

Greetings

Johannes

What happens when there will be short periods with no energy supply due to voltage drop? Are those board wiped if this happens?

Nothing and no. Some modules do not start up correctly if the voltage comes up slowly. For microprocessors, you can buy a small reset chip that holds the processor in reset until the voltage is high enough for normal operation.

RTC modules have a separate battery that keeps the clock chip powered while everything else is off. The batteries last for years at room temperature.

@Johannes,

Just mailed a person that did work in Antartica to have a look at your question.
Maybe he has time to read your questions and maybe he has tips for your project.

wrt the project, interesting and challenging. Did you consider asking the Russian Space Agency for nuclear batteries like they use in their space satelites.

With respect to your positioning problem (for time) check - GPS & DGPS - Automated positioning for all of your surveys - Gem Systems
They have a (small) worldmap of where you have GPS, but I expect they should be able to tell the quality of GPS at the end of the world :wink:

another map here - GPS Asset Tracking System | Battery Powered | Worldwide CoverageValor System

Many electronic components exist in "military spec", meaning among others they have a bigger operating range guaranteed.

They also have much bigger price tags.

GrooveFlotilla:
They also have much bigger price tags.

Yes true, but in Siberia you have a good argument to choose them,
and if you have no measurements (or partial) because of the quality of the components might even more pricier.

robtillaart:
Yes true, but in Siberia you have a good argument to choose them,
and if you have no measurements (or partial) because of the quality of the components might even more pricier.

Yes, but then i would rely right away on the Campbell stuff. The Idea is to build something far more cheaper that hopefully works. Something like the Brinno BCC100 Construction Cam. Since this is a complete camera i thought it is easier to isolate the chips and batteries underground for better isolation and only the actual camera module is above ground. This is what i want to realize with this project.

Can you recommend any specific model? I asked the same question in the german forum and someone there used the "mega" in a harsh environment.

Does anyone have an idea which camera modules a recommendable?

Johannes

I believe that a big problem can be ice on lens or glass window.

Did you think about ready-made IP-cam with trigger?