I really enjoy hiking and wanted to create something that could add another dimension to my experience. This is how I came up with the Portable Ecological Laboratory (PELS). Using this handheld device, I can gather data on my environment and upload to a server. The device is intended to be completely modular so any array of sensors can be added. Some of the basic sensors and systems I want to add/create attachments for are:
- IR camera for foliage health
- Air sensors (dust, CO2, methane, etc.)
- Microscope attachment
- Recording system for non-electric kits (water quality, etc.)
- Position (GPS)
The device will run off of a raspberry pi, and (optimally) be water resistant at least. It will be built using 3D printed parts and/or easily obtainable and inexpensive housings.
In order to modularize the system, I've decided to format everything in a customizable way. The software will be sectioned into modules that are essentially actions users can take using the PELS device. Primarily, modules will be interfaces for collecting data using the different on board sensors.
The directory format will probably look like the following:
-> PELS Project
->Primary App (primary execution point for the system)
->Interface Handler (can be usd by modules to pull from multiple data locations)
->module 1, module 2, etc...
->i2c interface, usb interface, UART interface
->Database (a sqlite database to locally hold data)
->Images (directory for collected images using cameras)
This allows users to create their own modules for sensors as well as to create interfaces for existing sensors without too much overhead work.
I've selected the basic components for the first prototypes. They include the basic necessary parts for running everything as well as a few sensors that I believe are useful in ecological analysis. Here are the parts and their purposes:
Raspberry pi 3 - The computer that runs everything on this system. I'd like to test with a pi zero, which should be compatible with evertything here as well.
2.8" touchscreen TFT - This is an RPi compatible screen available on adafruit that seems perfect for this application.
GP-20U7 (56 Channel) GPS - This is for geologging collected data.
Pi NoIR camera module - Infrared cameras can be used to view plant health and a wealth of other information about the environment.
SparkFun Soil Moisture Sensor - Sparkfun's soil moisture sensor data could yield some interesting data about water retention.
Si7021 Humidity and Temperature Sensor - Humidity and temperature data can help calibrate sensors and give further insights into the environment.
Methane CNG Gas Sensor MQ-4 - Methane
I'll test with these components to see what makes sense for this application. In the meantime I'm going to mock up an interface to make it easier to test. I'm thinking about using python's Kivy framework which I have heard good things about.