Low cost underwater drop camera with lights, temp, pressure, and conductivity sensor

Similar projects worth following
Updating and Changing after a year of trying to get this to work consistently I've gone with a redesign of Raspberry Pi Zero Underwater Camera system. It'll now be broken down into 4 levels.

1 - Case for Pi Zero good to 500'+ cheap easy

2 - LED light

3 - Add pressure and temperature to the case

4 - Add full CTD to case

PiCTDCL records 1640x922 video at 30fps with an overlay at top of date, time, temp, depth, salt, and specific gravity. I control Pi with my phone using VNC to start and stop python program.

Current version has:

   Raspberry Pi Zero W

   Raspberry Pi Camera

  25000 mah li ion battery

   8 - 3watt LED

   SI7051 temp sensor

   30 bar pressure sensor

   Atlas Scientific Conductivity sensor

   1 1/2" sch40 PVC

   1/16" LEXAN

What I'd Change if I was building another:

   Make the lights self contained with wireless charging

   Use 1 1/2" sch80 PVC

   3/8" or 1/2" LEXAN (do have some 3/8" going use)


mount to hold Pi Zero and camera in 1 1/2' pvc pipe.

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 204.99 kB - 06/05/2018 at 21:48



copy of the csv file from monday in Hood Canal. file naming is year month day time latitude and longitude

Comma-Separated Values - 414.89 kB - 04/11/2018 at 18:39


latest version of my program. adds input for latitude and longitude. compresses the video file a little more. and converts h264 file to mp4 automatically when it finish recording time or ctr-c is press.

x-python-script - 5.96 kB - 04/11/2018 at 18:34


python 2.7 file for PiCTDCL. Creates a folder based on date and time. Writes a CTD.csv file with all sensor readings. Writes 23 15min video files. Uses following sensors: SI7051 temp sensor. MS5803-30BA pressure sensor. EZO-EC conductivity sensor from Atlas Scientific.

x-python-script - 4.60 kB - 03/25/2018 at 20:59


  • 1 × Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • 1 × Raspberry Pi Camera
  • 2 × 10000 mah Li ion phone battery pack need to find ones that controller board will fit in 1 1/2" PVC pipe
  • 1 × SI7051 i2c temp sensor
  • 1 × MS580330BA01-00 i2c 30 bar pressure sensor

View all 6 components

  • Lower cost conductivity prob hack

    Steve Haan04/11/2018 at 19:07 1 comment

    okay saw a paper on using a hacked USB cable for conductivity prob. Going to try this see if I can get it to work. This would drop cost of adding conductivity to your camera from $215 to $60. Hopefully this works...

  • Test 178m

    Steve Haan04/10/2018 at 19:22 0 comments

    did final do a test in Hood Canal by Triton at 178m (584') and it all worked fine. I did upgrade the Lexan from 1/16" to 3/8" just incase. Videos are up on YouTube. Did have a problem with wiring a couple days ago I'm using solid core wires and with pulling this out and putting it in the housing had a wire break from fatigue. 

  • Question how detailed

    Steve Haan03/30/2018 at 21:46 0 comments

    Okay this is my first project. just started writing instructions. How detailed should these be? I'm assuming anyone building this has some experience doing this kind of stuff or should I be more detailed?

  • Another test

    Steve Haan03/22/2018 at 19:48 0 comments

    Well on 03/20/18 did a test in Case Inlet (80m) for 4hrs all went okay. I'm uploading videos to YouTube now. 17 segments. Once I finish uploading going to go back and add name for all animals. Lots of fish, crabs as well as a 8" nudibranch and a Harbor Seal. Tried to do a test 03/19/18 on Hood Canal but to much wind 

View all 4 project logs

  • 1
    Basic Case


    8" of 1 1/2" PVC pipe, a 1 1/2" Cap, a 1 1/2" Union, and a 2 7/8" LEXAN disc.

    Glue the half of the Union with the O ring on one end the 8" pipe and Cap on the other 

    Now to make LEXAN lens use a drill press with 3 1/8" hole saw (WITHOUT centering drill bit). Have some choices here you can use 3/32? LEXAN from home store (window pane replacement area) or order something thicker on line. I've tested the window pane replacement down to 510' but I'm trying to get to 700'+ so I ordered some 3/8". 

    If you're using thinner stuff you'll need to use the other half of union fitting to make it thick enough. You'll need to trim the fitting so it doesn't get in camera view.

    Or with 3/8" LEXAN

    IMPORTANT make sure it's polycarbonate (LEXAN) haven't tested plexiglass but it breaks easy so if you do test first and leave a comment on how it did.

  • 2
    Basic Battery

    I'm hacking a 'power bank' from target ($10) to power the Pi Zero and Pi Camera

    Ripped out of case and added another battery.

    This will run my Pi for 12+ hours. Note can only have one thickness of tape and still fit in PVC case and the strip of tape (folded back on itself so not sticky) is to make it easier to pull out of the case.

View all instructions

Enjoy this project?



Fred Fourie wrote 07/02/2018 at 06:07 point

This is a really cool project! I'm doing something vaguely similar. 

178m is impressive! What is your total battery endurance at the moment? How did you handle the mounting of the pressure sensor?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Steve Haan wrote 07/02/2018 at 21:20 point

up to 189m now but that is as deep as I can get to around here without being in the shipping channel or driving a long way. Battery pack with 25000mah would do about 5 1/2 hrs. Just upgraded it to 35000mah going to go test it soon see how long now. As to pressure found that needed a strap wrench to tighten union joint. Tightening by hand I found had slow leak anything over 100'. Also I was using 1/16" Lexan that worked at 500' but was thinking that had to be close to limit so got some 3/8" Lexan now. Used marine epoxy to encapsulate bottom of pressure sensor and wire connections then ran the wires into PVC and sealed it with more epoxy.

  Are you sure? yes | no

ActualDragon wrote 03/17/2018 at 22:06 point

XD pretty cool, i'd love to use one of these to scope out some fishing holes. There's one i go to that is at least 100ft deep

  Are you sure? yes | no

Steve Haan wrote 03/18/2018 at 01:49 point

It should do that easily. The CTD.csv file will let you see temp layers should help find fish too.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Similar Projects

Does this project spark your interest?

Become a member to follow this project and never miss any updates