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I was wondering if someone can tell me the basic concept of how I can accomplish this. I want to use a Raspberry Pi Zero with a camera module mounted on a drone to take a series of pictures using a script that takes a picture every x seconds (I have that script working). The challenge is that, seeing that the Pi Zero is attached to a drone, there is no monitor, keyboard, etc. to start and stop the script or adjust the settings. I would like to make an interface with a touch screen mounted to a separate Raspberry Pi that I could connect (via cable or wifi, etc.) to the Pi Zero in order to adjust the settings and then trigger it to start. The idea being that, in the field, I would just fire up both Pi's, connect them, configure the photo session, start it, disconnect them, and then fly the drone. I am new to scripting. I don't care if I connect wirelessly or have to plug/unplug a cable. What would be the best/easiest way to make this happen?

  • Are you able to edit your question to include the approximate range of your drone, and which country you're in? There may be some suitable radio options, but they're not all legal everywhere. – goobering Aug 16 '16 at 1:53
  • The range of the drone is only about 150-200 feet. I am located in the United States (and the drone is FAA registered). I'm not really concerned about controlling the camera while in flight (though that wouldn't be a bad thing). I just want to be able to configure the script to take pictures at certain intervals for a certain amount of time, and then start the script. It would also be nice to confirm the PiZero is operating and the script is running. I also want to keep the weight the drone is carrying to as minimal as possible. – Archet Aug 16 '16 at 2:07
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A RaspberryPi is a Linux computer. If all you need is to configure the RaspberryPi while connected to it on the ground you can use a dumb terminal connected to the RaspberryPi over a TTY serial port running a getty program. At which point you simply log in, perhaps configure a file with interval and time information and start your script. Then log-out, disconnect the cable and fly.

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I'd use some decent router, USB WiFi adapter for Rpi Zero and setup WiFi network, so RPi Zero could connect and stay in the range while airborne. It should work out of the box, but in case of problems, you can use better antenna (maybe directional one) on the router side.

Then you can control your Rpi remotely, through SSH console or using any other interface (write simple webserver, maybe setup some web sockets, there are many options - just choose what suits you best). What is better, you can have (almost) live feed from the camera, so taking pictures when you want is possible. Maybe it's better than scripting it remotely?

  • Are there going to be powering issues - as the distance between the WiFi transceivers increases the power needed to maintain the link will increase and (I'm not up on this) will the PiZero be able to provide all the current needed to a plugged in WiFI dongle? – SlySven Aug 18 '16 at 15:02
  • It's not the Pi0 that provides the energy but the USB power supply (or any other 5V source that you connect). Power consumption should not rise above maximum USB value (500mA), with increasing range data transfer speed might be limited (e.g. from 56Mbit to even 2Mbit). Have a look on the power consumption test: raspi.tv/2014/pihut-wifi-dongle-vs-edimax-power-usage – Mark Aug 19 '16 at 6:30
  • As I see it the dongle is plugged (possible via a plain adapter lead) into the RPiZero and both get their power from (presumably in this case a battery pack + voltage converter) connected to the power input on the zero. However as your WIfI dongle gets further away from the other device it is in contact with it must increase it's transmission power in order to maintain the link - given that it uses a nominally omnidirectional antenna I think the relationship between distance and power level is a squared one (double the distance needs four times the power) but it might be a cube one... – SlySven Aug 19 '16 at 17:24
  • It still should not get over USB specification limit (500mA) so I don't think this matters how much energy would it draw. – Mark Aug 20 '16 at 16:51

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