Some time ago I had a small app built for Andriod that allowed a smartphone to take geotagged photos at a set interval. Now I’ve decided to release it to the public…
The “RPAS Camera” application was designed as part of my Remote Pilot project. It came about because at the time I was working on the MicroWing UAV project and was trying to find a solution for a small, lightweight camera that could be put into a UAV/RPAS and take downward facing photos at set intervals. I was aware that you could hack most small Canon cameras to do just this but even the smallest “point and shoot” cameras were still a bit bulky and had fairly low resolution.
It seemed obvious to me at the time that a smartphone camera would be an ideal solution and there must be an app out there to do the job – but after many evenings of searching and testing I couldn’t find anything! So, a quick job posting on Elance and I had my app building expert. The whole things took a couple of days of emails and testing but we soon had a working app.
So, why give it away?
I’ve decided to give this app away for free for two reasons…
- It hasn’t yet been flight tested (I just haven’t had time)
- I’m nice
In all seriousness, it wasn’t a massive outlay to create this app and it isn’t as polished as some professional apps out there. It does work however and I would love to see some people using it for the purpose for which it was intended.
Download and Install
First things first then. Here’s the package you’ll need to install the software:
- Inside the zip file is an .apk file (WordPress won’t let me upload an apk directly!). Extract the .apk file somewhere and then transfer it to your phone.
- You’ll need to allow third party applications on your phone. Normally this is in your settings under “Security”. Look for a tick box titled “Unknown sources” and make sure it is ticked.
- Now find the .apk file on your phone and open it. You should be prompted to install the application.
- Note: This app only works on newer version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich and above I think).
Setup and Use
Using the RPAS Camera couldn’t be easier. Here’s a few screenshots to get us started:
The first image is the splash screen you’ll get whilst the app loads. When it is all loaded the phone camera will start with some extra bits and bobs on screen.
First of all you should tap the settings icon, which is the middle of the three at the top right of the screen. This gets you the three settings options you can see on image three.
Tap to turn on or off. When on the software will access your phones GPS lock to geotag images as they are taken. This may be useful for arranging and identifying mosaic maps later on.
This allows you to select from and of the supported resolutions available to your phone camera. You can see this in the first image below. Tap the resolution you wish to use to set and then tap OK to close.
This will bring up a text input box where you can type the seconds interval you would like between shots. There is no limit from 1 second upwards. Tap OK to close.
In the RPAS Camera the phone’s back button can be used to exit any menus or photo albums.
When you are ready, tap to blue button to start shooting. The first photo will be taken after the first set interval, giving you a little time to secure the phone and launch. The camera will then continue to shoot until either your phone memory is full or you tap the button once more.
Note: During shooting the screen preview will freeze and only update each time a photo is taken.
Once you have landed, retrieved your phone and stopped the RPAS Camera you can view your pictures by tapping the first icon of the three at the top right. This opens a menu of dated folders so you can locate the correct set.
Tap the relevant folder to view the photos. Once a folder is open the first photo will be displayed full-screen. You can then swipe left and right through the photos sequentially. The Geotagging information (if available) will be shown at the bottom left of the screen.
The only real “bug” I have found so far is in the Geotagging. It takes the phone a few seconds to lock onto a solid GPS signal once shooting begins so your first few photos will not be tagged. Given that these will probably be taken before launch however I don’t think this will be a major issue.
I don’t know if any more time or money will be put into this project. A couple of things that might be nice and spring to mind are:
- Improve the graphics a bit
- Make it possible to select and lock portrait or landscape shooting (it currently only shoots in portrait).
- Make photos viewable in the main phone album.
- Make albums have a grid display before one photo is shown full screen.
- Upload photos taken in realtime to connected cloud storage so images aren’t lost if there is a problem or crash.
Anyway, have a go and see what you think. If you have a nice wing or UAV sat somewhere that could carry a smartphone then you could try some mapping out and let me know how you go…