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Question on feasibility

Tue May 27, 2014 9:04 am

Dear readers,

You might call me the ultimate beginner, seeing as I don't even own a Pi yet. This means this thread is not about specific issues, rather trying to get your expert opinion about the feasibility of a project I have in mind.

I am a postgraduate student in Earth Sciences, and am currently following a master's programme. For my graduation research for my master's, I will be going on fieldwork in August and September. As a (small) part of this graduation research, I will have to make detailed bathymetric maps (depth contours) of two lakes, roughly 2,5 km in diameter. While this is traditionally done by recording coordinates and depth measurements (GPS, sonar) by hand, I thought it may be possible to record these parameters (x, y, z) with the use of the Raspberry Pi.

This is where you lot come in, because as explained previously, I have zero experience with the Pi. Neither am I an expert in programming (although I have used some basic Python/R during my undergraduate and postgraduate courses), but I am willing to learn.

What are your thoughts on the feasibility of this project? Do you think I could configure a Pi and auxiliary equipment (pre-existing GPS - Garmin I believe - and sonar - of unknown make) in such a way that these would (relatively) easily record my position on a lake and the depth at that location?

Thank you for your time,
Kind regards,

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Re: Question on feasibility

Thu May 29, 2014 12:51 pm

In the absence of any other response I offer a few thoughts.

What you suggest sounds 'doable'. Whether YOU can do it in the next 2-3 months given your level of experience is for you to decide.

The GPS part is 'easy'. There is a well-known package called gpsd which is easily installed under Raspbian running on an RPi which takes location data from serial or usb connected gps receivers and makes that data available to other programs. (I assume you know enough about gps from your studies to know that it does NOT reliably and accurately identify a single location on the earth's surface. You will need to work out whether the results you can get are 'good enough' for your data gathering.)

Using sonar for depth measurements I know nothing about. How easy/practical it is will depend on the sensor and how it can be interfaced to the RPi.

In terms of doing this in the field, it occurs to me that you will have to provide a battery power supply for the RPi and sensors that can give you a day's worth of readings. And you might need the whole arrangement to be as waterproof as possible.

Good luck with your project.
Last edited by DeeJay on Thu May 29, 2014 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Location: UK

Re: Question on feasibility

Thu May 29, 2014 2:37 pm

At first I didn't like this idea - sounds a bit scary having just a few months to prepare. If there's much electronics involved, it could get tight. However if you get a good system working it might be worth writing it up into a paper if your institution's interested, which is extra motivation. Later years could then build on this.

However, it then occurred to me that if you already have a GPS unit and a sonar unit with a suitable screen, you could mount them onto a board or into a frame with the raspi (or any camera) above and take photos. And a suitable clock in the picture too (unless the time of image file creation is good enough - it might not be?).

Perhaps some software could then convert all of the images into your required format later.

Using a raspberry pi - instead of just a camera - means you might be able to check the plots and other data as you go along (without to wait until the evening to process it), so you have warning if there's a bug in all of this before you've collected a whole day's data.

I would definitely keep a written record for doing spot checks on the data afterwards though!

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