Info: This is Part 1 of a not yet defined number of Parts about building a connected nesting box network.
In April 2015 a friend and me build a connected nesting box to observe the inner life of it. The box itself was a standard great tit nesting box with a hole in the roof. On the box sat a PVC waste pipe which housed a Raspberry Pi connected to the RPi NOIR Camera. A UMTS USB Stick and some IR LEDs were also in the pipe. Outside the pipe we fitted a solar panel and a battery to buffer the solar energy.
Everything worked well and the project was a great success. But in Jule 2015 we decided to go a step further and build 3 to 4 more observing boxes to try to observe the endangered boreal owl in the free wild.
We realized that building 3 to 4 more of these systems would be a pricey matter (and also boring). The Pi with camera and UMTS Stick isn’t that expensive but the huge amount of energy the Pi consumes, even in standby, requires a equivalent big solar panel and battery.
Luckily i was experimenting at this time with the MySensors network, a cost efficient way of building your own sensor-network. The sensor nodes itself are very power efficient and just consist of a atmega328pu, a nrf24l01+ module and the sensors you want. The nrf24l01+ pa/lna modules can reach up to 1km @ 2mbps in free line of sight and expect of a missing compatible camera it seemed like a overall good fit.
So a new idea was born:
- Repurposing the predecessor project (the Pi nesting box) as central point to receive/save pictures and upload them to the internet (gateway).
- Design smaller µC powered camera nodes to take pictures and send the resulting snapshots over the nrf24l01+ pa/lna network to the gateway.