SkyShield AutoKAP Controller

$25.00 to $70.00

Price includes US shipping.

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The SkyShield will point and shoot an airborne camera to systematically capture a grid of photos for stitching into panoramas. It is an open-source custom circuit board which is a "shield" for an Arduino Nano. The Arduino Nano is a tiny microcontroller that can be easily programmed to send signals to connected devices. When coupled with a Nano, the SkyShield allows easy connection of cameras, servos, and a battery pack using RC connectors. A sketch (program) loaded on the Nano defines eight different regimes of pan/tilt/shoot sequences, and any regime can be selected in the field using a DIP switch on the shield. With a connected camera (e.g., a CHDK-enabled PowerShot, not included) you can capture aerial photos to stitch into high resolution panoramas or just take lots of photos in all directions.

Although the primary intended use of the SkyShield is to take aerial photos which can be stitched together into panoramas, it can also do other things. For aerial photography it can take systematic photos for structure-from-motion 3D modeling, or instruct two (or more) cameras to shoot simultaneously, for example for visible and near infrared photo pairs for vegetation analysis. Cameras can be triggered by a pulse to the USB port, IR remote signal, or servo button push. For non-aerial photography, a tripod mounted rig could capture many telephoto shots for stitching into gigapixel panoramas (like a Gigapan imager). It is easy to load your custom Arduino sketch onto the Nano.

The dimensions of the SkyShield with Nano are 18 mm x 43 mm x  23 mm (see photos) and it weighs 16 grams.

The SkyShield is a through-hole circuit board so anyone can solder one together from an inexpensive kit of components. The SkyShield is open-source, and the circuit and software are available at the Guides page.

The Saturn V Rig is designed to be operated by a SkyShield controller for capturing multiple aerial photos to be stitched into panoramas. Packages with both the Saturn V Rig and the SkyShield controller are available.

The SkyShield is available in kit form (requires soldering) or as a ready to fly unit. All prices include US shipping:

  1. SkyShield Kit $25 -- All the components to solder together the autoKAP controller including an Arduino Nano compatible microcontroller. About a dozen components must be soldered to the custom PCB. No cables, servos, or power supply included. (1 hour)
  2. SkyShield Kit with cables $30 -- All the components to solder together the autoKAP controller including a Nano. Includes materials for making a USB cable (e.g., for PowerShot cameras) and attaching a connector to a battery case for 6 AAA. (1.5 hour)
  3. SkyShield Kit, cables and servos $45 -- All the components to solder together the autoKAP controller including a Nano. Includes materials for making a USB cable (e.g., for PowerShot cameras), attaching a connector to battery case, and two ready-to-connect micro servos -- one standard and one continuous rotation. (1.5 hour)
  4. Soldered SkyShield $45 -- A ready to fly SkyShield controller including an Arduino Nano compatible microcontroller. No cables, servos, or battery case included.
  5. Soldered SkyShield with cables, battery case and servos $70 -- A ready to fly SkyShield controller including an Arduino Nano compatible microcontroller. Includes ready to use custom camera (USB) cable, battery case (6 AAA), one all-metal-gear standard servo (tilt) and one continuous rotation servo (pan). 

Detailed instructions for soldering, configuring, and using the SkyShield are available (see below).

Both the kit and assembled SkyShield include an Arduino Nano compatible microcontroller which is loaded with a sketch. The sketch runs automatically when the Nano is powered up. With the Arduino software installed on your computer, you can update the sketch or modify it to alter any of the pan/tilt/shoot modes described in the sketch.

The SkyShield has a 1.5 amp LDO voltage regulator and 390uF capacitor to supply ample current to the servos. 

Discussion and early results can be seen in research notes published at Public Lab.

User guides:

SkyShield user manual

SkyShield assembly (soldering)

Cable assembly (soldering)

Circuit diagram and Arduino sketch (bottom of page)