Picture of Autonomous Surveillance Camera
I would like tell you about a DIY surveillance camera I have built. It is quite different from anything out there on the market. It works for up to a month on a single charge and emails surveillance updates over cellular network. All you need to do is send it an email and the camera would reply you with a picture of your home, country house or car.

Here is a video of how it all fits together: 

The device checks pre-defined email mailbox once an hour. If a new email is received the camera takes a picture, saves it on a SD-card and emails the image to its owner.

Making of the camera was also an interesting journey I would like to share. 
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Step 1: Required Parts

Picture of Required Parts
I have used following basic components for the device:

MultiTech MTSMC-G2-IP
This GSM modem is great because of its built-in POP3 and SMTP support. Although these protocols are not very complicated to implement having them implemented saves some time.

LinkSpite JPEG Camera
This is a great little device. Built-in JPEG compression support saves a lot of development effort. The camera produces a 640x480 image. The image is around 50K; it is small enough to rapidly transmit over a cellular network.

Sparkfun's microSD Shield
Although there are a few SD card circuits available I decided to go with this one because it is very easy to work with both in software (Sparkfun provides great APIs) and in hardware (again, thanks Sparkfun for built-in voltage conversion).

ATmega 328P
This micro-controller was a natural choice. Arduino Uno uses this chip, so there are plenty of libraries and examples out there. Unfortunately, Arduino Uno itself consumes too much power when it is in a sleep mode, so I had to build a board with more efficient power supply system myself.

TPS2020 and LM2936
TPS2020 is a great power distribution IC. It allowed me turning circuit components on and off as I needed it. LM2936 is an awesome regulator with really low quiescent current. Combination of the two parts allowed my circuit to consume as little as 0.14mA in sleep mode. It stretches battery life for up to a month on a single charge; the camera is powered by 5V from two CR123A batteries.

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Light_Lab2 years ago
This is a great piece of work and the ability to program it via the arduino makes it very versatile, perhaps more versatile than your final application of home surveillance requires.
It does make me wonder though, you say "....quite different from anything out there on the market..." it would help to see your design's advantages contrasted with a standard IPCam.
crackHacker2 years ago
you should paint it gray and put lines on it to make it really look like the deathstar. A+ just because it pretty much does thus far.
I'm not normally a fan of the Arduino System, but this is a really good project that actually does need something like that to make it work. I particularly like the 3D printed project case. That's something I'm going to have to look into. How does it compare to "El Cheapo Project Box" from electronics retailer? No Doubt it's more expensive, but 2 or 3 times as expensive for an infinitely more appropriate and interesting package might be worth the additional expense.

Well Done and many thanks for sharing your project.
brokey3 years ago
I love this project, I wish I were this knowledgable and creative!

What changes would have to be made to use an iPhone 4 (or other cellphone) camera? It could theoretically output 5MP+ photos.

How about replacing the cellular radio with a WiFi module?

What would be needed to turn this project into an "HD IP Camera?"
megakacktus3 years ago
I want to see one that looks like HAL 9000.

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal."
"I can't do that, Dave."
love it!!!!!!!!!!
hjartland3 years ago
This is really cool! I am not at your level of techie, but I can solder w/ the best of them. :)

What would you suggest building for my problem.

I have a workshop in an area with a lot of break-ins.

I'd like to have a camera that would call and send me a photo every time the sensor is tripped. That way I can see the burglars and call the police!

Not just have a blaring alarm that no one will check out.

Great work!
Primeshaw3 years ago
This is a great for this project, Google Star Wars Death Star Projector.
pobturtle3 years ago
about how much does this cost???
basil.shikin (author)  pobturtle3 years ago
About 100$ for cell radio, 100$ for other electric components and 250$ for the body.
Q-ro3 years ago
This is amazing, too bad i cannot find any arduino stuff here, i wish i could "build" the parts, maybe then i could do this cam, also, it would be nice if you could integrate a motion sensor so it will email to you when someone pass by.
DrSpider3 years ago
I would think that by its very nature, being a surveillance camera and all, it would be autonomous. Great project and Instructable though. A bit too "techie" for my skills/talents though! Now if only someone could help me figure out where I put that Wild Turkey!!
tresspaser3 years ago
It looks like the Death Star from Star Wars.
Прикольно :) уже читал про камеру на ХАБРЕ :)
I don't understand...
basil.shikin (author)  Kasm2793 years ago
I think it might be a bad encoding of Russian characters. It says something like "Cool. I've already read about this camera on HABR". I believe it reffers to a Russian website where I published translation of the article.
oh, it looked like a random series of emotes to me...
Yeah, I thought it was someone trying to be 1337
DragonDon3 years ago
This is a really cool project. With the components, it can be used in any form really. A nice 'piece of mind' for those truly paranoid but can't afford the more expensive setups.
I'm sure a zombie might like a "piece" of mind! Sorry, I just couldn't resist.
basil.shikin (author)  DragonDon3 years ago
These were exactly my thoughts when I was building it. You know, sometimes these paranoia moments hit me: "is home ok?", "did I unplug the iron?", etc. Everything is usually fine but pease of mind is priceless.
mastiffman3 years ago
Love it; well done
Lindie3 years ago
I love this! I wish someone Wouk make it for me....hint, hint. Lol
dhjshi3 years ago
All I can say is wow. One of the most well written and lucid 'ibles I've seen on this site. keep up the good work.
airrob3 years ago
I love your project and your willingness to share.

If you are looking for seed money with out giving up any interest in your business check out It is a place where people agree to fund a project and give you a jump start in exchange for recognition, a free product once it rolls out ... Great work, makes me proud to be apart of this community.

Take care,

basil.shikin (author)  airrob3 years ago
Thank you for the advice. I think turning it into a small business is a very interesting idea. Do not be alarmed if you ever see a Death Star project on kickstarter.
bwoodfield3 years ago
Thats no moon.....
My thought exactly.
NewYorkRob3 years ago
The device clearly looks like a camera. I would think an intruder would anonymously body-slam that thing onto the floor.
Since it looks so much like a DeathStar anyway, why not conceal it in plain site as a DeathStar? Paint it black, adjust the casing so the camera doesn't stick out quite so far, or even make the camera hole where the death ray would be. Add in some appropriately sized Star Wars toys around it and voila! Instant geek fan camouflage....."This isn't the camera you're looking for. Move along"

@apple_fan - Very cool project. When it comes to the GSM access, did you use a pay as you go chip or set up a monthly account?
opiesan opiesan3 years ago
And nevermind about my question on what GSM chip/plan you used. I see you already provided that info in Step 8. Extremely affordable bandwidth.
Zovits3 years ago
It's not hard to see the Apple-influenced style ;)
Pretty cool. Put some telescopic legs on it and you're pretty close to the robotic killer spider from Johnny Quest. Anyone else remember Johhny,Race and Haji?
Best cartoon ever!
tinker2343 years ago
any one still on i think that the cam is good can you make it autonomous to report
damage or intredurs
basil.shikin (author)  tinker2343 years ago
I think it is a valid concern. I would try to embed a motion detection sensor in the next iteration of the device. My only worry is false positives: a light breeze might result in a large phone bill...
If you put in a wifi chip could you use wifi network instead of phone network this would save you money and allow quicker sending of images or video (in future models) also you could put a power point on it and power from a wall socket. Obviously the above changes are for permanent placement like home or office etc. Cheers T
Scumm73 years ago
Really interesting build Apple_fan! Anyone with a little imagination could conceal this well. Have you considered salvaging a couple solar lights to recharge the cells when in sleep mode?
basil.shikin (author)  Scumm73 years ago
Thank you. I was thinking about including solar panels into the design, but I ended up not doing it, as the device would almost never be exposed to direct sunlight. It spends most time in middle of the living room and window shades are closed.

However, I would love to know if there are any really efficient solar panels available!
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