Night Vision Scope/Camera

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Introduction: Night Vision Scope/Camera

About: I like to do electronics, metalworking, woodworking, fixing things and all sort of cool and stupid things :)

In this Instructable you will see how I made a night vision scope/camera. It is capable of recording in very low light. It can be used in many scenarios, even like a dashcam for recording the night footage.

I was inspired by this Instructable:

https://www.instructables.com/DIY-Pocket-sized-Nig...

But I wanted to make it a little more professional, since I am quite handy with designing PCBs. I designed the PCB for all the voltage converters and the battery charging circuit and also the battery protection circuit. I also designed my version of the enclosure. This enclosure allows the camera to be strapped to your head so you don't need to hold it the entire time.

Here is the video showing off the build process and the final demonstration, and in this instructable I will further describe the design process.

The camera consists of mainly 4 components:
- Runcam Night Eagle 2 Pro FPV camera

- Near Eye Monocular Display

- my custom electronics for powering and connecting everything together (can be also done without it)

- optional DVR recorder for recording what you see (otherwise it works just as a scope)

Step 1: Skills, Tools and Parts

This project is quite difficult for a beginner. But you will definitely not need as much equipment as I have on the photo above :)

The beginners should first look at the Instructable that inspired my project (link on the first page) but at the same time, you should also check out my Instructable so you will see what you still have to learn in order to become a "pro" :) But I will also describe the basic principles in my Instructable.

Skills you will need for making this:

- soldering small SMD components (and having the tools for the job)

- 3D printing

- skills for buying stuff from the internet :)

Stuff you will need (not affiliated):

- monocular display:

https://bit.ly/2NjfpOp

- Runcam Night Eagle 2 Pro drone FPV camera:

https://bit.ly/2Z6gk7c

- Optional DVR:

https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_9wEXRO

The DVR is not necessary, unless you need to record what you are seeing. I used this one, works great, records great, but it has a little problem - it reduces the fps for the preview from the camera. The image is seen as laggy. But it records a smooth video. So I recommend not using the DVR unless you need to record. Maybe some other DVR will work better, but they are a little bit bigger.

- the parts for the PCB will be listed further in the Instructable

Step 2: The Basic Schematics

If you decide to go the simple way or want to understand my wiring more easily, here is the basic schematic which shows how camera and display are connected together. The first schematic is without DVR and the other one is with DVR.

If you choose to use the same DVR as I used, note that the preview you will see on the display, will seem a bit Laggy. Looks like this DVR is quite slow for previewing. But the recordings come out nicely.

The basic wiring is very simple, if you want to go the simple way, you can do without the PCB.
You need to connect the wires as shown and you need to use a DC-DC converter, to boost the battery voltage to a stable 5V used to power the camera, display and DVR. You want something with a current capability of 1A or more.The circuit draws a bit more than 500mA. Something like that could work and you will also get a charging circuit for the battery. All in one.

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32793055741.html?s...

(not affiliated)

Step 3: The Detailed Schematics

My schematic(third picture) differs from the basic one in the following parts:

- I added on-board battery protection

- added on-board battery charger

- I added on-board battery voltage to 5V DC converter

I will shortly explain those sub-parts in the following steps.


And of course I added some connectors(the blue items on schematic. Connectors come in handy when assembling and disassembling the assembly. But everything could just be soldered on the board directly and you will solve yourself some hassle if you don't have the tools available. (I also don't own the crimping tools. I borrowed them from work since they are quite expensive).

Step 4: The Battery Protector

This circuit uses a ridiculously miniature BQ29700 IC, which with the help of some components protects the battery from:

- overvoltage

- undervoltage

- overcurrent

So it keeps the battery safe and healthy.

If you use protected 18650 batteries you don't need this circuit as it performs the same function as built-in protection. I had some unprotected cells laying around and I decided to put protection on the board directly.

Step 5: USB Charging Circuit

This circuit charges the battery when you connect the micro USB connector.

It limits the charging circuit to 800mA which enables charging at moderate speed when connected to wall charger.

When the battery is charging, the red LED is on, indicating the charge. When the charge is complete, the LED turns off.

Step 6: The 5V Boost Converter

This circuit generates a stable 5V from the 2.5V-4.2V battery voltage.

It is a simple Boost Converter. (the output voltage is higher than the input voltage)

The switch is connected to the enable circuit which turns the converter on or off. This way, you turn the whole system on or off with a very small low current switch.

The display, camera and DVR combined consume approximately 500mA of current, this small switch I wanted to use is capable of switching only 100mA. By using the switch to operate only the enable signal, I was able to use this tiny switch and save some space.

Step 7: The PCB

I designed a small PCB, holding all these components.

For space saving I put the battery holder on the bottom side.


You can get gerbers here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/13GhPQQ2v9n4S9GOvP...

With these files, you can get the PCB made, from the providers like JLCPCB

The cost of this board is only 2$ for 5pcs (plus shipping) which is a bargain! Sign up to get $18 new user coupons: https://jlcpcb.com/IAT

You can use coupon code "JLCPCBcom" at checkout for a small discount.

In the attached .pdf, you can see the assembly instructions for soldering the components to PCB, including the bill of materials.

Step 8: 3D Printed Enclosure

I designed the enclosure in such way, so it can be held on the head by a strap or headband.

It is indeed the most complicated part I have ever designed :) I am quite proud of it.

It is also very difficult for printing. No matter how you position it on the plate, you will always have some difficult to remove supports or the print will not look as nice. If you have dual extruder printer with water soluble supports you will win :) As you have seen in the video, it took me some time to remove all the supports, but it came out nicely at the end.

And the enclosure somewhat works as it should.


Here are the 3D files:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4636835

Step 9: Crimping Wires

You can avoid crimping if you don't have the tools. Soldering is just as cool :) I would also solder the thing together, but I got an opportunity to borrow the crimping tools from work.

I used JST PH type connectors.

I prepared the wires for camera, display, the IR LEDs in the front, the switch which goes on top of the enclosure(for turning on the IR LEDs).

For the camera and display, I simply cut the existing wires at appropriate lengths and revealed the internal wires. You can decode what colour is which on the basic schematics in step 2. The schematic contains the correct colour coding. On the PCB there is a marking print, indicating which wire goes where.

Step 10: Putting It All Together

The PCB slides in the slots in the enclosure. Rest of it is pretty much self explanatory. See the video for some assembly process.

If you have any problems, tell me in the comments.

Step 11: Night Shots

These shots were taken on a remote road, away from all artificial lightning.

The night sky was mostly clear, with almost full moon. You can also see some stars.

The second photo is taken while driving a car with regular halogen lights. You can see that the camera could also be used as a night dashcam as it provides excellent visibility.

The camera also works at bright daylight. It does not get blinded. But it records only black and white.

You can check out more shots in the YouTube video at the beginning of Instructable as the still images don't show the full potential the video looks much more detailed.

Step 12: Enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed my Instructable!
Please vote for it in the Instructable 1000th contest!

Thank you!

If you want to stay in touch on what I am working on:

You can subscribe to my YouTube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/c/JTMakesIt

You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram

https://www.facebook.com/JTMakesIt

https://www.instagram.com/jt_makes_it

for spoilers on what I am currently working on, behind the scenes and other extras! PS:., if you REALLY, REALLY liked it, you can also buy me a coffee here, so I will have more energy for future projects :)

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/JTMakesIt

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    18 Comments

    0
    Lovin wangnaw
    Lovin wangnaw

    Question 3 months ago

    Can we use mobile power bank to power this camera and display. Or will need to add any voltage protection.

    0
    JT_Makes_It
    JT_Makes_It

    Reply 3 months ago

    I already answered you on Youtube, but I will also answer here if anyone else will need this info.
    Yes everything can be powered by a powerbank. My PCB circuit is basically a powerbank with some additional interconnections.

    0
    tytower
    tytower

    9 months ago

    It all looks good . Expensive a bit but the thing that gets me is the power consumption . Half an amp is a big draw from any battery supply and the battery won't last long unless its a 50Ah plus cell

    0
    Johnsiddle
    Johnsiddle

    11 months ago

    Why make a video that runs so fast and moves about fast it is impossible to understand or appreciate any of it.
    The rest is great.

    0
    JT_Makes_It
    JT_Makes_It

    Reply 10 months ago

    This is a thing I am still experimenting with. Long video tends to get very boring. I rather explain things in detail in the instructable than in the video..

    0
    Vitalij X
    Vitalij X

    Question 11 months ago

    Hi!
    It's a great solution. I've made a similar gadget inspired by the same source, however, i don't risk to run it a lot, because it very fast heats up. And it's no cheap to allow it to burn. Could you share your experience - how long do you run it and have you used heatsink for camera? I haven't noticed it in video or instructable.

    0
    JT_Makes_It
    JT_Makes_It

    Answer 10 months ago

    Hi, Sorry I missed to reply to your comment.
    I didn't run it for long periods so far. But the battery should allow around 3-4 hours of runtime. I never checked how hot the camera gets :)

    0
    LouwN
    LouwN

    Tip 11 months ago

    The IR LEDs have such low power output that they would hardly make much difference when the subject is more than 1 meter or so away. The principle is sound though. You can prevent the glare/washout by taking care that the camera's lens doesn't have a line of sight to the LEDs. You can achieve this by sinking them in deeper into your enclosure or wrapping them in hoods. As you mentioned, a separate IR floodlight would fare much better. You get strong ones online which are a bit bigger, which you can incorporate to give some more 'oomph' to your night shots. I can't seem to find the nanometer light sensitivity of the Runcam Night Eagle 2 Pro, but it's better to use a LED of nm wavelength similar to the camera's sensitivity.

    0
    JT_Makes_It
    JT_Makes_It

    Reply 10 months ago

    Thanks! Sorry I have missed to reply to your comment. YO are correct. I was trying out some of the different LEDs and I think those around 850nm were the best for this camera.

    0
    markk9119
    markk9119

    11 months ago

    Hello, I like the style and completeness of your project. Everything makes sense, and all the relevant details were implemented with a high level of craft. My art school professors would say this: "whatever you are doing, your level of craft must be adequate to express the conceptual ideas without detracting from them in any way." Meaning, if your idea suggests photorealistic painting, then you need to be able to paint photorealistic style convincingly. This idea stayed with me, since IMHO it is one of the largest categories of failure. Why am I explaining this here? Because your project upholds this idea perfectly! The exact level of build finish that your conceptual idea suggests is presented in the finished piece. Does anyone object to critiquing a finished electrical engineering project with the same language as a watercolor landscape painting? I always think that engineering is equally creative, if not more so, than traditional fine art. My education, a real life black-swan level of weirdness, spans both. (BFA, PreMED, MSc. O-Chem).

    Some ideas, with only categorical relevance (please do not construe these as specific to your build). I worked on a similar idea, based on the universal scene of driving at night, speeding, and catching a new set of headlights in the rear view mirror and [inevitably] thinking, "hmmm, I wonder if that's a cop...". As a Utopian optimist who wishes to make the world a better place, I wanted to address that situation with my signature overkill. I built a "light cannon" and "far-seeing-rear-view-cam". I am planning to upload the project for everyone soon, but some quick highlights from what I learned so far.
    (]1.[) HSBLC - Highlight-Supression-Backlight-Compensation - a git'r-dunn no frills solution to 2 high-beam halogens aimed exactly at your camera, but you wish to read the fine print between these angry f-off lights. What do you do, if you can't swap cameras, or have buddy in car#2 pull up and ask the nice lady to, "please, for just like, a half-a-second [gesturing with thumb and forefinger to indicate "thin" or "tiny"] turn off your lights, and then on again... Please? It's like, for art, you know?"
    -- you write some code, to recalculate the scene, but first assign a dark dark gray to the blown out highs. All you HDR nerds know that an image sensor only has a handful of EV's per frame, so this is an effort to have the camera squint a little. Amazingly, it works! This is your basic license plate reading technology, upstream from the machine vision OCR.
    [It doesn't matter if your UNSUB is the occupant[s] of the vehicle instead of its registration tags, you get to see what you want with this camera, straight out of the box. The feature is accessible with a button click or through logic.]
    (]2.[) Light Cannon. Without giving away my designs just yet, I suggest collimating the light for long distance viewing, my goal is 3 to 5x your high-beam distance, but in my case, looking backwards.

    Collaboration? Kickstarter? Sure, let's talk.

    0
    JT_Makes_It
    JT_Makes_It

    Reply 10 months ago

    OMG! How could I have missed your massive comment :D Your ideas are hillarious! Thanks a lot for this :) Maybe when I will have a larger budget I will try some of them out :)

    0
    drlexluthor
    drlexluthor

    11 months ago on Step 12

    Very cool! just what I need! Should I start calling you "M" now ;)

    0
    themelispan
    themelispan

    11 months ago

    Super cool as a spy gadget too! But it's so expensive!!!

    0
    JT_Makes_It
    JT_Makes_It

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks! Yes it is quite expensive, but commercial versions cost multiple times that amount for pretty much the same performance.

    0
    themelispan
    themelispan

    Reply 11 months ago

    True!

    0
    Equibuches
    Equibuches

    11 months ago

    Pretty cool

    0
    JT_Makes_It
    JT_Makes_It

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks!

    0
    tercero
    tercero

    11 months ago

    That's really cool. And your instructable is great. Thanks for presenting it.