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Hardware Hacking Input Devices Build

Build Your Own Camera, Launch It Like a Grenade 117

Posted by timothy
from the sorry-about-the-eye dept.
angry tapir writes "Meet the Firefly. Israeli defense contractor Rafael Armament Development Authority calls it a 'revolutionary concept in tactical intelligence,' but really it's a wireless camera that's shot 500 feet in the air by a grenade launcher. And if a couple of hackers at the Defcon hacking convention get their way, soon anyone will be able to buy this type of military grade technology for only US$500."
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Build Your Own Camera, Launch It Like a Grenade

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  • The only use I can think of is if you want to film an Evil Dead fan made movie.
    • by davester666 (731373) on Monday August 08, 2011 @02:35AM (#37019592) Journal

      This is a great business model. Sell a product where your clients will just launch it away and immediately have to buy another one.

      Lather, rinse, repeat.

      • by shmlco (594907) on Monday August 08, 2011 @02:55AM (#37019646) Homepage

        "This is a great business model. Sell a product where your clients will just launch it away and immediately have to buy another one. "

        Yawn. Arms merchants have been doing it for years. "Notice you just fired your last RPG. Want to buy another one?"

      • by hairyfeet (841228)
        What I don't get is why they wouldn't have it deploy a chute at the top of the arc like launching a flare designed to light up a battlefield (sorry don't know the tech term for it) so that one would actually get a useful amount of time after launch? And on the upside it would give something to distract the bad guys whom I'm sure would look up with a serious WTF look on their faces as to why they were launching a flare and why it was a dud.
        • rtfa
        • by jpapon (1877296) on Monday August 08, 2011 @07:12AM (#37020434) Journal
          From TFA:

          The powder didn't fully ignite, the miniature camera flew about 30 feet into the air -- apparently too fast to transmit images back to the 5.8Ghz wireless receiver they were using -- and their parachute partially incinerated.

          So clearly it has a parachute. Why don't you read before you complain about how you think it should work?

          • by whargoul (932206)

            Why don't you read before you complain about how you think it should work?

            You must be new here.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)
            Because I don't read ads and when TFA has a good 75-85% of the text being what Wikipedia calls "Peacock words" aka bullshit? Well I don't sit around reading pop ups on my customers boxes either. If they want us to read TFA how about not making it a slashvertisement, huh?
        • by quadling (1160485)
          We do have it deploy a parachute. Where does it say we don't have that done? I know the articles don't give great detail, but I did answer that a bit below. Honest!! :) Joshua (one of the builders)
      • by RockDoctor (15477)
        Worked for Gilette.
    • You say that as though it's a bad thing.
    • by BetaDays (2355424)
      Shop smart, Shop "S" mart!
  • that is imagining that this would be much better if the camera was launched via giant sling shot?

    • by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Monday August 08, 2011 @02:29AM (#37019574)
      You probably spend too much time on Angry Birds...
      • by hellop2 (1271166)
        just fyi, I'm using firefox and I can read your sig
        • by mschuyler (197441)

          just fyi, I'm using IE and I can read your sig.

    • by lahvak (69490)

      That was my first reaction, too. The grenade launcher is much faster to set up, though, so they can get this ready and launched very quickly. Besides, it is something they already know how to use.

      A civilian version could use a slingshot, though, and should not be very hard to use.

      • I mean, should not be very hard to build.

        • by quadling (1160485)
          Actually, lahvak, good point. We did actually discuss a giant water balloon type slingshot for the camera modules. But that takes 3 guys to deploy, and would be another piece of equipment. We might test that out sometime, but for right now, we're concentrating on the one model to get all the electronics working, and have a good prototype. Branching out might happen later. Joshua
  • by SecurityTheatre (2427858) on Monday August 08, 2011 @02:40AM (#37019608)

    You should just buy one of these bad boys.

    http://www.draganfly.com/uav-helicopter/draganflyer-x6/ [draganfly.com]

    Military grade and can stay aloft more than 7.2 seconds, while capturing realtime HD video that can be transmitted to a cool pair of goggles on the ground.

    Plus, you can whip it out of a backpack in 10 seconds. :-D Cool!

    http://www.draganfly.com/video/gallery/show-single-video.php?video_number=2&product_id=DF-X6&r=837 [draganfly.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zibodiz (2160038)
      One simple reason why this new camera is so awesome: speed. Try shooting something out of the sky when it's moving at 2 - 4 mph. Not that hard (heck, a skeet it moving a lot faster than that). Besides, try getting it 500 feet into enemy territory in 8 seconds. Something shooting at the speed of a grenade launcher has such obvious superiorities. Granted, the whole 'one time use' thing kinda sucks, but they're the military; they're used to using it once and replacing it.

      Although I do have to say... y
      • by iamhassi (659463)
        But while you're shooting at the thing in the sky you're giving away your position. The point of a UAV is to see where your enemy is, if your enemy is wasting their time shooting at the UAV in the sky then they've just given away their position. Mission accomplished!

        And actually it's not easy to hit something moving at 4mph, especially if it's a good distance away like 300 meters. A man at 300 meters is about the size of the head of a needle held at arm's length, a very difficult target even if it's s
        • by tangent3 (449222)

          Obviously you would either move after you launch it, or you send a small patrol to another location to launch it. Pretty much the same SOP used by artillery batteries.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          But while you're shooting at the thing in the sky you're giving away your position.

          But when you fire the thing you're giving away your position. A VTOL UAV is superior in that you can drop it, move, then deploy it and never give away your position at all.

    • by shmlco (594907)

      The Draganflyer is a cool toy, true. But for $19,999 just for the base model, it needs to be...

      • by iamhassi (659463) on Monday August 08, 2011 @04:29AM (#37019956) Journal
        Wait until the military figures out you can do the same thing with a $11 keychain camera [youtube.com] and a toys 'r us r/c helicopter [youtube.com].

        I have a few of those 808 keychain cameras and they shoot remarkably good video considering their size and disposable price.
        • If history is to be believed, they will ignore the possibility that anything without a NATO stock number and a terrifying price tag could possibly be an issue and, once the contrary is proven in the field, will start talking about 'Improvised Surveillance Devices"...
          • by Mr 44 (180750)

            Believe me, the 808 cameras work about 60% of the time. Figure a doubling of price for every standard deviation up in reliability, and you start to understand milspec pricing.

            • Oh, I'm hardly going to deny that the cheap seats have some significant reliability issues at times. I was more commenting on the fact that, in those cases where the cheap seats turn out to be good enough, people rush to treat them as a novel phenomenon even when they are just a DIY/jury-rigged version of something that you've been able to get out of the expensive side of the menu for ages...
        • by Jawnn (445279)

          Wait until the military figures out you can do the same thing with a $11 keychain camera [youtube.com] and a toys 'r us r/c helicopter [youtube.com]. I have a few of those 808 keychain cameras and they shoot remarkably good video considering their size and disposable price.

          So.... who gets the job of recovering the 808 keychain camera from enemy territory once it's been deployed to photograph said territory? Or did you plan on deploying on the end of a really long USB cable?

        • Can it maintain a hover hands free in 30 knot winds with an inexperienced pilot?

          Can it be pulled out of a satchel that can be (literally) sat on for hours before being deployed.

          Does it have 30 minute airtime and carry a mechanically-stabilized SLR-quality rig?

          Can it carry a broad spectrum IR camera? How about a night vision camera with an integrated infrared spotlight?

          Hmmmmm.... :-)

    • The Army never fields something without figuring how it works with current gear.

      This think can be carried like any other grenade ammuniition, and quickly launched from a standard M203 grenade launcher.

      Given the standard parts, if it were made in bulk it could cost less than some of the ammunition they currently carry.

  • everything for war (Score:3, Interesting)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Monday August 08, 2011 @03:32AM (#37019778) Homepage Journal

    more stuff created for war. These cameras instruments are not going to be sold to civilians, here is the purpose:

    Soldiers shoot it off and for eight glorious seconds it gives them a bird's eye view of the terrain around them, tipping them off to enemy positions. Then it crashes back to earth.

    Private citizens can't buy these flying cameras, much less the 40mm grenade launchers used to shoot them. But Vlad Gostom and Joshua Marpet think they'd be great tools for a search and rescue operation, or maybe a boon to some local police force's SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team. So they're building their own version and showing off what they've learned at Defcon this week.

    of-course outside of a war or a 'rescue operation' there may be not much use for these things, but it just adds to resources that are mis-allocated for wars instead of going towards normal consumer market. The only use for consumer market I can think of is war games unfortunately, like paintball.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      more stuff created for war. These cameras instruments are not going to be sold to civilians, here is the purpose:

      ...

      of-course outside of a war or a 'rescue operation' there may be not much use for these things, but it just adds to resources that are mis-allocated for wars instead of going towards normal consumer market. The only use for consumer market I can think of is war games unfortunately, like paintball.

      Hmmm, paintball.... being hit by a solid grenade-like projectile of non-negligible mass... I think I'll pass.

      The only advantage of this "grenade like" wireless camera: can reach close to the enemies position in a short time... I can't imagine during civilian operations this can be an advantage... Except, possibly, in building fires - in which an UAV mounted camera won't survive and the situation can evolve quite fast.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Shooting people with cameras? I am not suggesting that, the camera is to be shoot up into the air to give you a glimpse of where the opponents are (and maybe your side as well).

        Of-course this would look funny if too many people got themselves these in paintball and all started using them all at once, shooting cameras into the air. It would probably give out your position too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Private citizens can't buy these flying cameras, much less the 40mm grenade launchers used to shoot them"

      First, it's a camera so anyone can buy/make one.

      Second, you CAN buy a 40mm launcher; it will just cost a good amount.

      Third, it wouldn't be that hard to make to fit in a 37mm launcher, which are quite common.

    • by Toze (1668155)

      more stuff created for war. These cameras instruments are not going to be sold to civilians, here is the purpose:

      Yeah! Like the Internet. Or satellite phones. Or guns.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You can buy a 40mm or 37mm flare launcher and strap it to your gun. It looks, acts, behaves, and 'is' a grenade launcher. If you have a grenade in the same building, area, etc. then you have two destructive devices. As long as it only has flares with it, its fine. I assume a camera should be a form of flare or inert projectile (ask the ATF), so these are likely completely legal.

    • No civilians can by grenade launchers in the US, its just a $200 tax stamp.

      • by mrmeval (662166)

        Add 6k for an original M79 grenade launcher and another 600 for the pistol grip (or about the same for an AR-15), or scrimp and buy a new one for 2k. Yes, the damned tax stamp is needed. I'd just shoot them from an unregulated (in some states) 37mm flare launcher.

  • by catmistake (814204) on Monday August 08, 2011 @03:45AM (#37019808) Journal
    Seems to me that increasing that 8 seconds of recon should be relatively academic. How about adding a little parachute that could increase hang time immensely? Also, perhaps adding a gps transmitter would allow for reuse.
    • by iamhassi (659463)

      Seems to me that increasing that 8 seconds of recon should be relatively academic. How about adding a little parachute that could increase hang time immensely? Also, perhaps adding a gps transmitter would allow for reuse.

      8 seconds is with a parachute. FTFA [techworld.com.au]: "Their first test -- launched from a 37mm flare gun last week at a neighbor's farm -- wasn't exactly a raging success: The powder didn't fully ignite, the miniature camera flew about 30 feet into the air -- apparently too fast to transmit images back to the 5.8Ghz wireless receiver they were using -- and their parachute partially incinerated."

  • by Cow Jones (615566) on Monday August 08, 2011 @03:58AM (#37019840)

    The Fins have been doing that since 2006 [youtube.com]. The don't even need a fancy grenade launcher.

  • showed something like this on FutureWeapons a few years ago.

    The Israelis sure do a lot of good military tech.

    Of course for them it is a necessity, being surrounded by hostile neighbours.

  • by petra13 (785564)
    It seems like kite photography (or videography) would be far more cost-effective for civilian purposes.
  • Read about throwing cameras in the air on slashdot: $0

    Build your own camera and throw it in the air like a grenade: $500

    Smoke some weed and lie down for a while: ???

    Build a grenade and use it to take a photograph: Priceless.

  • You can currently get a remote controlled helicopter based camera that has a run time of 10+ mins.
    Granted the training time is higher but the longer running time, cheaper cost(under $300) and greater capabilities (such as moving back and going in closer) make this a very niche market. The biggest market is going to be the people who want to have a close up view of the thing falling and breaking someones windows.
    • by itsdapead (734413)

      You can currently get a remote controlled helicopter based camera that has a run time of 10+ mins.

      I'm guessing that this is for spying on the sort of people who are likely to shoot down any suspicious looking mini-helicopters before they can get close.

      Not a lot you can do about a ballistic camera apart from try and find where it landed so you can moon the operators.

      • by will_die (586523)
        For the military it is great item, besides what you mentioned it is small, uses an existing delivery system, and you don't care where it lands.
        However these people are aiming for the consumer market where the previous items I mentioned matter.
  • by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@gmai l . com> on Monday August 08, 2011 @08:00AM (#37020578)

    The new idea turned out to be a lot more viable than the opposite approach: Build Your Own Grenade, Hold It Like a Camera

  • Let's ee... 8 seconds at a time for $500... so if you only put one up every minute for an hour that's... uh.... oh, wait...

  • Perhaps it escaped notice, but grenade launchers have rifled barrels, and typically the launched projectile is spinning at 15,000 rpm. There might be some unrifled police models used for tear gas, but these will have horrible accuracy -- perhaps 100ft CEP at 500ft.

    A camera on a parachute could be a useful thing, but stopping 15krpm isn't easy or quick, especially with only air. Maybe some DSP would work through the spin, but it will have to have a lot less shutter lag! :)

    • by HawkinsD (267367)

      Mr. Elm:

      That's a good point about the rifling. It appears that the Defcon fellows are using flare launchers, which, anecdotally, are described as smoothbore. [gunwiki.net]

      I dunno why flare launchers aren't rifled. Maybe the need for accuracy in shooting a flare is low: if it goes UP, instead of sideways, it's probably considered a success. The energy expended on making it spin could arguably be better spent on making it fly.

      • by redelm (54142)
        Some flares are on parachutes -- longer duration. These would have serious troubles if rifled -- the parachute would twist into uselessness.
  • In the 90's, several programs developed artillery shells that mapped the terrain the shells flew over to a surprisingly usable degree of resolution. There are a lot of images available from these sorts of tests online via Google.

    In addition, I helped design a camera that was packaged in a ball. The ball was thrown into a building, and a motorized counterweight moved the ball around more or less randomly. The transmitted video from two separate cameras was used to construct striped images of the interior (ro

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      20 minutes? Great, you can figure out just where the bodies will be stacked.

      • Actually, the images streamed at 15 hz well before the unit was thrown. The 20 minutes was for a 3d reconstruction of available images from just a few minutes' random roaming through the apartment. The raw images recorded everything- the rotation of the ball as it was thrown, etc. It used a then-power-hungry 900 MHz link and was severely bandwidth limited. Today, the entire affair could be accomplished at significantly higher frame rates or resolution. We toyed with 1D image planes as well to improve TX spe

  • Ok so where is the video from inside the grenade?
    • by quadling (1160485)
      The video works until you put it in the launcher. The metal barrel is a pretty good "muffler" of signal. Then it goes off. You do get video back, but our first, and so far only test, was a failure of powder. The brand new batch of powder we got was not bloody burning. Argh. We are going to be rebuilding the system and redoing it in the next couple of weeks. We do get video when we do static range tests, or walk the camera out a distance, and the camera we shot still works. So we're pleased with the
  • Obviously in the case of the Israeli device, using a launcher that soliders are likely already carrying around is a good thing, and that's why they would be willing to deal with the disadvantages of grenade launchers for something like this. (Anything combustion-powered causes very high shocks to whatever is being launched - not a big problem for grenades but more of a problem for cameras.)

    If you're no longer assuming "launcher the user probably already has", then things get simpler - a pneumatic launcher

  • Just use a high end toy remote control helicopter.

  • As a collector of NFA weapons myself, I can say that the article is incorrect about private citizens in the US not being able to purchase a 40mm grenade launcher. The 40mm grenade launcher is classified as a Destructive Device (DD) by the BATFE, and is regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934, commonly referred to as NFA. All NFA weapons are tracked with mandated registration with the BATFE. Weapons regulated by the NFA are Title 2 weapons (Title 1 weapons are "normal" firearms you see in most gun st

  • We have been doing similar stuff with model rockets for years with either still images or FMV. A lot cheaper too!
  • Josh Marpet here @quadling on twitter. Ok, few misconceptions. The launcher we are currently using is a Spike's Tactical 37mm launcher. It is smoothbore, and we don't need to stabilize it with rifling. Once it reaches altitude, it "turns over" and starts heading down. That's when the parachute deploys (standard model rocket parachute, no need to reinvent the wheel). So if you get hit by it, it's not hard. It's essentially drifting down. As for a keychain camera, I own several of them myself. Awesom

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