Open Source

Anyone for Pi? Mods and hacks for the Raspberry Pi

An enthusiastic modding community has been playing with the $40 Raspberry Pi Linux computer for the past couple of months and they've not been wasting time.

Hacks and mods for the credit-card sized device range from speech-controlled robots to systems for controlling your house over the internet.

TechRepublic delved into the forums on the Raspberry Pi website to find the projects that really showcase the device's capabilities - starting with this initiative to build a robot drone.

There are plenty of Pi-powered drones in the pipeline, but this Pi in the sky could save lives by helping map disaster zones.

The lightweight Pi board will be the brain of the autonomous plane, which will take aerial footage of disaster-struck areas.

The drone is being built by OpenRelief, an international project to develop better communications tools for disaster relief efforts. The project was inspired by difficulties mapping the Tohoku area of Japan following the earthquake that struck the region in March 2011.

The drone will use open-source image-recognition software that can spot features such as smoke, roads or people. The plane will also include Arduino-based sensors to take measurements relating to weather and radiation. Information collected by the drone will be processed by the Pi and shared with disaster-management systems such as Sahana Eden.

The drone will be able to navigate and land unaided. OpenRelief expects the plane to be ready for production by December 2012.

Photo: OpenRelief

By Nick Heath

Nick Heath is a computer science student and was formerly a journalist at TechRepublic and ZDNet.