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Raspberry Pi in the wild
While the most extreme environment the average Raspberry Pi has to deal with is a dusty shelf, the low-cost computer has survived some truly hostile conditions.
Whether it’s the irradiated, freezing vacuum of space or the frozen wastes of Antarctica, the Raspberry Pi is crunching data in these most inhospitable of places.
The board’s combination of affordability, good-enough computing and tiny size seems to make it favorite for projects in far flung and dangerous locales.
Click through this gallery to see the projects that have taken or are taking the Raspberry Pi to Earth’s harshest corners and beyond.
The International Space Station
Orbiting the earth at more than 17,000mph some 250 miles above our heads is a $5 Raspberry Pi Zero.
Despite being only slightly bigger than a stick of gum, the board is taking a trip on board the International Space Station, where it is testing a low-cost way of securing satellite comms.
The Raspberry Pi is part of Cryptographic Ice Cube, an appliance developed by the European Space Agency to test whether it’s possible to secure satellite-to-ground comms without expensive equipment hardened against the radiation that permeates space.
Instead of being rad-hardened, the appliance is designed to test approaches to restoring encryption keys that have been corrupted due to radiation flipping bits of data. The two methods being tested are either using secondary base keys stored in the hardware or field programmable gate arrays that can rebuild corrupted keys.
Full testing will begin in August 2019 and will last for at least one year.
It’s not the first time a Pi has flown aboard the ISS, with the Raspberry Pi being a regular visitor as part of the Astro Pi program.
The frozen wastes of Antarctica
How does Raspberry Pi cope in the coldest continent on Earth?
Pretty well, it turns out, as the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) found out when searching for a computer that could reliably work at the sub -42C (-45F) temperatures it regularly reaches in Antarctica.
The ZSL placed a Pi on a pole, where it helped monitor Adelie penguin numbers over the course of a year, charting how the population fluctuated in response to changes in weather, pollution and more.
The board was part of a setup that captured images of the penguins using a motion-triggered cameras, with Raspberry Pi relaying the images back to researchers via the Iridium satellite network.
In Borneo's rainforests
Jungles might sound less punishing than an ice-locked continent, but the tropical climate in the rainforests of Borneo is hot and humid much of the year — with massive thunderstorms to boot.
The Raspberry Pi Model B is used in a network of acoustic monitoring stations dotted throughout the rainforest, listening for changes in the sounds of animals to track how biodiversity if being affected by oil palm plantations and logging in the area.
The Raspberry Pi runs a Python script that records audio and uploads it to a remote FTP server used by the London-based researchers.
In the shadow of a volcano
The eruption of the Ku012blauea volcano in Hawaii in 2018 spewed a cloud of ash 30,000 feet in the air and triggered earthquakes throughout the region.
Amid the disruption, enterprising High School students installed a low-cost Raspberry Pi-based seismometer, the Raspberry Shake, in a school that sits next to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Data from the Raspberry Shake was made available in real-time online, via a site that charts vibrations captured by a network of Raspberry Shakes, installed in volcanic and seismic hotspots worldwide.
Inside volcanic fissure vents
In a similar vein, how about a Raspberry Pi-powered robot that maps the volcanic fissure vents that lava erupts through.
This wall-climbing bot helped Dr Carolyn Parcheta, then working at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to 3D model the geometry of vents in the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii — a very tricky task due to vents being inaccessible and often coated in sharp rocks.
Inside a nuclear disaster zone
This submersible is being designed to operate inside the nuclear disaster zone of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The plant shut down in 2011 after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami caused catastrophic damage and radiation leaks.
The cylindrical, remotely operated AVEXIS vehicle is designed to fit into small spaces and is controlled by a Raspberry Pi Zero, with a Raspberry Pi Zero used as its camera feed.
The vehicle is designed to be low-cost, about u00a3200, to make it affordable to dispose of after being contaminated with high-levels of radiation.
It was recently tested inside a simulated version of a nuclear pressure containment vessel at Fukushima Daiichi, where it captured a 3D map of the environment, using positional and sonar data.
Work is taking place on testing the radiation tolerance of the vehicle, which needs to survive 10 – 100 grays — units of ionizing radiation — for 8 – 10 hours.
The outer reaches of Earth's atmosphere
If you thought the Antarctic was inhospitable, try the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere, where temperatures plunge to -60C and the black expanse of space stretches out before you.
Using the Raspberry Pi and a high-altitude balloon to capture images in the stratosphere has been a common practice for years now, producing images such as this stunning shot.
Atop a Mountain
Sitting some 3,500-feet above sea level, overlooking one of South Africa’s three capital cities was this cleverly disguised Pi.
In fact this Raspberry Pi-powered ‘rock’ nestling on top of Table Mountain was an elaborate publicity stunt to promote the debut LP of South African band Bateleur.
Those who made the trek could not only enjoy the sight of Cape Town laid out before them but, if they thought to bring a USB stick, could download the band’s album. Sadly it wasn’t the elements but vandals that destroyed this Raspberry Pi in the wild.
The Mojave Desert
This work-in-progress project aims to build a Raspberry Pi and Arduino-powered rover that can survive in the 49C (120F) plus heat of the US’ Mojave Desert.
The goal is to build a solar-powered rover that can survive in the desert “for weeks at a time”, and which can travel to a set of GPS co-ordinates and take 360-degree pictures of its surroundings.
The design for the 3D printed rover is inspired by the Mars Rovers built by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and although it’s not yet finished, a prototype of the rover has completed some test runs.
Under the sea
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a turtle, the Raspberry Pi is part of a project offering a rare glimpse of their day-to-day lives beneath the waves.
The Pi is part of a replaceable lightweight camera placed on the back of Green Sea Turtles on Principe Island, off the coast of West Africa.
The cameras take video clips at timed intervals, capturing how the turtles interact as they feed, forage, and even play — as well as the pollution and litter affecting their underwater habitat.
The teams behind the project, the Zoological Society of London and the Arribada Initiative, are working on adding GPS tracking to package.
SEE: More must-read Raspberry Pi coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)