GaugeCam began to investigate ways to actuate weirs, pumps, lighting and other equipment at their remote camera locations a couple of years ago. As part of the investigation, we purchased several Arduino micro-controllers. At the time, the NCSU BAE department used expensive PLC’s (programmed in ladder logic) to control their equipment out in the field. A low-end system typically cost them around $600. List price for an Arduino micro-controller with similar functionality costs between $35-80 (USD). The Arduinos we use have between 14 and 64 digital I/O, several microsecond timers, and an staggering array of optional add-ons. It is programmed in C, so there is not much of a learning curve to know how to use them.
We have a variety of micro-controllers that work with GaugeCam cameras and to control light position on some of our lab setups. When Dr. Birgand saw this, he wondered whether we could use the much less expensive micro-controllers to run some pumps and other equipment both in the lab and out in the field. He put one of the lab assistants to work learning to program the equipment and now, several months later, they have developed a couple of solutions that are more flexible, smaller, lighter, and more capable, not to mention much cheaper than the previous solution.
This is an example of one of several synergies that has occurred as a result of the collaboration between GaugeCam and the NCSU BAE department. Even though we do not plan to use Arduinos as actuators on our remote camera products (we are several months away from an exciting announcement in that regard), still, the research has contributed the effectiveness and capability of the lab in the performance of their on-going research.