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Permaculture Site Survey prototype equipment

 
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Hello all,

I am Adrian from Romania, a Permaculture enthusiast, and this is my first post on this lovely forum.

I had to survey a piece of land - well, full of bushes.
So lacking other solutions I made a prototype for a surveying device which made the task really easy - just like a walk about the land, one person operation.
It has the maximum precision for a barometric altimeter of +/-0.1 meters. It has a stationary unit which is the refference unit and one display unit for reading the elevations - these two units can be up to 80 meters away from each other.



I would like to get your feedback if you think it would worth to make this prototype into a series product:
   would you need such a product?
   would you need the data logger function?
   would you want this product as a kit or as a fully assembled product, but costing more?
   would you consider supporting a crowdfunding campaign for industrializing this product?

Please check my site for further details:
https://precisionaltimeter.wixsite.com/mysite

Thank you so much in advance for your feedback, either good or bad, I will take it as a present.
 
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Adrian, that looks like a great idea!  

I presume the units both adjust in sync as the pressure changes while you're surveying the site?

To answer your questions:
1. I probably don't need this but if I did any amount of site analysis or design, I would
2. The ease of mating the data logger to my computer (or devices) would be my biggest concern.  If it was somehow logged into a GPS system or common mapping software I would think it would be very desirable.
3. I suspect most people would want it assembled.
4. I'd consider supporting a crowdfunding campaign.

Additional notes:
Having it able to mount to a pole so that you don't have to set it on the ground and read it at ground level would be nice
I'm surprised barometric altimeters are that accurate - that's cool!
 
Adrian Muresan
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Mike thank you for your great feedback.

Indeed two units are needed to sync the continuous atmospheric pressure changes, every 15 seconds. This complicates the system as two modules are needed - so double the components.
But the reference unit gives also the 0 point - so this can be helpful when finding the level for a swale for example.

Indeed this would be a tool for designers. But maybe at some point, we will all have to contribute and ramp up the reforestation - make a swale and plant some trees below. I don't know... for now we live on petrol and most of the public just does not care... maybe they never will care...

The data logger function indeed looks complicated to interface to other tools. I would not complicate my device with a GPS locator, as those are available already as standalone devices. I try to keep it simple - have a map on paper and mark the elevation points on it. The development effort may be too great with data logger...

What about delivering in the form of a kit - with no soldering required? Just hand assemblies, IKEA style (mounting a PCB with screws on a housing, screwing on the antenna, attaching a cable connector). Would this be an option for a user? The advantage is that - it can be always repaired by the user...

I could make the initial calibration ("0-ing" of the two devices) on a photo tripod. After that the display unit can be held for example at the hip level by the operator that makes the surveying. I noticed that carrying a pole in a bushy area can be difficult. What do you think?

Thank you!
 
Mike Haasl
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Sure, having a non-soldering "some assembly required" option may be desirable.  I'm guessing it depends on the cost savings for the customer.  For 5-10% of the total cost I'd let you do it. More than that and I'd probably take on the slight risk of messing it up and I do it myself.  Maybe those %'s aren't quite right but hopefully you get the idea.

Putting the base unit on a tripod or table makes sense.  I'd think that if the brush is thick enough to make a stick challenging, putting it on the ground and reading it would also be challenging.  Unless using your hip is accurate enough and then that would work well.  Maybe there's some standard clamp for which you could include attachment points?  Or at least make it easy to tie/tape onto a stick...  

Or I could be overthinking it so go with what you think is best

Do high winds affect the accuracy?

Approximately what do you think these would cost?
 
Adrian Muresan
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Indeed high winds are not the best for barometric measurements. The measurements on the prototype looks quite stable but I think high winds should be avoided...
I will use a tripod for the calibration unit and a monopod for the display unit - so I will attach brackets with 1/4" nuts to the units that can be screwed directly to the tripod and monopod. It will be more accurate. Also will look good. And simple enough. I will update and make a video - when I find some more time.

I am trying to get potential feedback - to find a potential business model for these elevation meters.
As this is a niche product, intended for designers or surveyors, I think I cannot finance an assembly line - thru a crowdfunding campaign.
I could maybe finance finalizing the design and sourcing of all the manufactured components.

But than the only option I see is to find interested partners willing to perform the soldering and assembly - so to have a partners database, in different countries...
I could provide them the fully manufactured kit.
Please, advise your thought.

As a first impression mounting a kit would require about 4 hours of labor (for these two units) - so multiplied with an hourly rate, depending on the country...
The unmounted kit would have a target cost of below 100$ - but I have to double check if this is possible - as it uses Arduino, Adafruit and Hope electronic modules.
 
Mike Haasl
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I suspect there are a lot of applications but surveying for permaculture is a great one.  Situations where line-of-sight is a problem also come to mind.  

Manufacturing infrastructure greatly depends on if you're making 2, 20 or 2000 a month.  I'd probably plan on making them yourself at first and keep your eyes out for expansion and growth opportunities.  Maybe someone in your country can assemble them as a part time job.  I would think that coordinating builders in different countries might be a challenge.  But you never know.

If the unit is under $100 I think that would be a real selling point, at least in the US.

Hopefully we get more feedback from other people on your invention.  Come on everybody!
 
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