GPS-tracking helmet cam

Martin O’Hanlon’s a familiar name in these parts, especially for fans of Minecraft: his repository of Pi Minecraft tricks and tutorials is one of our favourite resources. But Martin’s not all about magicking Menger-Sierpinski Sponges into the Minecraft universe: he does wonderful stuff with hardware and the Raspberry Pi too. Here’s some footage from his latest:

What you’re looking at here is something we haven’t seen before: camera footage with a GPS overlay, showing the route Martin has skied and his current speed. (Gordon, who has his own helmet cam hack, is quivering with envy.) Martin’s setup, like all the best Raspberry Pi hacks, also involves tupperware. It’s a one-button, one-led design, so it’s as easy as possible to use when you’re wearing ski gloves.

Work in progress

You can find everything you’ll need to construct your own at Martin’s Stuff about Code; he’s also done a very detailed writeup of the design process and included plenty of construction tips, along with the usual code and parts list. Thanks Martin!


Martin OHanlon avatar

Thank you, its been one of my favourite projects. I love snowboarding and being able to get a raspberry pi into my backpack alongside the shovel and avalanche poles made it all the better!

Dave Stevens avatar

is there supposed to be a link to video here? I don’t see it – Ubuntu 12.04/FFox 28

Stuart avatar

I could see this being used as a dashcam for evidence in accidents.

Jim Manley avatar

With a transmitter, it could potentially broadcast, tweet, e-mail, etc., messages to the effect of, “HELP!!! I’VE FALLEN AND I CAN’T GET UP … BECAUSE I’M BURIED 10 FEET UNDER AN AVALANCHE AT LATITUDE
38° 54.715′ NORTH, LONGITUDE 119° 56.629′ WEST!!! OH, AND HERE’S A VIEW OF THE LAST THING I SAW BEFORE EVERYTHING WENT GRAY!!!” Transmission could be triggered by abrupt change in light level, accelerometer data indicating a fall followed by lack of movement, and the wearer not responding to an audible warning of impending transmission (in case of unconsciousness), or outright triggering by the wearer via an inside-glove switch (when buried in typical dense avalanche snowpack, it’s often impossible to move arms and legs enough to reach other parts of the body). If we weren’t down to 12% of normal snowpack here in California I could try this out, but when they went to take the core sample for January near Lake Tahoe to measure the snowpack, the ground was bare at 9,000 feet of elevation! :(

Tom avatar

Excellent! What’s the minimum operating temp for the RasPi again?

Martin OHanlon avatar

I have no idea, but there were some pretty chilly days on the mountain, probably -12C and everything worked fine.

Jim Manley avatar

According to the Foundation’s FAQs, it’s 0°C to 70°C for the Ethernet/USB controller and the SoC is good for -40°C to 85°C. Because it’s unlikely anyone is going to be using Ethernet or will be using a lower-power-consuming Model A missing that controller for this scenario, the Pi is likely to be able to survive much longer than the user in this application. Plus, if it’s mounted in proximity to the wearer’s head (where much of the body heat generated is radiated), it will be warmer than the ambient temperature, especially on someone shussing downhill and expending kilocalories in the process. There is no wind-chill effect on hardware since it’s not subject to evaporation the way skin is, so that’s not a consideration even if the Pi and camera are on the outside of the helmet. Plus, in sunshine, a Pi in a case is going to be warmed a bit just by that, with IR transparency being the dominant factor.

Martin OHanlon avatar

If anyone wants to have a go with the Helmet cam, I will take it to the Raspberry Jamboree in Manchester on the 27th & 28th Feb. Get your tickets at

JBeale avatar

Very nice project! Might be fun to add a wide-angle or fisheye adaptor, and add acceleration as a displayed variable. Here’s what a fisheye can do for you:

AndrewS avatar

Something similar was featured on the blog a while ago too

frank avatar

Sometimes things don’t make a lot of since

AndrewS avatar

Cool (literally!) ;-)

I guess adding an auto-adjusting scale marker to the GPS map would be a nice addition.

AndrewS avatar

…and I guess if you mounted a compass chip on the helmet too, you could even add an indicator to the GPS map of which way the camera is pointing in every frame? :)

Martin OHanlon avatar

You can get heading from gps. Albeit heading you are travelling not looking!

AndrewS avatar

Yeah, that’s why I suggested affixing the compass to the helmet rather than the backpack – so that it’s in the same frame-of-reference as the camera ;-)

Mike avatar

I worked on a similar project over the summer. We took a trip to Florida and I decided to record the trip down there with the raspberrypi. The entire trip is recorded in 3 second still intervals here:

The code can be found here:

Jasen avatar

I love the homegrown solution, but it’s not something we haven’t seen before. The Contour GPS camera has offered similar features. Still, this is a homegrown solution which is sweet and much less expensive. You might look at some of the Contour features though for ideas in which direction to take this. I look forward to any progress made.

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