When we picture the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster and its aftermath, we tend to recall just the commonly shared video recorded by television crews, but the unsung heroes were definitely the robotic cameras that served to keep an eye on not only the stricken reactor itself but also the sites holding contaminated equipment and debris. These camera systems are the subject of a recent video by the [Chernobyl Family] channel on YouTube, as they tear down, as well as plug in these pinnacles of 1980s vidicon-based Soviet engineering.
When the accident occurred at the #4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP) in 1986, engineers not only scrambled to find ways to deal with the immediate aftermath but also to monitor and enter radioactive areas without exposing squishy human tissues. This is where the KTP-63 and KTP-64 cameras come into play. One is reminiscent of your typical security camera, while the other is a special model that uses a mirror instead of directly exposing the lens and tube to radiation. As a result, the latter type was quite hardy. Using a central control panel, multiple cameras could be controlled.
When mounted to remotely controlled robots, these cameras were connected to an umbilical cord that gave operators eyes on the site without risking any lives, making these cameras both literally life-savers and providing a solid template for remote-controlled vehicles in future disaster zones.
Editor’s note: Historically, the site was called Чернобыль, which is romanized to Chernobyl, but as a part of Ukraine, it is now Чорнобиль or Chornobyl. Because the disaster and the power plant occurred in 1986, we’ve used the original name Chernobyl here, as does the YouTube channel.
A decade ago, I was learning Linux through building projects for my own needs. One of the projects was a DIY CCTV system based on a Linux box – specifically, a user-friendly all-in-one package for someone willing to pay for it. I stumbled upon Zoneminder, and those in the know, already can tell what happened – I’ll put it this way, I spent days trying to make it work, and my Linux skills at the time were not nearly enough. Cool software like Motion was available back then, but I wasn’t up to the task of rolling an entire system around it. That said, it wouldn’t be impossible, now, would it?
Five years later, I joined a hackerspace, and eventually found out that its CCTV cameras, while being quite visually prominent, stopped functioning a long time ago. At that point, I was in a position to do something about it, and I built an entire CCTV network around a software package called MotionEye. There’s a lot of value in having working CCTV cameras at a hackerspace – not only does a functioning system solve the “who made the mess that nobody admits to” problem, over the years it also helped us with things like locating safety interlock keys to a lasercutter that were removed during a reorganization, with their temporary location promptly forgotten.
Being able to use MotionEye to quickly create security cameras became quite handy very soon – when I needed it, I could make a simple camera to monitor my bicycle, verify that my neighbours didn’t forget to feed my pets as promised while I was away, and in a certain situation, I could even ensure mine and others’ physical safety with its help. How do you build a useful always-recording camera network in your house, hackerspace or other property? Here’s a simple and powerful software package I’d like to show you today, and it’s called MotionEye.
Sunrises and sunsets hardly ever disappoint. Still, it’s difficult to justify waking up early enough to catch one, or to stop what you’re doing in the evening just to watch the dying light. If there’s one good thing about CCTV cameras, it’s that some of them are positioned to catch a lovely view of one of the two, and a great many of them aren’t locked down at all.
Some people will tell you that YouTube has become a vast wasteland of entertainment like the boob tube before it. Live streaming doesn’t help the situation much, and this entry level webcam live-stream server isn’t poised to advance the art.
We jest, but only a little. [Mike Haldas] runs a video surveillance company that sells all manner of web-enabled cameras and wondered what it would take to get a low-end camera set up for live streaming. The first step was converting the Zavio webcam stream from RTSP (real-time streaming protocol) to the standard that YouTube uses, RTMP (real-time messaging protocol). Luckily, FFmpeg handles that conversion, so he compiled it for his MacBook Pro and set up a proof of concept. It worked, but he needed a compact solution that would free up his laptop. Raspberry Pi to the rescue – after loading a bunch of libraries and a four-hour build and install of FFmpeg, the webcam was streaming 1080p video of [Mike]’s sales office. He was worried that the Pi wouldn’t have the power needed for the job, and that it would be unstable. But as of this writing, the stream below has been active for six days, and it’s riveting stuff.
2.4 GHz video transmitters are everywhere these days, in many, many products ranging from baby monitors to CCTV setups. Surprisingly, most owners of these video devices don’t realize they’re transmitting an unencrypted video signal, a belief [Benjamin] hopes to rectify.
[Ben]’s project started with him driving around cities recording unencrypted 2.4GHz video feeds. His idea has since expanded to include building metal boxes with an LCD display and attaching them to light poles. Think of it as an education via technology; most people don’t know these devices are receivable by everybody, and showing them it is possible is the first step in learning.
If you’re looking for something a little more creepy than a metal box attached to a lamp-post, [Ben] is also the brainchild behind the Surveillance Video Entertainment Network, an installation (also in van form) that exposes unencrypted 2.4 GHz video transmissions in cities around the world.
You can check out a few intercepted surveillance videos after the break.
Since short power outages are fairly common in the area this battery backup makes sense. We’ve seen some pretty gnarly whole-house systems but this is more of a novelty. That’s a good thing, because the hacking duo decided to reuse batteries which were headed for the scrap yard. They’re connected to a trickle charger which makes sure that they’re continually topped off when mains power is energized. But when there’s a blackout a relay switches an outlet box over to the inverter (also a used part).
The system is outlined in the entertaining video after the break. You’ll see they guys show off the completed build, followed by a walk through of the circuit they designed and how it functions.
He started off by hanging a webcam near the front of his house. He mentions that he’s not sure this will last long exposed to the elements, but we think it’d be dead simple to build an enclosure with a resealable container and a nice piece of acrylic as a windows. But we digress…
The camera connects via USB to the server living in the garage. [Sean’s] setup uses Yawcam to create a live feed that can be access from the Internet. The software also includes motion detection capabilities. Since he wanted to have push notifications when there was action within the camera’s view he also set up Growl alert him via his iOS devices. You can see [Sean] demonstrate his completed CCTV system in the video below the fold.