Public Lab Research note

Sky Cam - User Guide

by mercyorangi | August 16, 2014 20:34 16 Aug 20:34 | #11061 | #11061


The Sky Cam application user guide is elaborated in 4 sections as seen below.

If you do not have the app as yet, please skip to step 1 below (Download and install).

If you already have the app up and running, the user guide can be found under the Home page menu on "Guide" as highlighted below.


The user guide page has 3 tabs that elaborate on how to navigate and use the Sky Cam application, see below.


1. Download and Install


  1. An Android phone

  2. Android version 3.0 and above

  3. GPS enabled phone - to tag latitude and longitude of photos captured (WIFI is optional, mandatory only when you require the photos captured to be emailed automatically to an email).


  1. Download the Sky Cam application from this link.

  2. Accept the user permissions requested for.

  3. Install the application on your phone.



2. Photo Acquisition Mission

Starting and ending a photo acquisition mission

  1. Buy a kite or a balloon or a drone - provides low cost, easy to use and safe methods for capturing aerial images.

  2. Attach an Android phone, having the Sky Cam Application, to the kite/balloon/drone (as opposed to needing airplanes and/or satellites).

  3. Build a simple ‘housing’ for your phone using a plastic bottle or an equivalent; to prevent against large dust pebbles or direct sunlight or rain drizzles (ensure the camera’s view is not obstructed by the housing).

  4. Find an area to map; should meet regulations defined at balloon mapping regulations (See "Processing Aerial Photos" below).

  5. Now, launch the Sky Cam application on the phone, lift your balloon, kite or drone and fly!

  6. Sort your images stored in the phone’s SD card under a folder named “SkyCamFolder" or as sent to the email ID provided in the settings.

3. Processing Aerial Photos

Quick links that elaborate on acquiring and processing aerial photos

  1. To attach a phone to a balloon/kite/drone.

  2. To make a map using your images (stitch your images).

  3. To share your experience with Public Lab and the world.

  4. To share your expertise, join the Cartography Collection.

  5. To view the balloon mapping regulations

  6. To download the source code

4. Sky Cam Settings in detail

  1. Time period - this is the time interval the camera will take to capture successive photographs.

  2. Email ID - the email address where the photos taken (and metadata i.e. latitude and longitude) will be emailed to.

  3. Exposure Value - ensures that the subject of the photo is at the center of the light scale (optional).

  4. Threshold Value - this makes it possible to highlight objects in an image through the separation of light and dark regions.


Feel free to give feedback on how the app behaves on your phone for improvements(possibly provide your phone model and Android version too).

PS: Screenshots above got from an Xperia Z; Android version 4.3

:-) :-) Enjoy..

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Are you going to add a locate my phone feature, like Google Latitude, so that people can ping their phones if the wind carries it off...?

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Thanks, Mercy, this is great. You should link to this page from here: so people can find it! Also feel free to update the sky camera wiki page to reflect your recent work. Super!

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This looks exciting!! did you do any actual field test? I'm going to test this against my work. thanks!

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Vidun - that would be excellent, that's the idea to link up the two. I did some tests here: and there was an issue with the GPS recording in the EXIF tags correctly. But I think Mercy will post a new version soon.

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@amysoyka, thats a very good suggestion right there! Will definitely incorporate the feature within the next 2 updates, much appreciated!

@xvidun, that would be great and I would like to hear feedback from your end as you test against your work, but as Warren mentioned the GPS tags in the EXIF seems off, so I am working on some formatting issue there, and will push a new code with that update on the next iteration.

@warren thanks for pointing me to the wiki page! I have updated the infor to reflect on recent works done (the .apk and the user guide too)

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