Raspberry Pi is used for a lot of things – some more surprising than others. When Peter Anderton emailed us about a very unique use of Raspberry Pi to solve a conundrum, we decided we had to share it in the magazine.

“My wife and I had noticed that, whenever it rained hard, we were getting a serious overspill from one of our house gutters onto our conservatory,” Peter says in his email. “Unhelpfully, the overspill appeared to originate from an inner-corner joint of the gutter, over 15 feet up and directly over the conservatory, so virtually impossible to reach without scaffolding or a cherry-picker, either of which would be extremely expensive if it turned out there were no alternatives. We first thought the cause might just be a leaky joint, but one day we spotted a suspicious growth poking out above the gutter itself.”

With a bit of deductive reasoning, Peter figured out that the plant was blocking the joint, so the rainwater would just overflow. He didn’t want to hire expensive equipment to confirm this theory, though.

“I then had the bright idea of mounting a Raspberry Pi Camera on the end of a long pole to get a view of the plant itself,” Peter mentions. “The sticking-point here was how to connect the camera to Raspberry Pi whilst still being at the far end of the pole. At first, I considered having Raspberry Pi and camera both mounted at the far end, but this would have required much longer power and display cables than I had available; the obvious alternative was just to have the camera at the far end of the pole but, at the time, I only had to hand the short ribbon cable that came with the camera, and had no idea whether longer cables were even available. However, after discovering that cables up to 2 m in length existed - thank you, The Pi Hut! - I had at least solved the connectivity issue.”

The original mount used to take a peek at the gutter

Printed solution

Peter turned to Fusion 360 to design and then 3D-print a mount that would allow the Camera Module to slot inside a bike lamp bracket, which was then mounted to a pole. After taking a peek, Peter found the true culprit – a plant growing in a big clump of soil.

“I now had a much clearer idea of what exactly we were dealing with, but there was still the matter of how to get the offending plant out,” Peter continues. “It was unlikely any cherry-picker would be able to fit through either of our side gates to reach the rear of the house where this gutter was, so it would have to operate from the adjacent road, with all the safety and other implications that would entail. However, to go down the scaffolding route would be equally problematic, not least because it would have to bridge over the conservatory to get to the gutter in the corner, with no obvious way to support it.”

For one small plant, this was a bit overkill. However, he did have a pole that could reach the plant, so he began Phase 2 of the operation: attaching a trowel. He already had a WOLF-Garten system that he’d 3D-printed parts for, so he made a further extension to fit the trowel on.

The culprit causing the rainwater to spill over

Remote gardening

After digging up a bit of the soil, the plant was removed and the gutter stoppage fixed. It worked so well, it’s inspired him to do more.

“I would be the first to admit that I produce more things using my 3D printer than I do using a Raspberry Pi,” Peter says. “However, the success of this venture has opened my eyes (no pun intended!) to the potential for remote-viewing generally using Raspberry Pi / camera combination and, to this end, I have bought a second 2 m camera cable and connector, as well as a new Raspberry Pi Camera Module 3.”

From The MagPi store


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