Camera traps have been very commonly used to capture wildlife for decades. In some circumstances, particularly with rare animals that stay far away from the sounds and smells of humans, camera traps have been the only way to get a photograph or video. Giant armadillos, for instance, have proven nearly impossible to photograph without well-hidden camera traps. 360 degree camera traps increase the likelihood of capturing an elusive animal, but the options on the market are expensive. That’s why Digital Naturalism Laboratories has developed an open source design for a 360 degree camera trap called Panatrap.
Because 360 degree cameras still aren’t common, the Panatrap design utilizes consumer (closed-source) cameras. So far, they have Panatrap working with the Xiaomi Misphere and the Ricoh Theta V. Neither of those is particularly cheap, but they’re both far more affordable than the dedicated 360 degree camera traps that are currently available. Regardless of which camera you choose, Panatrap is capable of capturing both photo and video. It can be triggered manually, set on a timer, or be triggered by PIR motion sensors within half a second. The Xiaomi Misphere can last for at least 17 hours on a charge, while the Ricoh Theta V can last more than two days.
In both cases, most of Digital Naturalism Laboratories’ work on the Panatrap has gone into finding ways to trigger the cameras and keep them protected. With a little bit of hacking, for example, you can trigger the Xiaomi Misphere using two exposed pins. A separate unit with the PIR (Passive InfraRed) sensor is used to trigger the camera when motion is detected. Laser-cute acrylic housings are sufficient for weatherproofing the camera, and the designers also suggest that 3D printing would be suitable as long as the windows are glass, acrylic, or polycarbonate. The total cost of a Panatrap should be well under $500, which is half the cost of the most affordable 360 degree camera traps on the market. That makes Panatrap a boon for conservationism and for wildlife enthusiasts in general.