Project Curacao: Remote Sensing in the Caribbean

What is Project Curacao?

This series of articles discusses the design and building of Project Curacao, a sensor filled project designed to hang on a radio tower on the island nation of Curacao. Curacao is a desert island 12 degrees north of the equator in the Caribbean. It is a harsh environment with strong tropical sun, salt spray from the ocean and unremitting heat. But it is a beautiful place to visit and a real challenge to build and install a Raspberry Pi based environmental monitoring system (Note an abridgment of these articles were first published in a modified form in MagPi magazine – excellent magazine).

Hourly updates are posted on the ProjectCuracao webpage on an hourly basis when the box is running.  Thank you MiloCreek for hosting this page.  Remember that the project will shut itself down on really cloudy days to preserve the battery.

Project Curacao Camera Page

Project Curacao RasPiConnect Camera Page

Project Curacao is designed to monitor the local environment unattended for six months. It will operate on solar power cells during this time and will communicate with the designer via an iPad App called RasPiConnect. The charging and discharging peformance of the system will be monitored as well as the degradation of the solar cells measured. The system will be designed to reboot itself via a watchdog timer and will reboot itself when power is available in the case of a low power or sun condition.

System description


Project Curacao consists of four subsystems. A Raspberry Pi Model A is the brains and the overall controller. The Power Subsystem consists of LiPo batteries and charge management.  The Environment Sensor Subsystem has in-box temperature, outside temperature, luminosity, barometric pressure and humidity sensors. The Raspberry Pi Camera Subsystem contains a Raspberry Pi Camera and a servo motor controlling the cap over the camera to keep salt spray off the camera lens.

What is coming Up?

Part 2 will describe the Solar Power Subsystem.  Part 3 will describe the Arduino BatteryWatchdog.  Part 4 of this article will describe the environmental subsystem of Project Curacao and the use of a Raspberry Pi controlled fan.  Part 5 goes through the Raspberry Pi Camera Subsystem and Part 6 describes the software system used for Project Curacao.

All of the code used in this article is posted on GitHub at

There are 48 comments so far

    2 years ago · Reply

    Way cool! Do you have any project going on for heavier battery charging scenarios? Like from 100W panels? BTW: I need one of your watchdogs. You’re right about the internal/external (advantage to the latter).


    • SwitchDoc Labs Author
      2 years ago · Reply

      Yes, we are working on building some products around the 100W+ market. Still with all the data gathering feature of our smaller boards.

      We use the WatchDog board all over the place in projects.


    zhiqi liu
    1 year ago · Reply

    Will Rapsberry PI 3 work under extreme weather conditions? Is there any special case/heat sink/water proof/EMS proof mechanism that we shall use if we put it outside?

    11 months ago · Reply

    Can you link to any and all further on this?? This is everything ive wanted to understand about Pi systems and solar all in one!

    8 months ago · Reply

    Great project, but why don’t I you use the power that is already there (for the ADSL)? Seems so much simpler…

    The other question (if there was no power) would have been, how do you communicate. Because everything I know needs much more than a Raspberry Pi (especially if there is no fixed line)

    • SwitchDoc Labs Author
      8 months ago · Reply

      hi Ruediger,

      Sounds like you have been to Curacao!

      We choose solar power for two reasons:

      1) We wanted to build a solar powered system in the tropics. This is the primary reason.

      2) We used the solar power system to be independent of the local rather poor power grid

      3) We didn’t want to run power to the location of the unit (initially on the tower, but we moved it to the top of the Sun Room).

      If there is no power, it continues logging information to the Raspberry Pi MySQL database (although the weather information is logged by the Arduino into a FRAM when the Raspberry Pi is off).

      It was a fun project! We are planning on replacing the box in a few months with a generation 2 solar powered system. Utilizing a wireless link from the weather instruments to the Project curaçao box and then wifi to the world.



Leave a Comment

Don't worry. We never use your email for spam.

Don't worry. We never use your email for spam.

%d bloggers like this: