One of the challenges we are facing is the large number of high-resolution cameras the rover needs to allow observation of its surroundings. Ideally we would like to use a relatively inexpensive but reliable consumer USB camera to minimize costs. However, these cameras are not suitable for the harsh environment in which the rover must operate. To solve this problem, we will enclose the cameras in custom rugged housings which will serve to mount the cameras as well as shield them from the environment. The housings will also incorporate a mount for optical filters as well as a data connection.
For these cameras, we have selected the Microsoft LifeCam H5D, which is an HD (1280×720, 30fps) resolution, USB camera. The camera is housed in a metal tube which is ideal for mounting. The housing uses polycarbonate tubing and sheet, o-ring seals, and a waterproof USB connector from L-Com (http://www.l-com.com/item.aspx?id=8923) to obtain IP-67 protection from dust and water ingress. This is greater than our overall system specification of IP-65 level protection. We will connect the camera’s circuit board directly to the flying leads of the L-Com connector based on the excellent disassembly instructions developed by Gary Honis (http://ghonis2.ho8.com/lifecam/lifecam1.html).