The “catapult camera” is an example of a project that produced no useful outcome whatsoever. It is included here as an example of a solution that did not find a problem.
The idea was inspired by mast (telescope) camera systems that can be used to map and monitor for example disaster zones. Typical weights for such systems appear to be a few tens of kg, and are capable of supporting camera weights of 4 kg or more. Typical costs for commercial systems appear to be some thousands of EUR. Typical heights that can be reached 10 meters. There is a technology which is capable of reaching altitudes well above 10 meters: small remote- controlled aircraft (helicopters or gliders). These are however not cheap technologies, and are not necessarily very robust in extreme circumstances.
We proposed building a catapult which is capable of launching a camera up to about 40 meters altitude, taking images while it is in the air, and stitching a panorama image of the pictures.
Full report: Download: CatapultCamera-Final.pdf
Outcome: The solution has far to many issues to be useful in real life. Projectiles are likely to get lost or broken; the image quality is far too poor to be useful. Most problematically, the cost of radio-controlled drones is plummeting, and these will be more competitive in every imaginable way. The problem is valid and important, the solution is not.
Team: Jakke Mäkelä, Niko Porjo, Kalle Pietilä.