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Check these links for other helpful information:
Motion Detector FAQ's | Automated Photography Tips & Tricks

We are constantly working to improve our products & services. We keep your comments and questions in mind. Contact us with your comments or questions. We will respond as quickly as possible. Thanks!

FAQ categories: General Interest | Technical | Product Use

General Interest FAQ's - concerning our company and products.

Q: I've never heard of your company, when can I expect to see some of your products for sale?
Answer
Q: What other types of equipment can be expected in the future?
Answer
Q:
We have experienced problems with theft in the past. Do your products have theft prevention?
Answer
Q:
I want to camouflage my system to prevent theft. Do you offer dipped or painted camo designs?
Answer
Q:
I want a simple camera to monitor my hunting areas. Do you offer a basic - cheap - camera?
Answer
Q:
Your products have lots of "bells and whistles" - this seems like over-kill.
Answer
Q: Do you offer any kits so I can make a system with my own camera?
Answer


Technical FAQ's - Typical questions asked during the design phase of custom products. These questions & answers may help you decide on the type of system best suited to your requirements.

Q: What types of sensors / triggers are available for your cameras / data collection systems?
Answer
Q: What's the best system for my application?
Answer
Q: What's the difference between Passive IR and Active IR break-beam detectors?
Answer
Q: What about mechanical triggers?
Answer
Q: I've read of "behavior modeling" for automatic camera control. Do your systems use this?
Answer


Product Use FAQ's
Q: What sort of battery life can I expect from your systems?
Answer
Q: My system won't turn on / work properly - what's wrong?
Answer


General Interest FAQ's - concerning our company and products.

Q: I've never heard of your company before , when can I expect to see some of your products for sale?
A:
Crow Systems has been manufacturing specialized, custom built equipment for research biologists for over 16 years. Until recently, our equipment has been built on a special-order basis only. At this time we are preparing to launch a standard product line which will be available for short term and long term lease, or  with a lease-to-purcahse option. The first model to be introduced is a self contained system consisting of an extremely durable weather-tight housing, fully automatic digital camera, easy to use control circuitry, adjustable sensitivity passive infrared motion detector, and mounting brackets with optional security provisions. More details will be provided for each product as it is released.

Q: What other types of equipment can be expected in the future?
A: Based on our experience in designing custom systems, we will eventually offer an extensive line of off-the-shelf research tools. Products in the design phase range from simple switch activated camera and data collection systems, highly specialized small scale active Infra-Red sensors, and seismic sensor systems. We plan to incorporate into our product line useful research tools produced by other manufacturers - from GPS units to water-proof paper.

Q: We have experienced problems with theft in the past. Do your products have theft prevention?
A:
Yes, security is an important consideration in the development of our equipment. Integrated software and hardware security features are standard and/or optional accessories for our camera and data collection products. It must be remembered that a dedicated thief will get what he/she wants. Armed with a hacksaw, bolt-cutters, and time, a thief will defeat even the best security features - regardless of any manufacturers claims. Camouflage and discrete placement offer the best protection for your equipment. Please see our helpful tips page for ideas.

Q: I want to camouflage my system to prevent theft. Do you offer dipped or painted camo designs?
A: We believe camouflage and discrete placement is the best theft prevention. The 'dipped' camouflage designs
are very attractive on the store shelf, but are not very effective at concealment. They are also limited as to season and habitat, and add substantial cost to a system, with minimal real value in return.
The only truly effective camouflage is the "ghillie suit" type that allows the user to adapt their camouflage to the season, habitat, and weather. Ghillie suit camouflage fabrics and materials are available from many sources.
Almost all of our systems are supplied in 'tactical black'. For use with ghillie suit camouflage, the case may be painted a neutral background color. For additional information, contact us.

Q: I want a simple camera to monitor my hunting areas. Do you offer a basic - cheap - camera?
A:
We have made the decision to focus on adaptable research-grade equipment. Manufacturers of low-grade "strap&switch" game trail cameras and cheap (both in quality & price) "do-it-yourself" kits have proliferated recently (beware - you get what you pay for!). Several companies now offer cheap, low quality, basic game-trail cameras. The possibility also exists to try and build a simple game-trail camera yourself. Try a web search on that subject.

Q: Your products have lots of "bells and whistles" - this seems like over-kill?
A: Our products may seem like a virtual symphony compared to other offerings. Why? It is the only way to ensure maximum adaptability to many possible research situations.
All of our systems can also be used in a pre-configured PRESET mode for non-demanding applications. Let other manufacturers strap on noise makers - Crow Systems designs functionality.


Q: Do you offer any kits so I can make a setup with my own camera?
A: We had considered this option, but decided against offering kits. There are so many camera models with different operating characteristics that it would be difficult or impossible to properly cover all models.
Additionally, since kits are generally low-end products, the quality of the circuitry is typically substandard.


Technical FAQ's - Typical questions asked during the design phase of our custom products. These questions and answers may help you decide on the type of system best suited to your requirements.

Q: What types of sensors / triggers are available for your cameras / data collection systems?
A:
The most commonly requested sensors / triggers include: Passive IR motion sensors, active IR break-beam sensors, pressure mats/bags, mechanical / magnetic switches, and trip-line or string switches. Less common - and more costly - systems have employed hybrid passive / microwave sensors, ultrasonic transducers, seismic, and video signal level detectors.

Q: What's the best system for my application?
A:
That depends on many factors: Environmental conditions, desirable / undesirable subject discrimination, range requirements, etc. See below for specifics on some commonly requested sensor / trigger systems. Send us the outlines of your research requirements and we'll see if we can offer some suggestions.

Q: What's the difference between Passive IR and Active IR break-beam detectors?
A:
The answer is in two parts. We'll cover the most commonly requested system, the Passive IR, first.

The Passive Infra-Red (PIR) sensor emits no energy, it simply detects the radiation emitted by warm bodied targets. The target to be detected has to be moving within the detection area in order to trigger the sensor. A very slow moving or still target will not be detected. The target also must have a temperature that is noticeably different  - higher or lower - than that of the surrounding area. A target that is nearly equal in temperature to its surroundings will probably not be detected - no matter how it moves through the detection area. A very small target will be difficult to detect - regardless of its body temperature - unless it is very close to the sensor.
Therefore
: A targets surface temperature, size, speed of movement, distance from sensor, and difference in surface temperature from its background all play a part in determining a PIR sensors sensitivity and detection range. Click on the images below to see enlarged versions of the top and side view of the detection area for our standard PIR sensor. The maximum range for our standard PIR sensor for a human-sized target at an ambient temperature of 65º F (20º C) is approximately 50 feet (14 meters). PIR sensors with longer ranges are available, but for photographic purposes we have determined this detection range to be ideal. Longer range sensors are also more suceptible to falsing.
NOTE: A large target - such as a person, bear, deer, etc, - will often trigger a PIR-type sensor even when the ambient temperature is equal to the targets surface temperature.  Why? - Because a large target is almost never uniform in temperature across its entire surface. Therefore it can act as its own background and may supply enough temperature differential to trigger the sensor.
Advantages: Very low power consumption. Easy to set up. Wide coverage area, not easily blocked by fallen debris - (see below in discussion of active IR sensors). Our Passive Infra-Red detectors utilize mirror-reflective optics in place of the Fresnel lenses found in most low-end consumer grade motion sensors. The reflective optics allow for small sensor windows - which makes for a more durable harsh environment product. The reflective optics are not damaged by UV exposure, and are less prone to failure due to impacts.
Disadvantages: PIR motion sensors are susceptible to false triggering due to environmental conditions or improper set-up, loss of sensitivity when target and ambient temperature are close, and normally can not detect very slow-moving, small, or ectothermic (cold-bodied, generally matching ambient temp) targets. They are not very accurate - a quick moving target could end up offset to one side of picture. See our in-depth PIR detector information page.

FOV drawingPIR sensor Field Of View drawings.

The Active Infra-Red or break-beam sensors (sometimes referred to as "electric-eyes") are usually specified for more demanding, specialized uses. The break-beam detector utilizes an infra-red receiver and emitter. It creates a beam of infra-red light that could be likened to a trip-line. It does not rely on the radiated body heat of an object in order to be triggered. When any object moves into the path of the beam and blocks the infra-red light from reaching the receiver, this triggers the camera or data collection system.
Advantages: Very accurate detection area, virtually immune to temperature / environmental changes, can detect any target - large, small, hot or cold-bodied.
Disadvantages: Much higher power consumption. Much more difficult to set up. If an object (fallen branch, etc.) falls into and blocks the path of the beam, this can disable the system and/or cause false events to be recorded. The nominal range of our standard active IR systems is 30 feet (10 meters). We have also designed specialized systems for very short range micro-target detection. Longer range active IR detectors, while possible, consume excessive power, are difficult to set up and keep aligned, and are in general not very useful for photographic purposes.

Q: What about mechanical triggers?
A: Mechanical triggers range from simple lever switches, trip lines, pressure sensitive mats and bags,  magnetic proximity switches, etc. With a bit of imagination, the possibilities are nearly endless! Most any mechanical switch can be integrated into the passive or active IR sensor systems described above, allowing for the use of the control circuitry already incorporated into those systems. This combination of mechanical and electronic sensors makes for a truly all-purpose research tool.

Q: I've read of "behavior modeling" for automatic camera control. Do your systems use this?
A:
We do not believe that wild animals in a natural environment will comply with any "behavior model". Individual personality, habitat, time of year, weather, and many other factors contribute to an animals behavior on a moment-by-moment basis. To claim to have an accurate "model" of even a single species (out of 1000's of possible species that automated cameras are used to monitor) is just plain misleading to the consumer.
The wide selection of functions available in our systems interact with each other, allowing the user to create their own functional parameters - rather than relying on any limited "model".


Product use FAQ's
Q: What sort of battery life can I expect from your systems?
A: The answer depends upon the systems involved, the severity of the enviroment in which the systems are used, and the type of battery installed. Our Camera Control System will operate for over a year on a single high quality 9 volt alkaline battery. Video cameras, digital still cameras, CCD 'bullet' cameras, and other devices may have their own battery packs with specific battery run-times. In cold environments, run times will be reduced.

Q: My system won't turn on / work properly - what's wrong?
A: There are several items to check.
  • Battery condition is the most likely cause. Visually inspect the battery(s) and battery clip(s) for any signs of physical fault or damage. Immediately replace any battery showing signs of damage. If the battery or clip contacts appear dirty, clean the contacts.
  • Battery state-of-charge should be checked. This test must be done with a load-type battery tester. These are available from Radio Shack, or from many on-line distributors. A battery that does not pass a load test can cause improper operation and should be replaced or recharged.
  • Rechargeable batteries can fail from improper charging, or may have reached their normal product life cycle. If using rechargeable batteries, for longest life and best performance, use a high-quality charger that also has a 'conditioning' function. Make sure that the charger is appropriate for your battery type.
  • Power Switches - Some of our systems have more than one power On/Off switch. There may also be external devices (cameras, data loggers, video processors, lighting, etc) that have  their own power On/Off controls. Make sure that all of the power switches are On, and that all battery packs are in good condition with an adequate state-of-charge.
  • System Interconnects - Check any cables and cable contacts for signs of contamination or damage. Clean dirty contacts. Damaged cables and/or contacts should be replaced.
  • Lenses & Sensor Apertures - Inspect all lens and sensor windows for contamination or damage. Carefully clean dirty windows. Replace defective windows before further use.


"If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows" -
Henry Ward Beecher

"Who would believe that a small scene of nature could contain the images of the universe?" -
Leonardo da Vinci

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