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What a near-perfect-accuracy yet dirt-cheap way for a drone or other miniature embedded computer to sense whether it's indoors vs outdoors? Some ideas:

  • Geo position sensor if small, low power, and cheap enough
  • Light sensor to detect the 60 Hz flicker of electric lights
  • Antenna and analog filter to detect EMI typical of occupied buildings
  • Echo generator & microphone
  • broad-spectrum UV-visible-IR photosensors to discriminate natural vs solar light
  • Thermometer, barometer, or other air sensors
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  • \$\begingroup\$ This question would be a good fit for the upcoming Robotics SE. Don't forget to go over there and 'Commit' to the proposal, so we can bring it into existence. \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Oct 6 '12 at 20:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ You forgot the colon after http, in the link. Corrected link: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/40020 \$\endgroup\$ – AlcubierreDrive Oct 7 '12 at 18:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Er, it was a test to see if you read it. \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Oct 7 '12 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Uh huh ;). Anyways, I did commit. \$\endgroup\$ – AlcubierreDrive Oct 8 '12 at 8:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I hope not. But I think that pure EE questions would be off-topic there, just as robotics questions are really supposed to be off-topic here. So there shouldn't be much overlap really. I saw you committed, thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Oct 8 '12 at 9:16
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Light with wavelenght shorter than 300nm is scarce in the output of most types of lightbulbs and it is highly absorbed by typical window glass. On the other hand, it is relatively abundant in sunlight. Therefore a light sensor with a medium/far UV passing filter should do the job with a little bit of calibration. Open windows might confuse it.


References

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    \$\begingroup\$ Adding on to this, the ambient light sensor method is what smartphones (at least the iPhone) use to know when to auto-adjust the display brightness based on the light conditions. Here is one ambient light sensor you can try: TEMT6000. And here is a brief discussion of that sensor: Bildr article. \$\endgroup\$ – boardbite Aug 25 '12 at 2:54

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