September 11, 2015 4:26 AM   Subscribe

This one was fairly endlessly entertaining to a certain four-year-old of my acquaintance. Lots of activity, zoom up into the upper atmosphere, suspense until 2:15, then BOOM and the balloon explodes and parachutes pop and the payload descends and crashes into a tree. "One more time!" Over and over.
posted by pracowity at 4:42 AM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

That's fairly awesome. Do you have to alert the authorities if you launch one of these to make sure it doesn't interfere with a flight plan?
posted by codacorolla at 6:00 AM on September 11, 2015

I took part in a project that did this in Illinois. We had six GoPros mounted in a large ring for gyroscopic stability. I wrote a piece of software to stitch the six videos into a single "tiny planet" view (coverage was imperfect). Here's a video of the launch. Here's a video of the pop.
posted by rlk at 6:01 AM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I took part in a similar project that we launched about 6 weeks ago here in the UK. I provided the inspiration and two small children to be enthused, my friend did all the electronics and the harder bits. It was an incredibly satisfying experience.

Turns out it's very easy to send a balloon up with some camera on it. All you need to do is get a weather balloon and some helium, and away you go. The difficult bit is getting the cameras (and anything else) back again. So the more complex bit involves building a tracker that broadcasts the location of the payload in a reliable way. You can (as in the project in the post) use phones to do this, but it's not necessarily reliable (as in the project in the post). You might lose coverage, or it might turn out that phones aren't happy operating at 100,000 feet.

With invaluable support from the UK High Altitude Society and their excellent wiki, we wound up building an Arduino based tracker that broadcast on an unlicensed radio band at 30 baud. Then with our own radio and the radios of amateur enthusiasts tracking the launch and relaying the telemetry to the habhub web tracker, we were able to keep tabs on the position of the balloon all the way up and back down again.

Our balloon took about 2.5 hours to go up to 100,000 feet and back down again, landing about 60 miles away from where we launched it. It took about 15 minutes searching in a field to find it again, and so we could retrieve all the videos and pictures.

We've not yet put any of the pictures online alas, but the shots of the balloon bursting were wonderful, and will find their way onto my walls very soon.

In terms of alerting the authorities, I can't tell you what you need to do in the US, but in the UK you have to apply for a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) from the Civil Aviation Authority, and then give local air traffic control a call 10 minutes before you launch just to check there's nothing in the area to worry about. You also need to keep an eye on the weather forecast to make sure that it's not predicted to land somewhere you don't want it to (a city, the sea, Area 51 etc.).
posted by grahamspankee at 6:59 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Some friends of mine did this back in the 1970s. Constrained to 1970s technology, they used a ham radio analog television transmitter and a single camera aimed at a mirror mounted on a RC motor to provide different views. At 110,000 feet or so the balloon burst and it seemed to take forever for the probe to reach the ground. There's a VHS recording of the 'telemetry' from that flight around somewhere.

Unfortunately, that one was launched from SW Ohio, not the scenic grand canyon. Wright Patterson AFB didn't mind, though they were far less happy about the aluminum foil box kite.
posted by Herodios at 7:01 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Exonerated prisoners after serving decades for...   |   Building cool dungeons in D&D Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments