Monday, September 02, 2013

Time to look at a balloon project again?

Just a quick blog post from my phone, more as a "note to self" as a future project than a full write up, but perhaps it may also serve as a starting point for others who follow my blog to begin their own research...

I've looked at and dismissed a high altitude balloon project several times in the past. There have been a number of reasons, but not least of these has been the costs involved - the latex balloon, large volume of helium required to fill it and the risk of losing an expensive payload all make for an expensive flight.
However a few news posts and blog entries on the web recently have found their way to my attention, suggesting that there is a lower cost entry route to this fascinating area of research.

I refer of course to "pico balloon projects".

Unlike the more frequently reported "high altitude" flights which carry complex payloads, usually equipped with cameras to "near space" heights of around 30km using a meteorological balloon and parachute recovery system, Pico balloon projects carry a very lightweight payload - typically just a few tens of grams - and are lifted using inexpensive foil "party" balloons (£3.95!!). They make a maximum altitude of just a few km, but can under ideal conditions make lengthy flights.

The weight restriction on the payload is governed by the very limited lift available from the balloon itself, but should not be viewed too negatively as with a little ingenuity a lot of technology can be packed into a 50g mass. It does also mean that the overall cost of the payload is lower, an advantage if recovery is uncertain.

From the little bit of research I've done, it seems there are some "off the shelf" boards available (pcb designs and firmware are open source). Personally, I would probably want to develop my own flight computer - probably using an arduino as the test platform, then building a cut down version using just the required components only (which looks to be the way others have gone too).
Bellow are a very few quick links to get you started...

edit (I forgot this one!) : (hardware)  (balloons)  (general info - not pico specific)

1 comment:

  1. looks like a good starting point