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Balloon & Kite Mapping

09 Jun 17:49 113,621 views | Last edited by mathew 12 months ago | shortlink

Mobius cameras and smaller balloons

by warren 5 days ago | 6 | 237 views | 7

I've been curious about how little helium it'd take to lift a Möbius camera as we've been using f...

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The Magic Behind MapKnitter: Leaflet.DistortableImage

by justinmanley 5 days ago | 3 | 280 views | 3

Leaflet.DistortableImage is a new plugin for the JavaScript mapping library Leaflet, written by ...

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New Orleans City Park Mapping

by stevie 13 days ago | 2 | 260 views | 0

Public Lab will be hosting a DIY aerial mapping field trip and workshop Saturday May 30th from 10...

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Bayou Bienvenue Mapping!

by stevie 14 days ago | 3 | 283 views | 0

May 23rd, Public Lab is partnering up with the Backyard Gardener's Network to do aerial mapping o...

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Presentación de resultados de “Cartografia aèria de barri” en Barcelona

by pablo about 1 month ago | 1 | 581 views | 4

El sábado 25 de abril 2015 se presentan los resultados de “Cartografía de Barrio”, unos talleres ...

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April 12 Newtown Creek balloon mapping pics

by liz about 1 month ago | 1 | 459 views | 0

Willis shows the camera rig: The incredible bubble box bike -- who made this??? Two canoes:...

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Newtown Creek Workshop with Balloon Photography

by nameiswillis about 1 month ago | 2 | 496 views | 2

http://www.newtowncreekalliance.org/april-12th-north-henry-st-workshop/ Please join the Newtown ...

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The KAPtery marches on

by cfastie 2 months ago | 5 | 647 views | 5

After a year of 3D printing camera rigs for aerial mapping, I would have expected to be bored. In...

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More research on "balloon-mapping" »


Title Last edited Edits Pageviews Likes
Urban Waters Mapping, NOLA 6 days ago by stevie 69 1,851 3
How to Map 18 days ago by stevie 7 245 1
Revealing the Invisible in Spain 2 months ago by MollyDanielsson 2 431 0
Vadi Asbestonim 3 months ago by asbest 27 978 0
GLAM Two-Tether Balloon Method: navigating urban waterways 3 months ago by MollyDanielsson 3 578 0
Aerial Balloon Mapping 6 months ago by aferland 28 1,689 1
Sky Camera 9 months ago by mercyorangi 12 7,884 8
Youth Balloon Mapping Workshop Curriculum 10 months ago by warren 3 1,562 2
Balloon Mapping Guide 12 months ago by warren 2 1,728 0
Mapping Curriculum: High Altitude Mapping about 1 year ago by gonzoearth 8 2,469 0
NDVI from the PLOTS near infrared camera over 1 year ago by cfastie 34 22,356 0
Helium over 1 year ago by warren 9 4,366 1
Kingsland Park over 1 year ago by gdotoli 1 2,188 0
Vermont Public Lab Organizing: Toxics Action Center and Public Lab! over 1 year ago by cfastie 10 3,874 1
Balloon Mapping Media about 2 years ago by warren 4 3,118 0
3d Mapping about 2 years ago by warren 3 3,242 0
North Shore, Mass, Mapping Meetup: Pavilion Beach, Ipswich -- April 6, 2013 about 2 years ago by wward1400 18 10,778 0
Tidmarsh Farms meetup over 2 years ago by pablo 18 4,757 0
State of the Map, my slides & notes over 2 years ago by mathew 1 2,650 0
Hydrogen Balloons over 2 years ago by mathew 6 9,694 1
Helium Kite over 2 years ago by mathew 4 3,779 0
Payload Weight over 2 years ago by mathew 3 2,249 0
Canon A495 Tips over 2 years ago by cfastie 14 5,775 0
Bamboo/tyvek kite and solar balloon construction workshop almost 3 years ago by liz 32 6,955 0
dual camera trigger about 3 years ago by mathew 4 3,742 1
GrassrootsMappingBelizeMarch10 about 3 years ago by warren 2 1,851 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeMarch5 about 3 years ago by warren 2 1,845 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeFeb25 about 3 years ago by warren 2 1,834 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeFeb21 about 3 years ago by warren 2 1,818 2
Grassroots Mapping Coal River about 3 years ago by warren 2 2,146 2

How Can I Do This?

Our whole toolkit is linked out below, but really fast:

  1. Buy our balloon kit, assemble your own, or buy/make a kite.
  2. find a good camera.
  3. determine how you will trigger the camera, (we suggest a rubber band) or pick out a timelapse app for your smartphone.
  4. build a simple housing from a plastic bottle.
  5. find a site to map that is five miles from an airport and not Washington D.C. (or learn about the regulations yourself)
  6. follow the pre-flight checklist(pdf) and quickstart guide(pdf) to safely fill up your balloon and fly!
  7. maneuver your balloon at your site
  8. sort your images on your desktop (Mac,Windows) or with Mapmill.
  9. make them into a map with Mapknitter.
  10. Print a poster of your map from Mapknitter, see your map join the public record in our archive, and if you'd like, even in Google Earth.
  11. Share your expertise with others and help stitch maps by joining the Cartography Collective

Willie Schubert over at the GeoJournalism Handbook has made a printable walk-through including many of these steps

Why Balloons and Kites?

These tools are being developed to provide a low cost, easy to use, and safe methods for making maps and aerial images. Over the last two years, we’ve built a global community of mappers who are engaged in discussion around the development and use of this tool and others.

Normally aerial maps are made from satellites and airplanes. The balloon and kite ground-based approach introduces an on-demand capability where events or environmental conditions are mapped at a specific moment in time. Our community is particularly interested in applying this to civic and environmental issues.

Maps are often used by those in power to exert influence over territory, or control territorial narratives. "Grassroots mapping" attempts to invert this dynamic by using maps as a mode of communication and as evidence for an alternative, community-owned definition of a territory. To date, our tools have been used to contest official maps or rhetoric by enabling communities to map sites that are not included in official maps. In Lima Peru, members of an informal settlement developed maps of their community as evidence of their habitation, while on the Gulf Coast of the US, locally produced maps of oil are being used to document damage that is underreported by the state.

Browse maps and data generated with this technique in the Public Laboratory Archive

Browse Research Notes on Balloon Mapping


A short video by Mathew Lippincott on setting up and launching your balloon.


Applications and Example Uses

Residents of the Gulf Coast are using balloons and kites to produce their own aerial imagery of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill… documentation that will be essential for environmental and legal use in coming years. We believe in complete open access to spill imagery and are releasing all imagery from the oil spill mapping project into the public domain. Browse maps and data from the Gulf Coast and elsewhere in the Public Laboratory Archive

Lake Borgne, Louisiana

Get Involved

Grassroots Mapping Toolkit

Our aerial mapping toolkit is a simplified kite and balloon aerial photography system for easy and accessible high-resolution map-making. The tookit consists of:

Flight platforms: Assembling a balloon kit will cost from $100-200, including helium.

Camera housings: Single Line systems: The PET Bottle & Rubber Band Rig wraps around the small and medium sized cameras (up to micro 4/3) for crash protection while firmly mounting it in a position for vertical images.

For heavy cameras, a Trash Can Rig offers more protection.

Multiple Line Systems: these are more complex to build but can provide added stability, especially useful for video. Several people have created Picavet rigs.

Cameras: A small camera that supports continuous shooting mode and a large storage card, or an excellent camera phone are our preferred options.

Mapmaking software: Public Laboratory's MapKnitter is easy to use browser software for map making. Continue on to MapKnitter Guide and MapKnitter Help for more information.

Useful guides: Our latest guides can always be found on the Guides page, including:

Curricula and workshops: Our Curriculum-Guide covers the entire process and some theory behind mapping. It is still in beta.

Advanced Techniques

Places to start contributing


Tags: balloon-mapping list:grassrootsmapping warren tabbed:notes tabbed:wikis proven-in-the-field tool