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Balloon & Kite Mapping

09 Jun 17:49 91,162 views | Last edited by mathew 2 months ago

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More research on "balloon-mapping" »


Title Last edited Edits Pageviews Likes
Sky Camera 4 days ago by mercyorangi 12 5,285 7
Youth Balloon Mapping Workshop Curriculum about 1 month ago by warren 3 263 2
Balloon Mapping Guide 2 months ago by warren 2 484 0
Picavet Rigging 4 months ago by Juan 9 5,880 0
Publish in the Public Lab Archive 4 months ago by warren 21 4,480 0
Mapping Curriculum: High Altitude Mapping 5 months ago by gonzoearth 8 1,490 0
NDVI from the PLOTS near infrared camera 6 months ago by cfastie 34 14,316 0
Helium 8 months ago by warren 9 3,384 0
Kingsland Park 10 months ago by gdotoli 1 1,277 0
Vermont Public Lab Organizing: Toxics Action Center and Public Lab! 11 months ago by cfastie 10 3,226 1
Editing OpenStreetMap with your own aerial maps about 1 year ago by liz 12 3,975 2
Balloon Mapping Media over 1 year ago by warren 4 2,270 0
3d Mapping over 1 year ago by warren 3 2,361 0
North Shore, Mass, Mapping Meetup: Pavilion Beach, Ipswich -- April 6, 2013 over 1 year ago by wward1400 18 8,689 0
Air Column Monitor over 1 year ago by liz 10 4,490 1
Tidmarsh Farms meetup almost 2 years ago by pablo 18 3,936 0
State of the Map, my slides & notes almost 2 years ago by mathew 1 1,863 0
Hydrogen Balloons almost 2 years ago by mathew 6 5,595 1
Helium Kite almost 2 years ago by mathew 4 2,542 0
Payload Weight almost 2 years ago by mathew 3 1,704 0
Canon A495 Tips almost 2 years ago by cfastie 14 4,406 0
Bamboo/tyvek kite and solar balloon construction workshop about 2 years ago by liz 32 5,663 0
dual camera trigger over 2 years ago by mathew 4 2,969 1
GrassrootsMappingBelizeMarch10 over 2 years ago by warren 2 1,375 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeMarch5 over 2 years ago by warren 2 1,360 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeFeb25 over 2 years ago by warren 2 1,367 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeFeb21 over 2 years ago by warren 2 1,329 2
Grassroots Mapping Coal River over 2 years ago by warren 2 1,506 2
Google Earth Publishes Community-created Maps from the Public Lab Archive over 2 years ago by Shannon 1 1,473 2
March Mapping Madness-Boston over 2 years ago by warren 9 2,593 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