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Balloon & Kite Mapping

25 Jun 17:10 118,346 views | Last edited by warren about 1 month ago | shortlink

A Lending Library (shipping and other troubles in the holyland)

by hagitkeysar 5 days ago | 0 | 312 views | 1

I am writing this research note to start thinking and planning how to solve the problems with shi...

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Wetland Watchers July 2015

by eustatic 20 days ago | 5 | 419 views | 1

What We want to map the St Charles Parish West LaBranche Shoreline Protection Project Map here ...

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New Orleans Map Viewing Party

by stevie 25 days ago | 1 | 1,070 views | 0

Public Lab is celebrating the end of a community project aimed to map eight water restoration sit...

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Mapping the Sweetwater Festival in Rolla, British Columbia

by ann about 1 month ago | 0 | 481 views | 0

On June 13, 2015, I led a balloon mapping workshop at the Sweetwater 905 Arts and Music Festival ...

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KAP comes first

by cfastie about 1 month ago | 0 | 568 views | 2

This week Bre Pettis left Stratasys, two years after Stratasys bought MakerBot, the 3D printer co...

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Prince George Mapping Workshop

by ann about 1 month ago | 12 | 908 views | 1

Aerial images, taken where you need them, when you need them, can be powerful tools. Imagine bein...

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Sweetwater Festival Mapping Workshop

by ann about 1 month ago | 0 | 503 views | 0

Public Lab will be leading a mapping workshop at the annual Sweetwater 905 Arts Festival in Rolla...

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OpenDroneMap,OpenAerialMap,and MapKnitter

by smathermather about 1 month ago | 4 | 674 views | 3

A great post a couple weeks ago from Jeff Warren addressed some of the questions of what are the ...

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More research on "balloon-mapping" »


Title Last edited Edits Pageviews Likes
How to Map 5 days ago by stevie 13 881 2
Revealing the Invisible in Spain 4 months ago by MollyDanielsson 2 784 0
Vadi Asbestonim 6 months ago by asbest 27 1,365 0
GLAM Two-Tether Balloon Method: navigating urban waterways 6 months ago by MollyDanielsson 3 963 0
Aerial Balloon Mapping 9 months ago by aferland 28 2,225 1
Sky Camera 12 months ago by mercyorangi 12 8,479 8
Youth Balloon Mapping Workshop Curriculum about 1 year ago by warren 3 1,904 2
Balloon Mapping Guide about 1 year ago by warren 2 2,046 0
Mapping Curriculum: High Altitude Mapping over 1 year ago by gonzoearth 8 2,702 0
NDVI from the PLOTS near infrared camera over 1 year ago by cfastie 34 24,127 0
Helium over 1 year ago by warren 9 4,709 10
Kingsland Park almost 2 years ago by gdotoli 1 2,427 0
Vermont Public Lab Organizing: Toxics Action Center and Public Lab! almost 2 years ago by cfastie 10 4,086 1
Balloon Mapping Media about 2 years ago by warren 4 3,356 0
3d Mapping over 2 years ago by warren 3 3,458 0
North Shore, Mass, Mapping Meetup: Pavilion Beach, Ipswich -- April 6, 2013 over 2 years ago by wward1400 18 11,060 0
Tidmarsh Farms meetup over 2 years ago by pablo 18 4,974 0
State of the Map, my slides & notes almost 3 years ago by mathew 1 2,892 0
Hydrogen Balloons almost 3 years ago by mathew 6 10,703 1
Helium Kite almost 3 years ago by mathew 4 4,041 0
Payload Weight almost 3 years ago by mathew 3 2,436 0
Canon A495 Tips almost 3 years ago by cfastie 14 6,214 1
Bamboo/tyvek kite and solar balloon construction workshop about 3 years ago by liz 32 7,231 0
dual camera trigger about 3 years ago by mathew 4 3,972 1
GrassrootsMappingBelizeMarch10 over 3 years ago by warren 2 2,020 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeMarch5 over 3 years ago by warren 2 2,004 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeFeb25 over 3 years ago by warren 2 1,977 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeFeb21 over 3 years ago by warren 2 1,967 3
Grassroots Mapping Coal River over 3 years ago by warren 2 2,340 2
Google Earth Publishes Community-created Maps from the Public Lab Archive over 3 years ago by Shannon 1 1,954 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

You can also read many stories about these tools in use around the world at the Public Lab Stories page

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