Balloon & Kite Mapping

Balloon mapping is a low-cost way to take aerial photos using a camera, attached to a balloon, on a spool of string. People have done this from a few hundred feet up all the way to over 4,000 feet in the air. **** Our whole toolkit is linked out below, but really fast: 1. [Assemble your own](/wiki/balloon-mapping-materials), [buy our balloon kit](, or [buy/make a kite](/wiki/kite-mapping). 2. [find a good camera](/wiki/camera-selection). 3. [determine how you will trigger the camera](/wiki/camera-trigger), (we suggest a rubber band) or pick out a [timelapse app for your smartphone](/wiki/timelapse-apps). 4. build a [simple housing from a plastic bottle](/wiki/pet-bottle-rubber-band-rig). 5. find a site to map that is five miles from an airport and [not Washington D.C.](/wiki/mapping-curriculum-regulatory) (or [learn about the regulations](/wiki/balloon-mapping-regulations) yourself) 6. [follow the pre-flight checklist(pdf)](/sites/default/files/Balloon%20Mapping%20Pre-flight%20Checklist%20&%20Packing%20List.pdf) and [quickstart guide(pdf)](/sites/default/files/BalloonMappingQuickStartGuide1English.pdf) to safely fill up your balloon and fly! 7. [maneuver your balloon at your site]( 8. sort your images on your desktop ([Mac](/notes/mathew/1-30-2012/efficient-image-sorting-finder-preview-mac),[Windows](/notes/eustatic/06-08-2014/tips-on-sorting-on-windows-including-re-naming-filenames)) 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](/archive), and if you'd like, even in [Google Earth]( [Willie Schubert over at the GeoJournalism Handbook has made a printable walk-through including many of these steps]( ## Activities [activities:balloon-mapping] **** ### Questions about balloon mapping: [questions:balloon-mapping] Browse maps and data generated with this technique in the [Public Laboratory Archive](/archive) Browse [Research Notes on Balloon Mapping](/notes/balloon-mapping) _A short video by [Mathew Lippincott](/profile/mathew) on setting up and launching your balloon._ **** ### 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. * The Public Laboratory [Balloon Mapping Kit](/wiki/balloon-mapping-kit) is assembled from our preferred parts. * For alternative and low-cost materials, see the [Balloon Mapping Materials page]( * [Use this chart to calculate the lift you'll need.]( Camera housings: Single Line systems: [The PET Bottle & Rubber Band Rig](/wiki/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.](/wiki/trash-can-rig-heavy-cameras) Multiple Line Systems: these are more complex to build but can provide added stability, especially useful for video. [Several people have created Picavet rigs.](/wiki/picavet-rigging) Cameras: A small camera that supports continuous shooting mode and a large storage card, or an excellent camera phone are our preferred options. * Help [selecting a camera](/wiki/camera-selection) * Different ways of [triggering the camera shutter](/wiki/camera-trigger) * The [PicaPiKAP]( a Raspberry Pi based mapping camera. 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. * When mapmaking, efficient image sorting [either on your desktop](, or using [Mapmill](/wiki/upon-return) is a must. * Some people also use proprietary software such as Photoshop, [Hypr3d](, or [PhotoSynth]( For a freely distributed desktop option, check out the GNU Image Manipulation Program. Useful guides: Our latest guides can always be found on the [Guides](/guides) page, including: * The four-page [Grassroots Mapping Guide]( * The [Balloon Mapping Quick Start Guide to filling and flying]( (pdf) and [editable Google Doc]( * The [Balloon Mapping Check Lists]( (pdf) and [editable Google Doc](, which are extremely useful in planning field expeditions, even for experienced fliers. * We also maintain a [guide to FAA regulations](/wiki/balloon-mapping-regulations) page. Curricula and workshops: Our [Curriculum-Guide](/wiki/mapping-curriculum) covers the entire process and some theory behind mapping. It is still in beta. ###Advanced Techniques### * [Near-infrared imagery](/tool/near-infrared-camera) for vegetation monitoring and other uses. * [Image analysis](/wiki/image-analysis) - Try some of these techniques for bringing out detail and compositing your images with [near-infrared imagery](/tool/near-infrared-camera). * [Ground control point targets](/wiki/ground-control-point-targets) for correlating on-the-ground measurements directly with photos. * [Balloon telemetry](/tool/balloon-telemetry-kit) for recording GPS and gyroscopic data. * [Kite Balloons](/tool/kite-balloon-hybrid) experiments in wind-stabilized balloons * [Hydrogen ballooning](/wiki/hydrogen-balloons) - be very careful! ...

Author Comment Last activity Moderation
lionfish "Good work on the balloon maths - hopefully will come in useful for other people. Also your research into which lines and winders - quite a common q..." | Read more » almost 8 years ago
cfastie "First, the maths. 8 foot diameter balloon weighs 600 grams, so when inflated each cm² weighs 0.00321 grams 5.5 foot diameter balloon weighs 350 gra..." | Read more » almost 8 years ago
lionfish "Thanks cfastie and stevie. @stevie: I feel I've not put enough detail in yet to explain how it works: I'll make a new note to explain it properly w..." | Read more » almost 8 years ago
stevie "Awesome post! I'm sharing it with the Public Lab Grassroots Mapping google group incase other people want to ping in here. Great project! " | Read more » almost 8 years ago
cfastie "This all looks like a lot of fun. I'm sure the bumblebees are very excited as well. The balloon looks great. It looks like a larger version of the..." | Read more » almost 8 years ago
nshapiro "I don't think you need cell service to use the GPS on a phone. We used one in the middle of the pacific where there was no service. Thinking back, ..." | Read more » over 8 years ago
eustatic " " | Read more » over 8 years ago
eustatic " " | Read more » over 8 years ago
eustatic "no wind. MSY had 5mph, i don't think we had that--which is unusual for the lake --normally we have turbulent winds at the land / water interface " | Read more » over 8 years ago
geraldmc "Congrats on results. Awesome! Was there wind enough to fly kites too? " | Read more » over 8 years ago
eustatic "Giant Salvinia need to document this via inaturalist for email to managers " | Read more » over 8 years ago
ecta64 "Thanks. This balloon was latex but I likely should have replaced the string with something that would break down easier. " | over 8 years ago
mathew "awesome! great explanation, and I love the easy-listening soundtrack for the balloon ascent! remember to use biodegradable balloon string and buy ..." | over 8 years ago
lexispraxis "I will be attending! " | Read more » almost 9 years ago
danbeavers "The iCal is incorrect " | Read more » almost 9 years ago
tippelskirchi "I will be attending! " | Read more » almost 9 years ago
mathew "these are so lovely! " | Read more » almost 9 years ago
patcoyle "Very interesting approach and implementation. " | Read more » almost 9 years ago
mathew "@Wonko, I don't know that its illegal to track a balloon with cell phone-- can you cite that somewhere? balloons are a different flight category f..." | Read more » about 9 years ago
mathew "oh shoot I missed that. they looked like straight ties. thanks. " | Read more » over 9 years ago
cfastie "The ones I linked to have the hole in one end that the other end can pass through. " | Read more » over 9 years ago
mathew "@eustatic's straps had that cinch down bit that I like-- they're a little more, but those are also cheaper on Amazon." | Read more » over 9 years ago
cfastie "It looks like McMaster sells them for $5-6 per pack of ten. Here are 50 ties for $6:" | Read more » over 9 years ago
mathew "I'm buying a bunch of these from McMaster to try out as a cable tie replacement in the kit. " | Read more » over 9 years ago