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
WaterGeek "I tried using a dashcam for something similar. I had one in old car, but didn't need it in my new car (which has a backup cam), so all of a sudden ..." | Read more » over 1 year ago
Bronwen "@a1ahna Have you reached out to Into The Wind? They sell reels and line separately, but might be worth reaching out to see if they would do custo..." | Read more » over 2 years ago
stevie "This has become a real challenge! Adding in a couple more friends! @shanlter @liz " | Read more » over 2 years ago
WendyJospeh "Great project " | Read more » about 3 years ago
amocorro "@warren @eustatic - know anyone that would be able to answer this question? Neat tool @mimiss! " | Read more » over 3 years ago
soniakakkad122 "Such a wonderful article this is. This article is significant and important for us. Much obliged to you for offering this sort of instructive artic..." | Read more » over 3 years ago
adam-griffith "Thanks, Liz. I have used Canon cameras before and gotten the lens errors and have also used CHDK. I agree that the a490 Canon is simple, but I am..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
liz "I personally love anything in the Canon S series (s90, s95, s100, s110, etc). I appreciate how with a half hour in front of a laptop, a little scri..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
ryangaia "Thank you @cfastie for answering this and mentioning that that helium "does not have much thermal mass". The temperature was my main hypothesis. No..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
cfastie "Yes, any gas will be less dense when it is hotter and therefore will have more lift. If the gas inside the balloon is the same as the gas outside (..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
sachinjangra553 "Get sarkari result updates on " | Read more » over 4 years ago
SuziT9 "Hi, Bronwen -- Thanks for your post. I was doing similar math, but somehow it still didn't work! We were trying to lift a camera of only about 70 g..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
Bronwen "I look at this webpage ALL THE TIME: According to this chart, a regular 11" balloon will lift abou..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
warren "My other thought is to look at what @oscar-brett has done to design a communal activity around using lots of party balloons:" | Read more » over 4 years ago
warren "My first thought on this is that the volume of a sphere grows much faster (it's 3 dimensions, so cubed!) than just adding more balloons (which is j..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
Nubu "OK thanks a lot for your answer! Unfortunately this won't be enough for our purposes. Also the Airpup, as far as I saw, may only with the help of w..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
Bronwen " You can see a little more about lift here: the balloons we sell are 5.5' across, so their..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
molangmuir10 " I will look into this! Thanks " | Read more » over 4 years ago
molangmuir10 " Thanks Chris that's really helpful! " | Read more » over 4 years ago
cfastie " Marking your kite or balloon line is a very good way to do this. It is a bit of a chore to do it, but maybe easier than building a data logger or ..." | Read more » almost 5 years ago
JSummers "You may be able to do this using the GPS on your phone with an app like Strava. I think the Z direction accuracy of GPS is not as good as the XY a..." | Read more » almost 5 years ago
JSummers " I think what you want will be called a barometer. It is what drones use to measure altitude. They are not super expensive, here is one for $6.70..." | Read more » almost 5 years ago
molangmuir10 " Thanks!! that's really helpful Bronwen! " | Read more » almost 5 years ago
Bronwen " Hi! You might be interested in some of the responses on this note: I woul..." | Read more » almost 5 years ago