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) 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
molangmuir10 " " | Read more » over 4 years ago
Ag8n " Ref balloon " | Read more » over 4 years ago
Ag8n " It depends on the weight of what you are trying to lift. At sea level, based on the ideal gas law, the amount you can lift is 1.02 g of pay load..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
pataxte " Hello @mlamadrid! Thanks for your response...let's talk more. You can email me at " | Read more » over 4 years ago
mlamadrid " Hi! I am DTLA and have both a balloon and a kite kit. I would love to help. Let's connect and see if we can make something happen. " | Read more » over 4 years ago
Arsath " Hi, nice question we can't say exactly how long it will last it depends upon the size and material of the balloon. you can refill the cylinder or ..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
dusjagr "We are getting amazingly good results using the miSphere 360 camera. due to the gyroscope and other sensor, post-processing using their standard so..." | Read more » almost 5 years ago
pfhs "Thanks again, Warren. This is a good start. " | Read more » about 5 years ago
warren "Hi, no problem! What about this one via LifeHacker? It's a bit short, but not bad:" | Read more » over 5 years ago
Bronwen "Yes, please do share and let us know how your week of aerial mapping goes: that sounds like a great project! When we get helium in NYC we go to a p..." | Read more » over 5 years ago
pfhs "Thank you @bronwen! This is our first year, so I think I will get one of each kits and give it a try. I will report back with our successes (and fa..." | Read more » over 5 years ago
Bronwen "Hi @pfhs thanks for reaching out! The 5' balloon should be fine for two days of use, without re-inflation, but will have diminishing returns after ..." | Read more » over 5 years ago
daisywatson "Thanks Warren :) " | Read more » over 5 years ago
warren "There are some options here! #fisheye Hope that helps! " | Read more » over 5 years ago
daisywatson "I love GoPro, and I am following up to the question as I do want to know for some alternatives to it for aerial mapping. I have already been readin..." | Read more » over 5 years ago
mathew "glad you found the info, @ag8n! Some kite physics about altitude and line length is covered in notes on kite anemometers " | Read more » over 5 years ago
warren "I know this isn't precisely the same thing but it's good related information! " | Read more » over 5 years ago
warren "@stevie reports: The general rule of thumb I have used in the past is that the hight of your camera will be about the width of the photo it will t..." | Read more » over 5 years ago
Ag8n "Got it! It's at: Https:// It also has a link to a program called kitemodeller, since the math for..." | Read more » over 5 years ago
warren "Just noting that @csik has had trouble with some of these types of cameras recently: I chocked it up to not being familiar with the cameras but fo..." | Read more » over 5 years ago
WilMac "I am at high altitude (6,000 ft) and if there is even 5 m.p.h. it is near impossible to fly. I am using high grade helium from a welding shop and ..." | Read more » almost 6 years ago
stevie "Hi @edugil The rule of thumb I've used in the past is if the wind is over 10mph, go for a kite! check out these wiki pages: -" | Read more » almost 6 years ago
edugil "Solved, ballons --> no wind, kites --> wind :) " | Read more » almost 6 years ago
mrw0116 "Chris, thanks much for these details. This gives me a much better idea of costs and how much helium I might need. " | Read more » almost 6 years ago