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
mrw0116 "Thanks, Warren. Good to know, but a little scary. " | Read more » almost 6 years ago
cfastie "Nine cubic meters for 500 euros is not a terrible deal. That's 318 cubic feet (which is a huge tank, so that's a problem unless you don't really ha..." | Read more » almost 6 years ago
warren "Hi! There's some stuff up on this page about using hydrogen, but there are a lot of valid concerns about safety:" | Read more » almost 6 years ago
haneetsinghp "I Liked recently launched Eken H6S 4K Action camera, on YTECHB " | Read more » almost 6 years ago
suman "I apologize for my late response. I went through mini balloon mapping kit. Lets consider the 36 inch mylar balloons, approx many would a 15 L heliu..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
hppyromz "Authorized disclosures include limited circumstances such as the following: (a) in a legal proceeding in which the USPS is a party or has an intere..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
warren "Hi, it depends on how big your balloon is and what it's made of. If you use a rubber balloon, it'll deflate over a day or two. If you use mylar, li..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
maltheR "Thank you guys - was wondering the same too...... " | Read more » about 6 years ago
warren "Hi Chris - yeah i would be surprised if it's actually different, these almost all seem like the same hardware in different cases. I have found some..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
cfastie "Here is a strange development. This action camera has a 1MP sensor. It is a 1/4" sensor which has an area of 10 square mm. The native image size is..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
cfastie "Here is an easy camera rig you can build yourself. A parts list and complete instructions for making one are in this research note: https://publ..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
zengirl2 "I was just looking at this design by two girls doing the high altitude ballooning. I like their triangular base and was thinking of a popsicle stic..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
cfastie "The prices at Aliexpress seemed to be the about the same as at Amazon. Some of the product descriptions at Aliexpress named the sensor. For exampl..." | Read more » over 6 years ago
hank "I suggest you try instead of Amazon -- why pay double or more money for stuff when you can buy it direct from China? They are an um..." | Read more » over 6 years ago
cfastie "A good starting point for evaluating these sub $60 action cameras is the sensor. Many if not all of these cameras use sensors that do not have as m..." | Read more » over 6 years ago
warren "Just wanted to note that @cfastie's been working on the #skypod -- which may fit your needs! " | Read more » over 6 years ago
warren "These or similar cameras are as low as $40 now! Via @azaelb at" | Read more » over 6 years ago
warren "Just noting this post by @SeanKMcGinnis on using #raspberry-pi-cameras --" | Read more » over 6 years ago
warren "Of course, it'd be great to see an even cheaper #raspberry-pi -based alternative too! " | Read more » over 6 years ago
mathew "Yes, thanks, Chris! I was focusing on finding the right image, not getting the right numbers in. " | Read more » over 6 years ago
cfastie "Mathew, that diagram is a little misleading. A lens with a 45° field of view (focal length of 44mm equiv.) would capture a photo with a long side e..." | Read more » over 6 years ago
mathew "Chris's simplified answer is illustrated in our balloon mapping guide: Most camera lenses have a viewing area angle close to 90 degrees, but oft..." | Read more » over 6 years ago
ives "That's the same measure I always adopted. For 100m above the ground level, 100m coverage at the smaller side of the picture. " | Read more » over 6 years ago
cfastie "The area of ground covered by an aerial photograph depends on both the height of the camera and the focal length of the lens. Lenses typically used..." | Read more » over 6 years ago