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](http://store.publiclab.org/products/balloon-mapping-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](http://publiclab.org/notes/gonzoearth/1-2-2013/balloon-mapping-ground-public-labs-field-techniques)
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](http://mapmill.org/).
9. make them into a map with [Mapknitter](https://mapknitter.org).
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](http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2012/04/public-labs-community-created-maps-land-on-google-earth109.html).
[Willie Schubert over at the GeoJournalism Handbook has made a printable walk-through including many of these steps](http://geojournalism.org/2013/08/balloon-mapping-how-to-make-your-own-low-flying-satellite/)
### Questions about 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](http://publiclaboratory.org/wiki/balloon-mapping-materials).
* [Use this chart to calculate the lift you'll need.](http://www.chem.hawaii.edu/uham/lift.html)
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](https://publiclab.org/notes/imvec/10-30-2023/picapikap-camara-de-mapeo-libre-y-abierta?_=1698681682) a Raspberry Pi based mapping camera.
Mapmaking software: Public Laboratory's [MapKnitter](https://mapknitter.org) is easy to use browser software for map making. Continue on to [MapKnitter Guide](http://publiclaboratory.org/wiki/mapknitter) and [MapKnitter Help](http://publiclaboratory.org/wiki/mapknitter-help) for more information.
* When mapmaking, efficient image sorting [either on your desktop](https://publiclab.org/notes/mathew/1-30-2012/efficient-image-sorting-finder-preview-mac), or using [Mapmill](/wiki/upon-return) is a must.
* Some people also use proprietary software such as Photoshop, [Hypr3d](http://publiclaboratory.org/notes/warren/2-10-2012/thatchmore-farms-hypr3d-model), or [PhotoSynth](http://publiclaboratory.org/notes/lpercifield/6-28-2011/3d-point-cloud). 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](https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1BJxYKVYdUimf5s3hOVoQCWPoj1UinaIaAEKF65Q2pbc/edit#slide=id.g84b9a2f_1_14)
* The [Balloon Mapping Quick Start Guide to filling and flying](http://archive.publiclaboratory.org/download/balloon-mapping-quickstart-1.0-en.pdf) (pdf) and [editable Google Doc](https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1f397WvHyZtwyDEqXIIrNpLBfNfw2accAWzQhdvhg4TA/edit)
* The [Balloon Mapping Check Lists](https://publiclab.org/sites/default/files/balloon-mapping-preflight-checklist.pdf) (pdf) and [editable Google Doc](https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1UUiQt-p2npJiIi48v_3o2_keeqEEzHc1yONybGeYF-E/edit), 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.
* [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!