Public Lab Wiki documentation


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Balloon & Kite Mapping



Flight Report

by ranon 7 days ago | 1 | 433 | 4

Pole Mapping We started off by using a pole mapping kit to photograph all of the kite and balloo...

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Friction Stoppers

by ranon 14 days ago | 6 | 211 | 2

In developing the reconfigurable rig and tilt mechanism, a few instances have arisen where fricti...

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Hand Assembled Pendulums

by ranon 14 days ago | 0 | 211 | 1

No Tools Required These pendulums are an exploration of KAP gear that can be assembled by hand...

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Reconfigurable Rig

by ranon 18 days ago | 0 | 264 | 2

Reconfigurability The reconfigurable rig is centered around a multi purpose hexagonal hub, tha...

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Aerial Photography Rigging Needs

by mathew about 1 month ago | 0 | 250 | 0

I want to assess our community's aerial photography rig needs for kite, balloon, and pole mapping...

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Square Plastic Rod KAP Rig

by ranon about 1 month ago | 0 | 272 | 1

Square Plastic Rod KAP Rig The square plastic rods give a rigid and durable outer frame for th...

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Ball Joint KAP Rigs

by ranon about 1 month ago | 0 | 242 | 2

Ball Joint Rigs The ball joint camera mount offers a minimalistic and effective solution to gett...

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Cardboard Foldable KAP Rig

by ranon about 1 month ago | 0 | 475 | 2

How could cardboard be used in construction? I have begun to think about the possibility of usin...

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More research on "balloon-mapping" »


Title Last edited Edits Likes
Balloon Mapping Guide about 1 month ago by abdul 6 6
Aerial Balloon Mapping about 1 month ago by abdul 29 8
KAPtery Aerial Rigs 4 months ago by cfastie 2 15
NDVI from the PLOTS near infrared camera 6 months ago by cfastie 35 2
Pendulum Rig Kit Documentation 6 months ago by tonyc 7 2
Aerial Imagery in the Public Domain 6 months ago by eustatic 6 10
How to Map 12 months ago by stevie 13 10
Revealing the Invisible in Spain over 1 year ago by MollyDanielsson 2 7
Vadi Asbestonim over 1 year ago by asbest 27 7
GLAM Two-Tether Balloon Method: navigating urban waterways over 1 year ago by MollyDanielsson 3 6
Sky Camera almost 2 years ago by mercyorangi 12 13
Youth Balloon Mapping Workshop Curriculum about 2 years ago by warren 3 8
Mapping Curriculum: High Altitude Mapping over 2 years ago by gonzoearth 8 0
Helium over 2 years ago by warren 9 67
Kingsland Park almost 3 years ago by gdotoli 1 0
Vermont Public Lab Organizing: Toxics Action Center and Public Lab! almost 3 years ago by cfastie 10 1
Balloon Mapping Media about 3 years ago by warren 4 0
3d Mapping about 3 years ago by warren 3 0
North Shore, Mass, Mapping Meetup: Pavilion Beach, Ipswich -- April 6, 2013 over 3 years ago by wward1400 18 0
Tidmarsh Farms meetup over 3 years ago by pablo 18 0
State of the Map, my slides & notes almost 4 years ago by mathew 1 0
Hydrogen Balloons almost 4 years ago by mathew 6 1
Payload Weight almost 4 years ago by mathew 3 0
Canon A495 Tips almost 4 years ago by cfastie 14 12
Bamboo/tyvek kite and solar balloon construction workshop about 4 years ago by liz 32 0
dual camera trigger about 4 years ago by mathew 4 1
GrassrootsMappingBelizeMarch10 over 4 years ago by warren 2 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeMarch5 over 4 years ago by warren 2 2
GrassrootsMappingBelizeFeb25 over 4 years ago by warren 2 3
GrassrootsMappingBelizeFeb21 over 4 years ago by warren 2 3

How Can I Do This?

Our whole toolkit is linked out below, but really fast:

  1. Assemble your own, buy our balloon kit, or buy/make a kite.
  2. find a good camera.
  3. determine how you will trigger the camera, (we suggest a rubber band) or pick out a timelapse app for your smartphone.
  4. build a simple housing from a plastic bottle.
  5. find a site to map that is five miles from an airport and not Washington D.C. (or learn about the regulations yourself)
  6. follow the pre-flight checklist(pdf) and quickstart guide(pdf) to safely fill up your balloon and fly!
  7. maneuver your balloon at your site
  8. sort your images on your desktop (Mac,Windows) 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, and if you'd like, even in Google Earth.
  11. Share your expertise with others and help stitch maps by joining the Cartography Collective

Willie Schubert over at the GeoJournalism Handbook has made a printable walk-through including many of these steps

Why Balloons and Kites?

These tools are being developed to provide a low cost, easy to use, and safe methods for making maps and aerial images. Over the last two years, we’ve built a global community of mappers who are engaged in discussion around the development and use of this tool and others.

Normally aerial maps are made from satellites and airplanes. The balloon and kite ground-based approach introduces an on-demand capability where events or environmental conditions are mapped at a specific moment in time. Our community is particularly interested in applying this to civic and environmental issues.

Maps are often used by those in power to exert influence over territory, or control territorial narratives. "Grassroots mapping" attempts to invert this dynamic by using maps as a mode of communication and as evidence for an alternative, community-owned definition of a territory. To date, our tools have been used to contest official maps or rhetoric by enabling communities to map sites that are not included in official maps. In Lima Peru, members of an informal settlement developed maps of their community as evidence of their habitation, while on the Gulf Coast of the US, locally produced maps of oil are being used to document damage that is underreported by the state.

Browse maps and data generated with this technique in the Public Laboratory Archive

Browse Research Notes on Balloon Mapping


A short video by Mathew Lippincott on setting up and launching your balloon.


Applications and Example Uses

Residents of the Gulf Coast are using balloons and kites to produce their own aerial imagery of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill… documentation that will be essential for environmental and legal use in coming years. We believe in complete open access to spill imagery and are releasing all imagery from the oil spill mapping project into the public domain. Browse maps and data from the Gulf Coast and elsewhere in the Public Laboratory Archive

You can also read many stories about these tools in use around the world at the Public Lab Stories page

Lake Borgne, Louisiana

Get Involved

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.

Camera housings: Single Line systems: The 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.

Multiple Line Systems: these are more complex to build but can provide added stability, especially useful for video. Several people have created Picavet rigs.

Cameras: A small camera that supports continuous shooting mode and a large storage card, or an excellent camera phone are our preferred options.

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.

Useful guides: Our latest guides can always be found on the Guides page, including:

Curricula and workshops: Our Curriculum-Guide covers the entire process and some theory behind mapping. It is still in beta.

Advanced Techniques

Places to start contributing


balloon-mapping list:grassrootsmapping warren tabbed:notes tabbed:wikis proven-in-the-field tool