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Balloon & Kite Mapping

25 Jun 17:10 130,703 views | Last edited by warren 8 months ago | shortlink

Guilin Pharma mapping

by shanlter 2 days ago | 0 | 247 views | 1

What I want to do First time we try to apply the Balloon and Kites Mapping tools on investigatin...

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Pencil lead works well as an electrode material in lead analysis

by JSummers 12 days ago | 0 | 244 views | 4

What I want to do This was a test to see if pencil lead can be used as an electrode material in ...

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Decolonized Skies

by hagitkeysar 14 days ago | 9 | 349 views | 6

PublicLab:Jerusalem, (accompanied by myself:), have participated in the exhibition "Decolonized...

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quick and dirty lanyard attachment for mobius camera

by tonyc 15 days ago | 2 | 195 views | 1

What I want to do provide a failsafe attachment to a mobius camera for aerial photography applic...

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Fluorescence of tabasco sauce

by dhaffnersr 17 days ago | 0 | 297 views | 2

This is a test tube with ethyl alcohol 70% with 60 drops of Tabasco sauce and 1 drop of eosin Y ...

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FLUORESCENCE OF 87 OCTANE GASOLINE

by dhaffnersr 24 days ago | 0 | 310 views | 0

Today I was doing some calibrating for fluorescing gasoline and oil samples My attempt and resul...

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Creosote Superfund site in north Picayune, MS

by eustatic 24 days ago | 1 | 322 views | 3

What I want to do For the monthly event for organizers, Dan took us out around Picayune. We map...

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Some Gulf Coast Use Cases for the Oil Testing kit in 2015

by eustatic about 1 month ago | 8 | 601 views | 3

What I want to do I would like to describe some problems encountered in Southern Louisiana where...

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More research on "balloon-mapping" »


Title Last edited Edits Pageviews Likes
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How to Map 7 months ago by stevie 13 8,625 10
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GLAM Two-Tether Balloon Method: navigating urban waterways 12 months ago by MollyDanielsson 3 2,376 6
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Sky Camera over 1 year ago by mercyorangi 12 10,639 12
Youth Balloon Mapping Workshop Curriculum over 1 year ago by warren 3 2,837 8
Balloon Mapping Guide over 1 year ago by warren 2 2,935 6
Mapping Curriculum: High Altitude Mapping almost 2 years ago by gonzoearth 8 3,344 0
Helium about 2 years ago by warren 9 6,297 48
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Vermont Public Lab Organizing: Toxics Action Center and Public Lab! over 2 years ago by cfastie 10 5,106 1
Balloon Mapping Media almost 3 years ago by warren 4 4,550 0
3d Mapping almost 3 years ago by warren 3 4,082 0
North Shore, Mass, Mapping Meetup: Pavilion Beach, Ipswich -- April 6, 2013 almost 3 years ago by wward1400 18 12,122 0
Tidmarsh Farms meetup about 3 years ago by pablo 18 5,538 0
State of the Map, my slides & notes over 3 years ago by mathew 1 3,503 0
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GrassrootsMappingBelizeMarch5 almost 4 years ago by warren 2 2,406 2
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GrassrootsMappingBelizeFeb21 almost 4 years ago by warren 2 2,389 3

How Can I Do This?

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

  1. Buy our balloon kit, assemble your own, 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


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