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) * The [PicaPiKAP]( a Raspberry Pi based mapping camera. 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
patcoyle "We support you! " | Read more » over 2 years ago
eustatic "<3 love and balloons from pipeline country " | Read more » over 2 years ago
thongtinsao_com15 "Thedolive xem tin tức bóng đá du doan bd , xem bóng đá trực tiếp các trận đấu đỉnh cao và vô cùng hấp dẫn nhất tại kênh bóng đá là thedolive đây là..." | Read more » over 3 years ago
pataxte "I've a small sample size, n=1 flight!, with same kit using a 60 cu ft tank of balloon grade helium., not sure about the precise mix but pretty sure..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
stevie "We usually get 2.5 flights out of our 80 cubic foot tank (of 100% helium?) to lift the same type of balloon you're mentioning. It also lifts 1000 ..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
geoderek "Thanks for this response and very good advice @Bronwen Based on your suggestion, I was able to locate and ascertain the tank purchase and rental a..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
Bronwen "Hi Derek- Great question. I'm in NYC, and I always rent a tank from an industrial gas supplier-- the kind of place you'd go if you're getting weld..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
adam-griffith "Thanks, Liz. I have used Canon cameras before and gotten the lens errors and have also used CHDK. I agree that the a490 Canon is simple, but I am..." | Read more » almost 5 years ago
liz "I personally love anything in the Canon S series (s90, s95, s100, s110, etc). I appreciate how with a half hour in front of a laptop, a little scri..." | Read more » almost 5 years ago
Alex_the_Ukrainian "Hi! Happy New Year! We here in Ukraine continue to work on DIY small aerostats/balloons for ecological mapping. Unfortunately, we have here in Eas..." | Read more » over 6 years ago
liz "Hi! Happy New Year! Are you all still working together? Any news? Wishing you well -- " | Read more » over 6 years ago
warren "I've weighed a Mobius at around 38 grams, if that's helpful to kick this off! " | Read more » almost 8 years ago
tonyc "Improvements for next round: shorter tube for top piece, the length that connects to the top chopsticks. By shortening, will cut down weight, but..." | Read more » almost 8 years ago
liz "This is great Lila!! And so are the additional visual note pages you drew that are still posted in Val Verde!! " | Read more » almost 8 years ago
liz "I think the original idea about what kind of thing to haul up into the sky was that it would be a like a sponge, allowing the air to pass through a..." | Read more » almost 8 years ago
nshapiro "Thanks @liz ! the sterile sugar matrix sounds amazing. @kosamari is cost the reason for the sugar matrix over petri dishes? Keeping the media steri..." | Read more » almost 8 years ago
mathew "Hi Nick, I think you could collect particles at altitude, since the wind hitting a free-flight balloon should be within the range that the Passive ..." | Read more » almost 8 years ago
liz "This question has come up before, at EcoHack 2012, when @kosamari DIY manufactured cotton candy using a sodacan, power drill, a box of sugar, and a..." | Read more » about 8 years ago
warren "Followup: @patcoyle eventually found some 36" mylar balloons which are quite affordable:" | Read more » about 8 years ago
lionfish "cfastie, don't worry, we've got this covered. We just need to apply to the Civil Aviation Authority, as you've identified. I'm just ensuring I've g..." | Read more » about 8 years ago
cfastie "This suggests that UK balloons, like UK kites, must be kept under 60 m agl without special permission. There are similar restrictions in the US but..." | Read more » about 8 years ago
cfastie "Another rather important topic is the strict altitude limitations for kites and balloons in the UK. Kites are not allowed to be more than 60m above..." | Read more » about 8 years ago
cfastie "I assume the kite line sold at the KAPshop is good braided polyester. Dacron is DuPont's brand of polyester, so it does not have to be Dacron. The ..." | Read more » about 8 years ago