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
amocorro "@warren @eustatic - know anyone that would be able to answer this question? Neat tool @mimiss! " | Read more » over 3 years ago
utobolearning "Totally worth attending this summit. Glad you share the update. utobo " | Read more » over 3 years ago
utobolearning "The enclosure given in that useful camera system is the best thing in this build. Nice and informative too. utobo " | Read more » over 3 years ago
utobolearning "One of the best initiative i ever seen on any forum in the educational work. So so greatful to see such a trustworthy innovation. Thanks for updati..." | Read more » over 3 years ago
soniakakkad122 "Such a wonderful article this is. This article is significant and important for us. Much obliged to you for offering this sort of instructive artic..." | Read more » almost 4 years ago
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liz "Great to see you writing in @Whirligig , your comment here on @molangmuir10 's post will trigger an email notification to them. Hope you all make t..." | Read more » about 4 years ago
Whirligig "Hi molangmuir10, I don't know if you still visit this page but I'm not sure how else to get in touch with you. Your mapping project sounds so int..." | Read more » about 4 years ago
kakniken "Mapknitter? Sounds nice. " | Read more » about 4 years ago
cess "Really glad to see this go out :tada: :tada: and many thanks to all the folks you worked on this " | Read more » about 4 years ago
smathermatherUf "Yes please! Dig the Airpup @mathew. " | Read more » about 4 years ago
liz "@mathew , check this out! " | Read more » about 4 years ago
smathermatherUf "Thanks! I have passed this along to Sam. He is appreciating the feedback. " | Read more » over 4 years ago
mimiss "This is a cool project and I'd love to see where Sam takes it. Helium is becoming harder to come by so another option for low-wind conditions sound..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
thom_heinze "Hello, I know this thread is quite inactive but maybe someone with experience is still hanging around. I have a question regarding navigating the b..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
thom_heinze "Hello, I know that this thread is quite inactive but maybe still someone with experience is hanging around. My question is about the mentioned prob..." | Read more » over 4 years ago
Grigory "Hi, сolleagues. Does this camera need to remove the IR unit? " | Read more » over 4 years ago
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yaina "nice information " | Read more » over 4 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
flipkartdebitcardemi "I have read your article, it is very informative and helpful for me.I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. Thanks for postin..." | Read more » almost 5 years ago
baldwinbolduinc " " | Read more » almost 5 years ago