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
molangmuir10 "Will do!!! thanks " | Read more » almost 5 years ago
hagitkeysar "pls document and write something here so I can see the results :) good luck! " | Read more » almost 5 years ago
molangmuir10 "I will try to recreate one with my friend whose a wood worker! I will definitely come if I'm around - I love the open eye gallery and Liverpool! T..." | Read more » almost 5 years ago
molangmuir10 "I'm OS Mojave 10.14, this is what comes up on the SD card... " | Read more » almost 5 years ago
silentsairam "I could see only 1 partition on my Laptop. OS: Windows 7. Will test with Linux tomorrow and update. " | Read more » about 5 years ago
warren "Oh hm..... maybe there's an issue with the drive format! Ugh... i think there should be 2 partitions that show up. But maybe your computer can't re..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
hagitkeysar "Hi @molangmuir10 It was printed and then mounted on MDF, and cut to size. I didn't do it myself, it was done in a print studio. It will be present..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
ryangaia "Thank you @cfastie for answering this and mentioning that that helium "does not have much thermal mass". The temperature was my main hypothesis. No..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
cfastie "Yes, any gas will be less dense when it is hotter and therefore will have more lift. If the gas inside the balloon is the same as the gas outside (..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
molangmuir10 "Hi @silentsairam I did all of those steps but it didn't work! I think @warren is right - although it is strange that when I test ran it I could dow..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
silentsairam "Hi @warren When I recently tried connecting to Camera Module with RPi, I shows the below message as in image. Is the fault in Camera module or sho..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
silentsairam "Hi @warren @molangmuir10 Connect to the Network as the same with Rpi. Click on Download Images and Videos from SD card. I used San Disk 16GB A1 ..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
warren "Hi, sorry I missed this one too, but glad it worked! I've usually seen it take about five minutes so I was surprised to hear 30m. But also, we copi..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
warren "Hi! Ok not sure what's happening but it's some issue with the camera software we chose. I'll try to take a look later today but the easiest thing a..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
molangmuir10 "Hey @warren! I did a test using the r-pi to take photos in my room, downloaded the images and it worked fine. I then did a mapping with a school la..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
warren "Hi @molangmuir10 - thanks for all this, we're addressing some immediately, while other suggestions we are incorporating into our planning for futur..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
molangmuir10 "Hello!!! I love the way you have presented the maps here. Do you have any advice on how it was done? I'd like to replicate this for my project in..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
organizers "@organizers awards a barnstar to molangmuir10 for their awesome contribution! " | Read more » about 5 years ago
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SuziT9 "Hi, Bronwen -- Thanks for your post. I was doing similar math, but somehow it still didn't work! We were trying to lift a camera of only about 70 g..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
Bronwen "I look at this webpage ALL THE TIME: According to this chart, a regular 11" balloon will lift abou..." | Read more » about 5 years ago
warren "My other thought is to look at what @oscar-brett has done to design a communal activity around using lots of party balloons:" | Read more » about 5 years ago
warren "My first thought on this is that the volume of a sphere grows much faster (it's 3 dimensions, so cubed!) than just adding more balloons (which is j..." | Read more » about 5 years ago