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) 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
jeremykwan18 "very nice information and good research. join me at " | Read more » about 2 months ago
newsone1992 "Thanks for publish this great information..... net banking for boi " | Read more » almost 4 years ago
warren "Hi, @mjain26 and @bsugar!!! We featured this story in today's blog post and Kickstarter update - thanks for your great work!! https://publiclab.or..." | Read more » almost 6 years ago
mathew "I agree with Chris on many of these points. CHDK is great to have, and STICK has made things much better. a direct link to STICK would help: http..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
liz "Hey Chris, you spotted me trying to re-post some fairly vintage content from the original balloon mapping page. I'll update this note -- which was ..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
cfastie "I agree that the rubber band trick is a very clever hack and a critical way to lower the barriers to entry to remote interval shooting. This resear..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
cfastie "I am a little confused about some of the suggestions here. I like the advice of using a camera with at least 10MP because it ensures that the came..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
cfastie "There are a few misleading things about these suggestions. The "Easiest" approach to interval shooting might be to use a camera with that feature ..." | Read more » about 6 years ago
mathew "done! " | Read more » about 6 years ago
warren "Hi, Mathew, mind if I retitle this "Use a rubber band and knotted string to trigger a camera"? " | Read more » about 6 years ago
sarasage "Fantastic post! Would love to replicate this! " | Read more » about 6 years ago
mathew "This note per @liz's request " | Read more » over 6 years ago
mathew "cool flight test! it looks like its one of those cameras that takes a 640x480 image and upscales it to 1280x960. I've seen several of those. be..." | Read more » over 8 years ago
natevw "So the good news: the fishing reel (and bottom half of a rod) plus a two foot balloon is a real fun rig! Did not have any trouble with the ~10lb li..." | Read more » over 8 years ago
natevw "Thanks for the feedback everyone! I'd been traveling a lot lately and then catching up, so most of the equipment has been just sitting around. I'v..." | Read more » over 8 years ago
mathew "Sounds fun! here are a few pointers re: your problems. IT helps to take a first picture of the horizon to set the contrast and focus. always try t..." | Read more » over 8 years ago
ajawitz "I've tried using a small keychain camera for KAP and I basically just used a miniature version of the standard PET Bottle Rig-" | Read more » over 8 years ago
mathew "on second thought I think the nylon monofilament will work if you have a good winder for it (I.E. fishing rod). go for at least 10lb. " | Read more » over 8 years ago
amysoyka "Next step: Live streaming data from your balloons to the ground. ;) " | Read more » over 8 years ago
mathew "Nice! John Wells and SNAPS are masters of this. You might enjoy their rigs and strategies: " | Read more » over 8 years ago
warren "Love it! We've been planning to release a minimal kite kit based on a keychain can but haven't run hard numbers or a test. A slightly higher end on..." | Read more » over 8 years ago
gonzoearth "Here is the KMZ of the flight open in google Earth and use the elevation profile tool to see the details " | Read more » almost 9 years ago
gonzoearth "It was either AMOD or an equivalent tracker. I have the 3d tracks, i'll post them... " | Read more » almost 9 years ago
gonzoearth "did you use the kit? This was actually from 2010. I was using a southern balloon works balloon but the balloons that are in our kit now would work ..." | Read more » almost 9 years ago