Slow motion aerial birds eye view of fireworks exploding

In recent weeks I have seen a plethora of firework displays videos from quadcopters. This comes every year with the approach of Guy Forke’s Night. The aerial views were stunning but always shot from a distance. Recently I chanced upon this video of a daytime display recorded from a tethered balloon. The balloon based Go Pro Hero gave some impressive views. It also showed why you would not want to risk an expensive quadcopter above exploding pyrotechnics.


Go Pro Hero 4 camera battery a let down

One of the key features of any action camera for HAB is the battery. Many photographic high altitude balloon flights last somewhere in the order of 2-3 hours. So it is very important to get an action camera that will run for this long. The new Go Pro Hero 4 camera offers many interesting features including the improved frame rate and quality in the images. Unfortunately initial tests show that it’s battery performs less well than the Go Pro Hero 3+ Black; itself a camera with battery performance that will not always match the length of a HAB / weather balloon flight. Here is a test done at ground level.

The Go Pro Hero 4 Black lasted for 1hours 44 minutes, the Go Pro Hero 4 Silver lasted for 2 hours 5 minutes, and the Go Pro Hero 3+Black lasted for 2 hours and 10 minutes . All the cameras were shooting at 1080 and 24 frames per second.

When the cameras run in higher specification modes then their operation time is a lot shorter. One test already out there put the Hero 4 Black camera run time, set to 4K 30fps, at 38 minutes. (

This test was only on a single battery sample but, taken on face value, does not show any improvement in battery performance with the new camera. Thankfully the old Hero 3 battery bacpacs can be used with the new cameras to extend it’s life and we are awaiting tests to show how long the new cameras run with the external battery supply.

The cameras tend to perform less well during HAB flights for a variety of reasons.

Balloon Fiesta 2015

Balloon Fiesta 2015 will be timed to run concurrent with the Global Space Balloon Challenge. This will give a chance for UK participants to launch in the same location and share skills and resources in the venture. We will be launching from one of two sites in Malmesbury, Gloucestershire or Banbury, Oxfordshire. It will run between the 10th to 27th April 2015. More information will follow soon.

The Global Space Balloon Challenge is back in 2015


The Global Space Balloon Challenge is returning to the skies of the world next year and will soon be taking registration for participants. The GSBC is an event to encourage High Altitude Ballooning teams from all around the world to fly around the same time. The event seeks to promote the pursuit of HAB by challenging teams to compete, and awarding prizes over a range of categories. Some of the categories include the best HAB experiment, the highest balloon, and best photograph.  Next year the challenge will be between 10th and 27th April which, for UK participants, can be a challenge in itself. Following on from this years Balloon Fiesta, Balloon News will be organising an event in Malmesbury Gloucestershire for people to come down and launch their GSBC flights. More news on that to follow.

Fox Valley team show that Paper planes dropped from HABs don’t need a complex design.


The latest attempt at the world records for the highest paper plane flight shows that the planes don’t need a complex design. An air cadet group from Fox Valley Illinois have shown that all you need is a basic plane design and a lot of luck.


The squadron embarked on the project as a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) experience for their cadets (youths ages 12-18) and, on their second attempt last December, the squadron launched a custom-built 28-inch paper aircraft — carrying a payload that included two high-definition video cameras and a GPS tracking system – attached to a large, latex weather balloon. But, as the balloon ascended through an altitude of 85,153 feet, it experienced a premature burst.

To make matters worse, the descending plane was lost as the radio trackers died. Thankfully the story had a happy ending as a farmer found the plane, cameras and trackers; returning them safely to the team.

More information about their HAB weather balloon flight can be found at

Go Pro Hero 4 offers relatively little for HAB / Weather balloon enthusiasts

go pro hero 4

Go Pro Hero 4 Black

Prior to it’s launch next week, information is appearing about the new iterations of the Go Pro Hero cameras. Using what data there, we can take a look at what the cameras hold for the HAB / Weather balloon enthusiast.

The new cameras come in 2 premium versions, The GPH4 Silver, likened to the performance of the old GPH 3+ Black, and the new GPH4 Black. There is also the budget Hero.

The GPH4 Black boasts impressive 4k resolution at 30 frames per second. This improves the image quality but as with the high resolution functions of the GPH3+ Black, it drains the battery quickly and is unlikely to last HAB flights over 1 1/2 hours.

The GPH4 Silver offers touch screen control. Why this may be handy to set up your shots in the payload, or onto something you are carrying in your payload, it does add extra weight that you may just not want to carry.

Both new cameras have a redesigned battery. There is no data on battery performance. There is also no news on the ability to include a battery bacpac. The one sure things is that the new battery shape means you will need to buy new ones to fit the new camera.

The new settings button / tag button on the premium cameras is another feature that offers little for the HAB environment. the night photo lapse mode, allowing manual adjustment of exposure setting , does potentially offer improved performance for those people who want to fly a balloon in low light and night settings and I am looking forward to testing this on a clear night.

new 'Basic Hero'

new ‘Basic Hero’

The idea of a budget Go Pro Hero is great. Who does not like the idea of a cheap and reasonable quality action camera. But there are some factors that may make this camera unsuitable for HAB. First the built in case. If the case cannot be removed then the lens cover is fixed in place. Fixed lens covers most often than not cause the lens to fog (as moisture between the lens and the cover condenses) and this rules it out for HAB. The case also adds extra weight which cannot be removed.

Next there is battery life. The camera has an internal battery and there is no indication that the camera offers the chance to include a battery bacpac. So I hope , but don’t expect, the battery life of this camera to cover the whole duration of a typical HAB flight.

It is still early days and in time more data will come out about the camera. I hope the new batteries allow the whole of a typical HAB flight to be recorded. But I am worried that Go Pro aren’t singing and dancing about improved battery performance. There is also the knock on effect that the second hand value of the existing, and more HAB friendly, Go Pro Hero cameras will come down and that is not a bad thing! If you have flown one of the new cameras in a HAB flight then please let us know how you got on.