The Stratocache ‘Big Seed’ flies into the Global Space Balloon Challenge

strato

Stratocaching was one of the first efforts to bring the hobby of HAB into the mainstream. The second has been the Global Space Balloon challenge sponsored by Google. This year the two combined when the Stratocache Superseed made an appearance during the GSBC.

drop onion

Ivan at Stratocache  picks up the story of it’s flight in the GSBC.

” We were trying to develop the Stratoaching idea after two big events in 2013 and 2014 (see http://stratocaching.idnes.cz/english1). We were hosted by the official meteorological ballon of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and focused on our innovated Stratocache “Superseed” design – flying module inspired by natural maple seed. In the Global Space balloon Challenge we flew a payload with this single large seed, dropped it, and recorded the footage of it flying.

Superseed

Superseed

The videos and photos are quite hypnotic – on the way up the GoPro camera captured vertical scenes, after automatic release (60 mins of flight, altitude 18.100) the seed starts to rotate…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHJgaAC5Uhs

We still need to develop the automatic launch mechanism as the electronic timer is not ideal. We think it is best if the component is mechanical and allows to launch the seed exactly at the time of balloon burst to get the maximal altitude.

After finishing this component (already in progress), we plan to study the interesting behavior of the seed in higher altitudes. Our main aim is to start a cooperation with a scientific institution.

In the Global Space Balloon Challenge we used the GSM tracker to make it more consumer-friendly and ready for potential future commercial package (no radioamateurs needed). The tracker works precisely now, it was exactly on the position it reported (+-2metres). The disadvantage is that we could not track the whole flight after releasing from the probe balloon.

As for the next big Stratocaching events  – we have a new opportunity in Slovakia now (realisation partners and permissions secured), if this works well, we will work with the last years model of drop onion +GSM tracker seeds + live stream.”

Simpler 360 degree videos coming soon to HAB

This year there have been several attempts to make simple 360 degree videos during HAB flights. The process of making the videos, which can be shown on virtual reality head sets, is about to get a lot easier with Go Pro coming to market with a 360 degree adapter and software to do the image stitching. BBC reporter  picks up the story in this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-32915014

Hero

“Mr Woodman (of Go Pro ) also showed off a prototype mount that can hold six of his firm’s Hero4 cameras, each pointing in a different direction.

He said the resulting footage could be stitched together using software developed by Kolor – a start-up it bought last month – to create a single 6K-quality 360-degree image.

This could then be used with virtual reality helmets – allowing a user to change their perspective by turning their head left and right and looking up and down – or via YouTube and Facebook, which are both adding support for interactive spherical videos.

 

The Six-Camera Spherical Array add-on will go on sale later this year.

Mr Woodman acknowledged, however, that the high cost of buying enough cameras to fill it was likely to limit the mount’s appeal to professionals.”

Facebook plans to offer spherical videos on it’s social media site and Youtube is planning a similar offering.

Weather Balloons may have grounded commercial aircraft in India

Source http://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai/aerial-objects-at-mumbai-airport-could-be-weather-balloons-dgca-official/article1-1350965.aspx

Soubhik Mitra, Hindustan Times, Mumbai May 25, 2015 16:12 IST

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The aerial objects that created a flutter at the Mumbai airport on Saturday when two Jet Airways flights were asked to abort take-off and landing could be weather balloons, officials of the aviation safety regulator said on Monday.

Sources in the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) said the Indian Meteorological Department’s airport bureau in Santacruz had set off balloons to collect weather data.

“The weather balloons travelled from the southwest owing to the current wind pattern. The flight paths match with the location where airport staff spotted the aerial objects,” said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity.

On Saturday evening, 5 small parachute-like objects were observed approaching from the southwest direction of the Mumbai airport moving towards northeast along with the wind.

The airfield staff alerted the air traffic control (ATC) tower which in turn asked pilots lined up for take-off and landing to be cautious since they were crossing the runway intersection.

As a result, a Jet Airways flight 9W-326 from Ahmedabad was asked to abort landing at the last minute and another Jet Airways flight 9W-323 to Ahmedabad was asked to hold its position on the airstrip.

IMD officials said that weather balloons are set off every day, but such an incident has never occurred.

“These balloons fly at an altitude much higher than the touchdown levels used by scheduled flights. Therefore there are slim chances of them coming in the way of air traffic,” said SG Kamble, director of radar, IMD Mumbai airport bureau.

A weather balloon is a high altitude balloon which carries instruments aloft to send back information on atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed using small, expendable measuring device called a radiosonde.

Balloon-Assisted UAV Brings Back Stratospheric Aerosol Samples from Altitude of 22km in Antarctica

Source http://www.nipr.ac.jp/english/news/201503.html

A balloon-assisted UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) named “Phoenix-S1,” developed by Kyushu University and Fukuoka University, Japan, has successfully brought back stratospheric aerosol samples from the altitude of 22 km and observed aerosol density at the altitude of 23 km in Antarctica on January 24, 2015. The observation was performed as one of the summer activities of the 56th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE-56, the leader: Professor Yoshifumi Nogi, NIPR). Phoenix-S1, after launch from an observation site called “S17″ on Antarctic continent ice sheet, climbed up being suspended under a rubber balloon while aerosol number density observation and sampling are performed. After the natural burst of the balloon at an altitude of 23 km, the UAV descended by a parachute, then started gliding back to the surface autonomously by separating the parachute and retrieved at S17 successfully. The maximum observation altitude this time is unprecedentedly high as the observation altitude using UAVs and even manned aircraft. This method is quite effective to retrieve observation apparatuses and aerosol samples from upper atmosphere easily at low cost.

Synopsis

Fig. 1 Phoenix-S1 just after balloon release (Photo by Mr. Tetsuro Ojio)

“Phoenix-S1″ is a glider UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) for the observation of particle number concentration and sample return of aerosols in the upper atmosphere. The UAV is released from the ground being suspended by a rubber balloon as shown in Fig.1. It climbs up until the balloon bursts naturally while observing particle number concentration and sampling of aerosols. After the burst of the balloon, the UAV glides back to the launch point autonomously with the expensive observation apparatuses and precious aerosol samples.

This observation method combining a free balloon and an autonomously gliding UAV was firstly introduced in the summer activity of the 54th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE-54), and successfully performed the observation and the sample return up to 10km in altitude (cooperative press release of NIPR, Fukuoka University and Kyushu University, 17th February 2013, in Japanese).

Phoenix-S1 has been developed improving the UAV used in the JARE-54 so that it can cope with the severer environmental conditions at higher altitude. The UAV was launched from the observation site called “S17″ on Antarctic continent ice floor near the Japanese Syowa Station at 6:05 pm (local time) on 24th January 2015. It reached the altitude of 23km at 7km west of S17 approximately one hour after the launch, then the balloon burst naturally.

Phoenix-S1 descended down to 12km in altitude by a parachute, ,and glided back to S17 autonomously after separating the parachute and retrieved at 8:10 pm (local time) successfully. The collected samples are carried back to Japan for electronic microscopic analyses to observe number concentration and distribution of aerosols. This is to clarify the process of materials circulation which has close relationship with the several current climatic issues such as global warming and an ozone hole.

1. Background of the Research

We can understand how the earth’s atmosphere circulates and which materials move and react each other by surveying the number concentration distribution and composing materials of aerosols at various location and altitude on the Earth. The results become very important clues not only to clarify the mechanism of the current climatic issues such as global warming and an ozone hole, but also to predict the future trend of the issues. For this reason, various institutes in the world including Fukuoka University and the National Institute of Polar Research, Japan, have been observing aerosols continuously as a global scale. The observation method using a free balloon is virtually the only way to perform at reasonable cost for the observation of aerosols of upper atmosphere higher than the altitude reachable by manned aircraft. However, the method using a free balloon has major two drawbacks; 1) difficulty in retrieving precious collected samples and 2) high cost of the observation apparatuses.

In order to solve the problems, the balloon-assisted gliding UAV has been developed combining the climbing capability of a free balloon and the autonomous returning capability of an UAV through the collaboration of Kyushu University (development and operation of the UAV) and Fukuoka University (development of observation apparatuses and observation).

2. Phoenix-S1 UAV

Fig.2 Phoenix-S1 returned to S17 from the altitude of 23km.

Table 1. Specifications of Phoenix-S1
Span (m) 3.0
Max. Weight (kg) 10.5
Max. Payload weight (kg) 3.0
Max. Airspeed (km/h) 260 (@Alt.10km)
Powered flight time (min) 5

The Phoenix-S1 UAV has been newly developed improving the prototype UAV used in the JARE-54 so that it has more payload space and bears up severe environment such as low temperature down to -80 degrees C and lower air density at 30km in altitude. Fig.2 shows the Phoenix-S1 just after the retrieval at S17, and Table 1 describes the specifications of the UAV. Because it was predicted that the flying speed of Phoenix-S1 at 30km in altitude becomes close to the sonic speed if it flies under the same condition close to the ground, the structural strength and the flight control performance will go beyond the limit of the design at such a high altitude.
For these reasons, Phoenix-S1 is equipped with a device called “flaps” in order to reduce its flying speed while avoiding stall, and adopted the descending method named “two-stage separation method”. In this method, the UAV firstly descends down with a parachute after the burst of the balloon to an altitude at which the behavior of the UAV is predictable, then it starts gliding after separating the parachute.

Step by step trials involving the modification of a simulation model from the flight data, the prediction of the behavior of the UAV at higher altitudes, and the redesign of the flight control parameters have been performed repeatedly in this order by changing the separation altitude, and they finally achieved UAV flights safe and success..

3. Observation Results

An optical particle counter and a particle sampler were installed in Phoenix-S1 for the measurement of particle number concentration and for aerosol sampling, respectively. Fig. 3 shows the vertical profiles of number concentration of aerosols with diameter of 0.3 to 0.66 micrometer. It is obvious that stratospheric aerosol is composed of three layers, i.e., at 9 to 11 km, 11 to 13 km and 13 to 23 km in altitude. Each layer may have different histories reflecting stratospheric-tropospheric exchange, extremely low temperature during Antarctic winter and so on. Aerosol composition will be clarified by the analyses of the aerosol samples using an electron microscope and an X-ray analyzer in Japan.

Thirteen sets of aerosol samples were obtained from 1.1 to 22km with average vertical resolution of 1.7km, whose boundary altitudes are shown by the violet horizontal ticks in Fig. 3. This flight marked the highest observation altitude record, not only by an UAV but also by manned aircraft. We will obtain further understanding on an ozone hole, if we can observe stratospheric aerosols during winter in Antarctica using this method. It is also expected to apply this novel method to other scientific field.

Fig.4 demonstrates the picture taken from Phoenix-S1 at 23km in altitude. The contrast of the darkness of the sky and the whiteness of the Antarctic continent is quite impressive.

Fig.3 Vertical profiles of number concentration of aerosols and air temperature up to 23km in altitude

Fig.4 A picture taken from Phoenix-S1 at 23km in altitude. Bare rock area of Soya coast is seen at the right.

4. Members

Dr. Shin-Ichiro Higashino
The 56th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition, Summer Party Member

Mr. Takuya Okada
The 56th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition, Observer

Observation Cooperation
The JARE-55 over-wintering party members, the JARE-56 team members
The officers and crew of the icebreaker Shirase

Contact

About the research results

Dr. Masahiko Hayashi, Professor, Department of Earth Science, Fukuoka University
TEL:+81-92-871-6631(ext. 6168)  FAX:+81-92-865-6030  E-mail: mhayashi@fukuoka-u.ac.jp

Dr. Shin-Ichiro Higashino, Associate Professor, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Kyushu University
TEL:+81-92-802-3043  FAX: +81-92-802-3001  E-mail: tonton@aero.kyushu-u.ac.jp

Dr. Naohiko Hirasawa, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Polar Research
TEL:+81-42-512-0685  FAX:+81-42-528-3479  E-mail: hira.n@nipr.ac.jp

German Hack space team use 360 degree camera on HAB flight

The 2015 Global Space Balloon Challenge is now closed and as the videos come in, some interesting uses of new camera technology come to light. One German team from a hack space have used 360 degree and virtual reality head set enabled cameras to video their balloon flight.

Ralph from the project said, ”

There is a German article about the mission on:

http://www.gizmodo.de/2015/04/24/die-sonnenfinsternis-als-360-grad-video-in-der-stratosphaere.html

We build the 360 degree cam by ourselves. There are 6 Sony HDR-AS15 Cam’s in a foam core cube…

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I soldered wires to the buttons of the cams, and we just bridged them with a button. That was a mistake – the g-forces seemed to have triggered the button while it was going down. So the video we posted is about all of it at the top and down. Next time there will be just a jumper.”

More information about the project is available at

http://www.das-labor.org/?lang=de

New web site facilitates social media sharing of balloon flights

A developer from America has developed a new web site called WorldTrack.me to facilitate the social media sharing of high altitude balloon flights. The new web site uses API to make the connection. here is Don explaining his new web site.

What is an API? An API is a software intermediary that makes it possible for application programs to interact with each other and share data.

Using WorldTrack.Me’s API, the user can create their own applications that can interface with the website and add GeoPosts automatically. For instance, a programmer can write an android application to post the location of a user once every hour. The user could then link the Track to Facebook or another social media site. The possibilities are almost endless, and it is up to the imagination of the programmer and users to come up with innovative usage ideas.

To interface with the API the user needs the following information: latitude, longitude, altitude, group number, and API Key (Group Number and API Key are found on the Track’s Homepage if you are an Admin of the Track). Optional fields include title, description, and marker type. The user can either interface with WorldTrack.Me by using a POST or GET Method, although the POST Method is recommended since it is considered more secure. (See: Post Vs Get Method)

To use the GET Method use the following Link: http://worldprojecthub.com/track/AddPointGet.php
To use the POST Method use the following Link: http://worldprojecthub.com/track/AddPoint.php

An example of the GET Method is below:
http://worldprojecthub.com/track/AddPointGet.php?latitude=25&longitude=26&altitude=20&group_id=34&api_key=WorldTrack_34_5524b45baf8a8&marker=balloon&title=Weather Balloon Point&description=This is a fix of the Weather Balloon

The POST Method accepts the same parameters as the GET Method.

Below is an example of using WorldTrack.Me’s API:
Weather Balloon Tracking Program updating WorldTrack.Me and Google Earth:

Capturedsfa

I hope you enjoyed this short tutorial. Let me know if I can help with implementing the API in your project.

-Don”

Don plans to develop the web site over the year to facilitate greater use in HAB and it is already being used during this year’s Global Space Balloon Challenge.