Radio tracker making it’s own flight forecast

Today the highly experienced HAB operator Dave Akerman is taking flight forecasting to a new level when he plans to fly a radio tracker which will be making, and down linking, it’s own flight track projections. Operators are very familiar with using the HABITAT platform to display radio tracker locations and have a visualisation of a forecast for it’s flight path. This is done on an automatic basis by the habitat we based platform. Today, Dave will be operating a LORA radio tracker that will make it’s own forecast flight path based on it’s location and previous flight path. More information about the payload is available at!topic/ukhas/CoVZ_kQEZt4

and the flight can be followed at  call sign PILORA. He may be tweeting about it at



Peaky the Ohbot finally completes a mission towards space

After several attempts, Peaky the Ohbot has completed a flight to near space. Ohbot is a robot head that is constructed and programmed by children. It has seven motors to provide a range of realistic movement. Ohbot is connected to a Windows PC running Ohbot software so that it can be programmed. Ohbot uses a block programming environment based on the Scratch language which was developed at MIT. This allows children to generate programs quickly and encourages them to experiment and use their imagination. The makers of Ohbot have been pushing their design to it’s limits and have now completed a full HAB flight with Ohbot staying fully functional. Well done Ohbot.

Windsond needs your comments


The development team at Windsond need your input to help them develop the next generation of their unique and successful radio sonde. The new iteration of the device will be compatable with smart phones and Windsond are looking for your input on their user interface and functions. Their survey can be competed at



Soar Valley win the Royal Meteorological Society competition to design a weather experiment

Soar Valley College have won the competition run by the Royal Meteorological Society to design a weather experiment.

HAB supplies will be sending the students flight on a high altitude balloon flight in the near future. Well done to all the entrants. There were some interesting experiment designs but in the end, Soar Valley college had was able to demonstrate that they had a hypothesis about the atmosphere and had an idea about how they could test that hypothesis.

SPOT tracker price hike: Crass April Fool stunt or unwanted price rise

This morning, Saturday 1st April 2017, I got this email from SPOT LLC about my SPOT  tracers:


SPOT trackers are frequently used by high altitude balloonists as a primary or back up tracker.

This email is either a crass April Fools joke, given the already high cost of the trackers, or an unwanted price hike. If it is an April fool then it is not as funny as Spaghetti growing on trees. If it is the latest in a series of price increases then it is definitely unwelcome. I will try and get clarification on Monday from the company itself. We will also try and get more information on what ‘service improvements’ are on offer for the extra $50 a year.

Royal Meteorological Society competition closes soon


Near Space Photography is sponsoring a competition to promote the investigation of the atmosphere. The Royal Meteorological Society has invited 11-16 students to design and build a science experiment to be carried through the atmosphere by a weather balloon.

Themes could include Earth observation, the atmosphere, natural forces, cold temperatures, pressure or UV and some qualities of the atmosphere are below.

–  Temperature

  Air pressure


  Aerosols or dust particles in the air

  Solar output / insolation

  Precipitation (rain/snow ect)


You students could think about how these vary with height, time, and location. The scale can be small (a micro climate) or large. Below is a graphic to explain the basic properties of the atmosphere.  The experiment does not have to go as high as the Stratosphere, it could go up to just 3-5 km.

Figure 1

Students could use a Raspberry Pi, or similar, to design and build their own tracker and/ or sensor package.
All entries must be submitted to the Head of Education at the Royal Meteorological Society by 31st March 2017.
The entry judged best by a panel of judges will be invited to build and launch their experiment.

We are providing some resources for the competition at


SPOT service outage


For those who use SPOT trackers to recover their balloon payload, you should be aware of the latest press release from the company. SPOT, in a press release issued late last week,  said that they are improving their ‘service connectivity and service quality’. This will lead to lost location reports from the trackers between January 29th through March 19th. SPOT were very ambiguous as to how the service would improve so we will try and get some figures on this.

Boscombe down Balloon Challenge winners announced

The Boscombe Down Balloon challenge competiti0n, sponsored by RAeS, Cameron Balloons, QinetiQ, and us has finished and the prizes have been announced. Rod, from RAeS issued the following statement:

You may be interested to know that we have a result from the Boscombe Down Balloon Challenge:  Epsom College win 3 x £1000 prizes for greatest altitude, greatest distance, and greatest endurance.  Ryde School with Upper Chine (Isle of Wight) win the Chris Hillcox HAB Supplies prize for a commendable flight achievement that did not qualify for any of the 3 main prizes.


I am very pleased to report that this result is not only the technically correct outcome, but also that it entirely reflects natural justice.  Epsom college put in a Herculean effort, launching 6 flights in all (with a seventh in reserve for the evening of 31 Dec).  The students who built the balloon payloads were genuinely inspired and proactively led by two very enthusiastic teachers who engaged with our competition in a most positive way.  From the outset, their appetite for the Balloon Challenge and their determination to win it, was palpable.  Yet, despite being fiercely competitive, this team was totally committed to playing strictly by the rules in everything they did.  More than this, they respected a UK HAS advisory launch embargo when weather conditions would have carried their balloons into airport traffic zones (so as not to bring the Balloon Challenge into disrepute); and have offered to help other schools with HAB-based STEM projects in the future.


Ryde School with Upper Chine was also an enthusiastic competitor, but here the team was very much student-led.  The Senior Science Technician was our staff point of contact.  The School was undoubtedly supportive of their Balloon Challenge entry, but did not provide the level of guidance and inspiration that we saw at Epsom.  The Ryde team did, however, plan their flights with full cognizance of NOTAM requirements; and with commendable attention to the engineering detail of optimal gassing – the trick being to put not too much gas into a balloon.  In the event, the Ryde balloon flew furthest and for the longest duration (by a large margin), but since the balloon itself was bigger than the maximum size permitted in the Challenge, this result did not count.  It was, nevertheless, a significant achievement in its own right.


These results will be fully recognised at Prize Day on 10 Feb.