The lengths I go to, to recover my payload : Fishing

Michael RubinsteinAdrian Dalca, MIT 2012
With great help from Martin McCormick – Flight to test noise reduction algorithms on Go Pro Hero 2 camera.

The story is picked up by Michael Rubinstein: “We launched on Friday, March 30 2012, near Albany NY. In a nutshell, the trajectory of the balloon was significantly different from the prediction (below) and the balloon landed in water, Buzzards bay, right off cape cod. It has made an amazing distance of about 150 miles over 4 states in 3 hours!
You can see the positions transmitted back from the balloon in the Google map below. After Southbridge, keypoint 16, the balloon has passed 60,000 feet at which points it stops transmitting until close to landing.

Remarkably, the capsule started floating in the bay transmitting back its location (you can see the drift motion by zooming into to the landing area). However, we weren’t able to retrieve it the first day and then the signal was lost. On Saturday noon, at the point where we were sure we had lost it, it suddenly started transmitting its location again, which allowed us to head back to the cape, hire a boat, and retrieve it!

We used UCambridge Landing predictor and Balloon trajectory forecasts at the University of Wyoming for predicting the balloon trajectory. In trying to avoid landing in the ocean, we travelled from Cambridge, MA west towards Albany, NY to match a predicted landing near Worcester, MA. We found a nice field near East Greenbush, 6 miles from Albany. We also notified the FAA of our launch and expected trajectory. The final launch was at 5:50 PM.

GPS coordinates were sent by SPOT every 10 minutes until it reached 60,000 feet, at around 6:57 PM, over Southbridge, MA (which indicated the balloon was going faster than predicted). By all accounts, we expected to lose the signal for 30-60 minutes, maybe 90 minutes at the outmost. By 9 PM, we had given up hope of a re-surfaced signal, but a signal appeared at 9:06 PM. Unfortunately, the signal came from Buzzard’s Bay.


At around 4pm on Saturday, we took a boat from the nearby Marion harbor, with the help of Captain John, and managed to recover the capsule close to Bird Island – a small island with a historic lighthouse. The capsule and electronics were soaked in seawater for 19 hours. We cleaned them by fully rinsing them in clean water and rubbing alcohol several times to eliminate the salt deposits, and finally we dried them with hairdryer, fan and rice. All electronics survived and are now fully functional.




1 thought on “The lengths I go to, to recover my payload : Fishing

  1. Pingback: 10 ways that a high altitude balloon flight can go wrong | Balloon News

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