The importance of keeping your SPOT tracker upright.

SPOT messenger

SPOT messenger

The SPOT and SPOT Messenger devices are popular trackers for high altitude balloons because it is easy to use. One of the requirements for using SPOT is to keep it face up. This help the GPS receiver and Globalstar transmitter connect to their corresponding satellites.

The importance of maintaining the orientation of SPOT was brought home last weekend in a balloon launch that took place across central Sweden by Andreas. Andreas launched a 1200g balloon containing 3 Go Pro cameras. For tracking he used SPOT and a Garmin GTU 10 tracker.

SPOT track of balloon flight over Sweden

SPOT track of balloon flight over Sweden

For all but the last stage of flight the SPOT tracker responded normally, reporting it’s position until it went above 6000ft. It then carried on reporting it’s position on descent once it had got below 6000ft but only reported two positions before going ‘quiet’.

the last position reported by SPOT and the actual landing site marked by the red circle

the last position reported by SPOT and the actual landing site marked by the red circle

Thankfully, close to ground level the Garmin GTU 10 reported the payload’s landing location and the payload was recovered. On finding the payload it became clear to Andreas that the payload was face down in dense scrub/tall grass. This explained why the SPOT tracker was not reporting it’s location message.

The payload landing site

The payload landing site

So how can you keep your SPOT tracker from going face down? Here are two possible solutions. First, use the SPOT gimball. Here is a nice (but sometimes out of focus) explanation of making one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=657jGf4WUlc

The second way is to fix triangular baffles on your flat payload box lid. This forces it to roll if it lands lid down. This may only be good for short grass soil, or rock surfaces. In deep undergrowth it still may not roll your payload.

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