GSBC registration is coming

Press release from GSBC

GSBC 2016 registration is coming!

We’re only a few weeks away from announcing GSBC 2016 and opening registration – before we do, we wanted to ask all of you guys what you’d like to see for GSBC 2016! New tutorials, changes to the forum or website, more frequency teams of the week or month, different prizes or prize categories, a central theme for everyone to work together on – please share anything that comes to mind!


Balloon News will be lobbying for a later launch date in the UK. Easter weather is too variable while June weather, only 2 months after, often gives fantastic weather for HAB in the UK. It also fits in well with local school term times. We are also going to lobby for more crowd based science. We would like to see atmospheric scientists take advantage of many enthusiasts launching HAB and collect data simultaneously round the world. How useful would that be!

Can Pi In The Sky get smaller?

This week the Raspberry Pi foundation has announced a new version of the Raspberry Pi computer called the Zero which is much smaller than the existing model. There is more information here at


One of the most successful spin off project  of the Raspberry Pi is the Pi In the Sky radio tracker and SSDV platform. But what of this new Pi? Can it be used to drive the PITS board and further cut weight and maybe battery consumption compared to the existing model? Can it also serve as a useful platform to build a sensor suit for HAB flights?


How will a new satellite plane tracking system influece High altitude ballooning?

This evening the BBC are reporting the agreement to develop a new aircraft satellite tracking system. I recommend following this news story as it may provide new opportunities and controls on high altitude ballooning.


MH370: New satellite plane tracking system agreed

File picture shows French gendarmes and police inspecting a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, 29 July 2015Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 last year sparked concerns about existing flight tracking systems

A deal has been struck on using satellites to track planes, motivated by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 last year.

The decision to dedicate part of the radio spectrum to a global flight tracking system was taken at a UN conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

The conference aimed to improve on the current tracking system which relies on ground-based radars.

MH370 disappeared in March 2014 with 239 people on board.

Representatives from more than 160 countries decided to set aside a radio frequency for the satellite tracking of planes at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), organised by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The deal will enable satellites to receive transmissions, known as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), that aircraft currently only send to other aircraft and to ground stations.

This will allow “real-time tracking of aircraft anywhere in the world,” said Francois Rancy, head of the ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau.

The disappearance of flight MH370 exposed weaknesses in worldwide air navigation systems.

The current system leaves around 70% of the world’s airspace uncovered.

‘Record’ response

Soon after the plane disappeared, Malaysia’s communication minister urged the ITU to help find new ways of transmitting flight data in real-time.

The Malaysia Airlines flight was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when air traffic control staff lost contact with it.

The plane is long believed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean.

In July part of an aircraft wing was found on Reunion Island. Malaysian authorities later confirmed the debris to be from the missing MH370 plane.

Debris map

Following Wednesday’s decision, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said the agency had “responded in record time to the expectations of the global community on the major issue concerning global flight tracking.”

The UN’s aviation arm, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), has set a November 2016 deadline for adopting new tracking guidelines.

These will include aircraft sending their position at least every 15 minutes, or more in case of emergency, reported Reuters.

Tracksoar kickstarter fails to hit target but opens web store

Tracksoar APRS track failed to hit it’s kickstarter target. But the company had so much interest that it set up a web store and are taking pre orders for it’s first 50 production run. You can find the store at  . The tracksoar offers an international model but APRS trackers are not permissible for HAB flights in the UK.

EE’s 4Gee action camera. A simple solution to HAB live streaming


This summer EE entered the action camera market with it’s first generation action camera, the 4GEE. Alongside the cool viewfinder watch, the cameras unique selling point is the 4G live video streaming. This offers high altitude balloonists a low cost and simple solution to live stream launches through the Skeegle phone app.

It took some time to test the camera as we often launch balloons out in the countryside where the 4G coverage is poor. We finally got round to testing the streaming service and found it fair. On all occasions we did lose the streaming coverage during the launch. Unfortunately the camera does not come with an audio warning that streaming has stopped so you have to keep checking the camera. When it worked the 720p camera provided satisfactory images though it’s restriction to the Skeegle phone app often restricts the size of the viewing screen.

Offline, the 4GEE is a powerful 1080p 30 fps action camera. Here are it’s specifications.



Qualcomm MSM8926-2 1.2 Quad Core


Internal: 2.5GB
External: Supports MicroSD up to 64GB


4G: Band 3 (1800MHz), 7 (2600MHz), 20 (800MHz)
3G: 900/2100
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n
RF: 2.4GHz


Ultra-sharp f/2.8, 3.4mm

Still image

13MP (4:3), 10MP (16:9), 3MP (4:3), 2.4MP (16:9) with GPS tag
Burst mode: 13MP full size 8 fps

Video recording

1080p HD video recording (30 fps)
720p HD video recording (30 or 60 fps)

Live streaming

720p HD live streaming (30 fps)


2260mAH Polymer Lithium-ion rechargeable
3 hours video recording

We tested it out in late October with a 2hr 20min HAB flight from Moel-Y-Golfa in mid Wales.

I got u vs forecast

Forecast track (yellow) and actual track (blue)

The camera was set within it’s acrylic case and the lens cover was removed. The camera performed well with the battery life (3hr 30 min) matching the forecast life on the camera display and exceeding the manufacturer’s specification. The image data produced easily sat within the 32gb memory card used. The image quality was also impressive.


4GEE camera image during ascent

With the camera set to the horizon, the fish eye distortion was broadly comparable with the Go Pro Hero 4.0. The camera showed good definition of the fields and forest close to ground level, and clouds higher up. There was also a pleasing depth to the image colours. Unlike the Garmin VIRB XE camera, there was no fogging on the exposed lens.

team impulse2

4GEE camera image just after burst

The weight of the camera with it’s acrylic case is 232gm. This is slightly higher than the Go Pro Hero cameras with battery bacpac (200gm). With a run time of 3hr and 30 minutes, there is no need for extra batteries for most HAB flight that are a simple up and down.

4GEE camera

Overall, we would recommend this camera if you need live streaming and would benefit from an extra action camera. The camera does not have the image quality versatility of the Go Pro Hero but we don’t think that is EE’s aim. The camera costs £250 (plus data) and you can use your wifi dongle or sim card in it to spread the cost of data.

One final top tip if you are buying this camera. To remove the lens cover you need an imperial size Alan key.

Tracksoar Kickstarter Winding Down

The tracksoar kickstarter campaign is nearing it’s deadline. Here is the tracksoar team to explain how close they are.

“Hi everyone, we’re in the final days of our Kickstarter campaign with just $8,000 left to raise. If you haven’t backed us yet now’s your chance! We’ll also be at the SoCal MakerCon on Saturday 11/7 at the Santa Barbara Hackerspace booth. If you want to check out the Tracksoar in person this is your only chance before the campaign closes.


Thank you all for helping us spread the word and helping us get this far in the campaign. We can’t thank you all enough for helping us spread the word and get the Tracksoar made.

For more info on the SoCal MakerCon:
Thank you all for helping us spread the word and helping us get this far in the campaign. We can’t thank you all enough for helping us spread the word and get the Tracksoar made.

For more info on the SoCal MakerCon: