This year we have 2 items to add onto your Christmas gift wish list but, given the price tag, direct these too your wife/husband/partner and not your children.
By far the best bang for your buck this year is the 4GEE camera by EE. The Go Pro style action camera has two key features that HAB enthusiasts will like. The first is the ability to easily stream launches online; which is quite unique amongst action cameras. You can also interchange your phone and camera sim card to share the data allowance and avoid having to have two separate mobile phone accounts.
Second is the camera performance. The camera battery performs well beyond the 3 hours specified by the manufacturer and will often exceed most simple ‘up and down’ high altitude balloons flights. While the camera is limited to producing video at 1080p, the storage demands for 2K and 4k images currently preclude their use for HAB many flights.
The camera is a little heavier than equivalent Go Pro cameras but we still recommend you ask Santa Claus for one of these.
The 4GEE camera is £299.99 to buy outright or £17 per month with data.
If you would like to move your tracking to the next level complexity then we suggest a ‘Pi in the Sky’ board or PITS for short. The PITS is a radio tracker and SSDV imager based on the successful Raspberry Pi computer. The PITS offers you the ability to radio track (or have others track) your flight from launch, to balloon burst, and landing (or close to it). A step by step guide offers a relatively easy scheme to set up the board, listen to it using a radio and computer, and to put the trackers location on an online map. The only difficulty we found with using the PITS is decoding the radio signals using a programme called DlFl digi. But with some practise and, for us, 5 days of our time, most groups should be able to get it up and running.
The PITS board itself costs about £130 but this is just the start. You also need to budget for a Raspberry Pi, a suitable real radio or computer based radio, antenna, desktop or laptop (which you obviously have), and a Raspberry Pi camera. You also need to be able to make your own antenna for the PITS board…. but what are boxing days for!