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Today: To follow the flight, a pilot can connect a GPS to a laptop that runs a mapping application such as Compe. The ground crew has to follow the flight over radio to try to figure out the balloon trajectory and which roads to take.
Instead, use a long-range radio link to make a ground laptop use a GPS in the balloon.
How to use: Place the self-contained GPS unit in the hot air balloon and switch it on. Connect the USB dongle to a laptop. Run your regular mapping application.
The dongle now acts as a regular GPS, but reports the coordinates of the balloon GPS unit. The coordinates are used by regular mapping applications to display position and course as if the laptop was located in the hot air balloon. In this way, the ground crew can see the same live map view the pilot does. The pilot doesn’t need to describe his course over radio. Instead, the ground crew can find the best interception point and give helpful advice to the busy pilot.
Balloon and chase car tracker
This is a self-contained, hard-case device designed to be placed in hot air balloons and/or in chase vehicles. In stand-alone mode, the device transmits its position with built-in GPS and 434 MHz radio. When connected to a computer, it visualizes the position of itself and other hot air balloons and ground units. It also receives and displays weather data from Windsonds.
No external parts are needed except antenna. The unit will weigh under 100g and measure 5x7x3 cm. The internal battery lasts a full week of competitions and charges via USB. From the outside, the only things visible are the power switch, mini USB connector and SMA antenna connector. Maximum transmission power is 1W.
Additional options that are possible if there’s enough interest:
- Bluetooth for connection to laptops, smartphones and tablets
- Status light(s)
- Collision warning (beeping) when closing in on another balloon
- Self-contained logging, data can be read wirelessly later
- Computer software for the competition management to do remote scoring and rules compliance monitoring
- Send text messages between units
- Remotely control units (for example enter standby mode or start)
- Computer software to visualize the location of all balloons in real-time on internet
- 2W instead of 1W
Remote launching of Windsond
An extra release mechanism can tether a helium balloon and Windsond to the ground. The sond can start the ascent by manual command from the hot air balloon or ground crew, or at a programmed time.
Launching Windsond from hot air balloon
Bring a Windsond and receiver in the hot air balloon (or gas balloon). To measure winds at higher altitude, tether the sond and helium balloon outside the basket before start and release the sond while flying. To measure lower winds, replace the helium balloon with a parachute.
A hygrometer can be included to measure air humidity. The system can also easily be extended for other sensors or auxiliary communication.