High Altitude Glider Will Be Dropped From A Balloon!

[House4Hack] and [HABEX] have teamed up to design and build a glider system that can be taken up 30-40km via a weather balloon, dropped, and flown home via FPV.

Of course, this has been done before, but you know what, it’s such a cool experiment, and so few people have done it… who cares! The goal is to hit at least 20km altitude, hope for 30km, and if possible — 40km would break records. For reference, the one we linked made it 33km up.

The plane is a Mini-talon V-tail, which was donated to them by their local hobby shop as a sponsorship. It features an ArduPlane Autopilot module, a 1.2GHz video transmitter, a long range 433MHz receiver for the control signal, and a telemetry data link at 433MHz connected to the ArduPlane. Two GoPro cameras make up its eyes, and it also has a custom release mechanism for letting go of the weather balloon.

They’ve performed a few tests so far on the system, including freezing the electronics using dry ice (-74°C), a release test, a maiden flight, and they plan on also testing the video range link, and a higher drop test (100m).

The big day is scheduled for June 14, in Klerksdorp, South Africa.

29 thoughts on “High Altitude Glider Will Be Dropped From A Balloon!

  1. Comment USA centric, because I live here. The lift balloon & glider are an UAV of sorts, but the glider, but when released will the status of the glider change? Will it become a remotely controlled model or a remotely controlled UAV, what are the applicable FAA or FCC regulation. I’m pretty sure these balloon payloads are requite to a certain amount of radar reflecting material, would the small glider be able to meet that?

    1. Is possible to equip a glider with a radar (corner) reflector, those are very easy to made, they’re mainly used in ships and do wonders, trough there are also some aviation uses.

        1. No, those reflector are made in a way that they maximize the return signal in the direction of the incoming signal, the work like the light reflectors used in bicycles but for radio signals.

    2. I’ve always been interested in this sort of thing but have the same question.
      I think it’d be even more fun if you could do a powered UAV drop from a balloon

  2. Just make sure you tune the APM properly. I’ve helped a few groups doing space drops of APM equipped planes, and some of them have done it without tuning the plane first, and without getting the right CoG etc then they won’t why the plane doesn’t come home. Tune it with autotune first before asking it to navigate back from high altitudes. A digital airspeed sensor is also a good idea, as at high altitude the ground speed is likely to be very high. You’ll also need a large turn radius (high NAVL1_PERIOD) or the G forces may rip the wings off.

  3. Seems like the glider drop is mostly just a novelty. After all, it’s just going to drift with the wind for the majority of it’s fall. I doubt a toy glider has a useful ceiling above a few thousand feet.

    1. I would not use a V tail on this. Between the short wing and the V tail it’s performance at high altitude will not be great. As to ceiling? The ceiling on an aircraft is the altitude where the rate of climb is below x. With a balloon dropped glider like this it does not really come into play. The real issue is if the stall speed at altitude is low enough that the glider does not shred. You really want an ASI on this.

  4. I wonder: Will the plane be able to actually fly in ~30 km altitude?
    The air there is very thin and the parachutes usually used to recover these balloons act as a stabilization in these regions at most, the decceleration they can provide is very limited.
    Or is the plane using the multi-kilometer drop at the beginning just to get up to speed?

  5. Wow! Unless I understand this the wrong way, this must be one of the most stupid projects I can think of.
    Are these guys considering at all that this glider of them will be released well above commercial airliners? Can’t they satisfy their testosteron itch without endangering others?

    1. Weather balloons fly through those altitudes all the time.
      Let me explain. The Sky is very big.Stay away from airports and airways and the danger is very very small.

    2. Well actually, to legally launch the balloon they have to file a weather balloon advisory with the FAA. Planes who plan to fly in that area can divert course hours ahead of time to be sure not to hit the balloon.

  6. The Karman line, lies at an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 mi) above the Earth’s sea level. So unless they can go higher than that they are NOT in SPACE. Near space maybe…

  7. On our UAV glider that we dropped from a weather balloon the navigation system had a pitot tube to measure ‘air speed’. At high altitude where there is very little air, the auto pilot instructed the glider to take quite a steep dive to maintain suitable air speed to fly and not tumble out of control. As the air became thicker the auto pilot instructed the aircraft to level out to maintain the same air speed, but slower “true” speed (sort of ground speed, but ground speed is really only the x vector component of where the glider was moving).

  8. Is GPS really an option? I recall there being a ceiling limit imposed on GPS for (among other things) preventing the above average joe from building his own cruise missile.

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