Solar Tetroon Spooks Albuquerque

An interesting take on Hackerspace outreach is spooking the local community into calling the FAA and even the Air Force. It wasn’t exactly the plan at Quelab, but after an experimental solar tetroon got away from [Gonner Menning], one of the space’s members, that’s exactly what happened.

This is the first we remember hearing of solar tetroons. A tetroon is actually a fairly common weather balloon design using four triangle-shaped pieces. The solar part is pretty neat, it’s a balloon that uses the sun to heat air inside of a balloon. Instead of filling the bladder with a lighter-than-air gas it is filled with regular air and the sun’s rays heat it to become lighter than the surrounding ambient air.

For this particular flight the balloon was never supposed to be off the tether. Previous iterations had turned out to be rather poor fliers. Of course it figures that when [Gonner] finally tuned the design with an optimal weight to lift ratio it slipped its leash and got away. The GPS package tracked it for quite a while but ended up dying and the craft was nary to be found.

We weren’t going to embed the local news coverage video, but at the end the talking heads end up rolling around the word “Hackerspace” in their mouths like it’s foreign food. Good for a giggle after the break.

[Images: Zoot Azure via Flickr]

[Thanks Geoff]

38 thoughts on “Solar Tetroon Spooks Albuquerque

  1. They sell similar but smaller solar balloons as toys. And many people make them from tied black bin bags. So I’m not sure why the guy said he wasn’t sure if it was gonna work.

    1. The big difference is size, 20’ft on a side, you can see the smaller one 10′ behind him cant gain enough temperature differential to lift the weight of the balloon.. the other significant difference is the “greenhouse” top, instead of being black on all sides the top is designed to be pretty IR transparent, so it will help the sun shining through get trapped. and convert to heat on the side walls. previous attempt didn’t get enough temperature difference to get lift, but doing it on a colder day helped a lot.

        1. Lol, I love the whole gun “defense” spiel. What’s the point of having a gun to defend yourself if you don’t have it loaded with the safety off and in your hand at ALL TIMES. Because having a gun doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be able to use it in time or in the right way to actually defend yourself.

          The truth in the argument is that every single country with strict gun control benefits from it, including much fewer deaths from gun accidents and from gun-centric crime. I know you’ll blah blah about “what if they have a gun waaah”. They don’t. Sometimes they do, and that’s bad, but 99% of the time, with strict gun control, the criminal does not have a gun. Look at Australia and New Zealand. Your gun culture has become a religion; you refuse to acknowledge the facts and pointing at one or two cases where someone successfully defended themselves with a gun is just a distraction.

          1. My father lives in New Zealand and and has more guns than most Americans I’ve met. Lets not forget one of the most heavy armed countries, Switzerland has the lowest homicide rate in all of Europe.

          2. Im from land of oz. the laws are useless here. if a thief injures themselves on your property your liable.
            we need guns, that way anyone choosing to do some criminal act will think twice about the consequence.

            60 minutes had an episode with some town in the US where every home owner was required to own a gun and that area had the lowest crime & gun related deaths compared to anywhere else in US! (dont remember the name)

            We need more gun ownership. USA, don’t fold to the scaremongering. Defend your right to bear arms otherwise you will just serve your balls up on a platter.

          3. Although people want to believe gun control reduces criminals access to guns, it does not. Organized crime and terrorists will still get whatever they want wherever they want. However, when an AR-15 costs $15,000 on the black market and magazine-fed guns are illegal, no kid will bring one to school and a lonely psycho who holds up a cafe will only have enough money for a black market glock (around $1,000). Bullets are also controlled, so mass shootings are less possible. Making crossbows require a license though was absolutely stupid.

    1. “For *this particular flight* the balloon was never supposed to be off the tether.” But you’d still want to know if the balloon is capable of lifting the electronics package, so attach that. And you’d want to know if the electronics package is actually working, perhaps it worked flawlessly on the workbench, but getting jostled around by balloons in the wind might expose an intermittent connection; so power it up and set up the tracking station. Take every opportunity to test, test, test. Things rarely work out as intended. As it is, testing exposed one unexpected issue – the tethers. ;)

      1. The thing is – it went over Kirtland Air Force Base && they didn’t scramble the jets.
        And, yes, we were very impressed the weather guy knew what a makerspace is.

  2. Call the national UFO reporting hotline, 3 aliens spotted on channel 7 news.
    Ill bet the weather man uses both hands on the green-screen-map to dramatize the cold front sweeping across the land tonight.

  3. If you suspect a ‘real’ UFO (unidentified flying object) , shoot your >5mW Red, Blue, or Green laser pointer at it or Q-Beam spotlight. You will quickly find out what it really is as the local police arrive at your location or the UFO vectors over your position for a closer look at you. Either way it will probably evoke an immediate response if it is manned. If it is a R/C device the remote pilots (miles away) will not even notice your illuminating it and just continue whatever they were doing. IFO’s (opposite of UFO) have coordinated running lights, predetermined flightpath, and rarely hover over anything for no apparent reason. UFO’s may be erratic and have multicolored lights flashing in no particular order. They usually don’t have noticeable wings or tails or exhaust. If they hover over anything you will usually notice massive amounts of ESD coming from the invisible downwash from the V/STOL engines. Firing a gun at them will not do much damage as they are usually R/C devices (nobody inside) and you’ll only POSSIBLY rupture only a few of the Kevlar covered Helium envelopes or fuselage. They would only possibly turn out to be a highly classified USG drone you’ve never heard of and are NOT from another planet! Wouldn’t a probable interstellar spacecraft be made of different stuff and shape? Wouldn’t the original other-world senders use universal 1st contact protocols versus rude stealth probing? Christopher Columbus (et al) made that common mistake. Look what that caused…

    PLEASE NOTE: I am not recommending you ACTUALLY do this laser/Q-beam thing as it is illegal in USA. Just food for thought.

  4. The HaD team have even commented in the past about how silly the expression sounds, but until somebody comes up with a better way of signifying that there’s more to see once you click the link, the expression will continue to be used.

    1. I’ve heard it called “the fold” from oldenday dead tree newspapers where the headlines were above the fold in the paper to attract customers and the actual information was below the fold. You would have to buy the newspaper to read what’s below the fold. In online media you would have the click the link, which causes more (and new) ads to be shown, thus being a “purchase”.

  5. Am I the only one to see this blatant fail?
    “sun’s rays heat it to become lighter than the surrounding ambient air.”

    It doesn’t become lighter… it becomes less dense, therefore more buoyant. It’s still the same amount of mass, in the same gravity field, therefore it still weighs the same.

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