The advent of cheap software-defined radio hardware means that what would have once been an exotic expensive undertaking can now be relatively cheap. [David] notes that using some pretty simple gear, he could track down weather balloons.
The U.S. National Weather Service sends up a large number of radiosondes attached to balloons twice a day. Their job is to measure conditions at high altitudes up to about 30km. Once the balloon gets too high, the pressure inside bursts the balloon, and a small parachute slows the instrument package’s descent back to Earth. [David] wanted to track these down and return them to the NWS for reuse.
There are several interesting items to note in the post, including a link to a site that tracks ballons all over the world. The radiosondes that [David] wanted to find transmit on 403.4 MHz and they were relatively easy to hear. If you want to join in on the fun, you only need a few simple pieces of gear. One important thing, though, is perhaps the best hack of all: an orange safety vest. As [David] says, “If you’re wearing an orange vest, everyone assumes that whatever you are doing is legit.”
It doesn’t sound like [David] has actually recovered any radiosondes yet. But he found one, but it was, unfortunately, on the other side of a fence with no trespassing signs. We guess an orange vest doesn’t solve all problems.
Of course, some people see the radiosonde hardware as a gift from the heavens but we think it is classier to return them. We’ve actually looked at these devices several times and we always find them fascinating.