Balloon-Eye View Via Ham Radio

If you’ve ever thought about launching a high-altitude balloon, there’s much to consider. One of the things is how do you stream video down so that you — and others — can enjoy the fruits of your labor? You’ll find advice on that and more in a recent post from [scd31]. You’ll at least enjoy the real-time video recorded from the launch that you can see below.

The video is encoded with a Raspberry Pi 4 using H264. The MPEG-TS stream feeds down using 70 cm ham radio gear. If you are interested in this sort of thing, software, including flight and ground code, is on the Internet. There is software for the Pi, an STM32, plus the packages you’ll need for the ground side.

We love high-altitude balloons here at Hackaday. San Francisco High Altitude Ballooning (SF-HAB) launched a pair during last year’s Supercon, which attendees were able to track online. We don’t suggest you try to put a crew onboard, but there’s a long and dangerous history of people who did.

22 thoughts on “Balloon-Eye View Via Ham Radio

    1. In the same chapter, The FAA also has rules related to visibility and safety, including a requirement that your balloon/payload be radar reflective (14 CFR 101.37). *and* you are required to inform the relevant air traffic control facility about your balloon launch in great detail at least 6 hours in advance (14 CFR 101.39). As long as these folks are following all the rules, nobody in the sky is going to come near the thing.

      I guess it’d be good for Hackaday to mention that, in case someone with no experience wants to try launching their own balloon, but I don’t begrudge the original author for not talking about safety in an article focusing on radio.

        1. Canadian regs:

          Large Unoccupied Free Balloons

          602.42 No person shall release an unoccupied free balloon having a gas-carrying capacity of more than 115 cubic feet (3.256 m3) except in accordance with an authorization issued by the Minister pursuant to section 602.44.

          Stay under 115 cubic feet and you’re largely unregulated. Ham community recommends filing with NavCanada.

    2. Occasionally I’ll see a NOTAM about high altitude balloon launches and even amateur rocket launches near my airport. They are coordinated with the FAA. I have also seen mylar birthday balloons floating around at 2500 feet (762 meters) but I don’t think those were planned launches.

  1. We send telemetry down separately – overlaying it into the video would be a fairly inefficient way to get it to the ground. It would be possible to overlay it on the ground side though. Right now it gets displayed in a second window.

  2. Traditionally, this was an application for Slow Scan Television (SSTV).
    Robot-36, Martin M1, Scottie S1, PD-120 etc..
    Then, a simple handheld radio will do.
    APRS in AFSK will also work with that radio.

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