Citizen Scientists Continue Balloon Mapping Initiatives

Public Labs is running a Kickstarter campaign to launch two new balloon mapping kits and innovate their current systems.

Public Lab was born during the BP oil spill, when information about the oil spill and its location and extent was under media blackout. The Public Lab community developed the Balloon Mapping Kit, so that citizen scientists could attach cameras to balloons or kites and generate data to be shared with the general public. The group is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to generate more data about the balloon kits and innovate their designs.

The classic Balloon Mapping Kit comes with a 5.5 foot weather balloon, 1000 feet of 100 pound test line, an 8 inch winder, and several clips for attaching a camera. Users need to add the camera, a soda bottle, and approximately $35 of helium. Mini Balloon Kits come with three 36 inch mylar balloons, 1000 feet of 50 pound string, gloves and some attachment pieces. A lightweight camera (the specifications ask for less than 100 grams) and helium are needed to finish the kit. The kite option comes with an octopus kite, string, and connectors. The user only needs to add the camera.

One interesting section of the campaign page talks about drones. The first Public Labs projects were launched before drones were widespread, and the group feels that drones aren’t currently accessible and affordable for everyone. The Balloon Mapping Kits also hold a strong commitment to open source ideals, with a preference that anyone can easily create a balloon system and begin mapping.

Even though this is a fundraising effort where users can buy the kits Public Lab stresses that they want to be a community first. A network of people gathering and sharing information, along with a strong commitment to testing these three different mapping systems and sharing feedback and improvement ideas with the rest of the community. Information about building the balloons, balloon mapping, formatting and communicating the data are all available on the Public Lab website. The Kickstarter campaign is set to end July 20, 2017.