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Public Lab Wiki documentation

Balloon & Kite Mapping

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This tool is being developed to provide a low cost, easy to use, and safe method for making maps with aerial images. Over the last two years, we’ve built a global community of mappers who are engaged in discussion around the development and use of this tool and others. Normally aerial maps are made from satellites and airplanes. This activity introduces easy methods for making on-demand maps. Our community is particularly interested in applying this to civic and environmental issues.

Browse maps and data generated with this technique in the Public Laboratory Archive

Browse Research Notes on Balloon Mapping

Aerial Mapping Toolkit

Our aerial mapping toolkit is a simplified kite and balloon aerial photography system for easy and accessible high-resolution map-making. The tookit consists of:

Flight platforms: Assembling a balloon kit will cost from $100-200, including helium. The Public Laboratory Balloon Mapping Kit is assembled from our preferred parts. For alternative and low-cost materials, see the Balloon Mapping Materials page. For kites, see Kite Mapping

Camera housings: The PET Bottle & Rubber Band Rig wraps around the camera for crash protection while firmly mounting it in a position for vertical images.

Cameras: A small camera that supports continuous shooting mode and a large storage card, or an excellent camera phone are our preferred optioins. camera selection camera trigger

Mapmaking software: A means of image sorting either on your desktop, or using Mapmill

Public Laboratory's MapKnitter, browser software for map making. or pay software such as Photoshop, Hypr3d, or PhotoSynth

Useful guides: Our latest guides can always be found on the Guides page. including the four-page Grassroots Mapping Guide, The Balloon Mapping Quick Start Guide to filling and flying, and The Balloon Mapping Check Lists, which are extremely useful in planning field expeditions, even for experienced fliers. We also maintain a guide to FAA regulations page.

Curricula and workshops: Our Curriculum-Guide covers the entire process and some theory behind mapping. It is still in beta.

Applications and Example Uses

Residents of the Gulf Coast are using balloons and kites to produce their own aerial imagery of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill… documentation that will be essential for environmental and legal use in coming years. We believe in complete open access to spill imagery and are releasing all imagery from the oil spill mapping project into the public domain. Browse maps and data from the Gulf Coast and elsewhere in the Public Laboratory Archive

Advanced Techniques

Get Involved

  • check out our community blog
  • Join our mailing list
  • Post research notes to our site.
  • tag your photos publiclaboratory and grassrootsmapping on Facebook, Flickr, etc.
  • contact our team directly. be sure to mention: the coordinates of the site context; what you'd like to use the data for

Places to start contributing