Balloon & Kite Mapping
Why Balloons and Kites?
These tools are being developed to provide a low cost, easy to use, and safe methods for making maps and 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. The balloon and kite ground-based activities introduce an on-demand capability where events or environmental conditions are mapped at a specific moment in time. 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
Grassroots 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: Single Line systems: The PET Bottle & Rubber Band Rig wraps around the small and medium sized cameras (up to micro 4/3) for crash protection while firmly mounting it in a position for vertical images.
For heavy cameras, a Trash Can Rig offers more protection.
Multiple Line Systems: these are more complex to build but can provide added stability, especially useful for video. Several people have created Picavet rigs.
Cameras: A small camera that supports continuous shooting mode and a large storage card, or an excellent camera phone are our preferred options.
Mapmaking software: Public Laboratory's MapKnitter is easy to use browser software for map making.
Useful guides: Our latest guides can always be found on the Guides page, including:
The four-page Grassroots Mapping Guide
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
- Near-infrared imagery for vegetation monitoring and other uses.
- Image analysis - Try some of these techniques for bringing out detail and compositing your images with near-infrared imagery.
- Ground control point targets for correlating on-the-ground measurements directly with photos.
- Balloon telemetry for recording GPS and gyroscopic data.
- Kite Balloons experiments in wind-stabilized balloons
- Hydrogen ballooning - be very careful!
- check out our community blog
- Join our mailing list
- Share your work by posting research notes to the PLOTS 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