Budget Launch, Aerial Video Balloon





Introduction: Budget Launch, Aerial Video Balloon

About: Im a bit of a geek of all trades. Of late most of my free energy has going into Making sure our hacker/makerspace is awesome! Come check us out!

The Hackerspace I "work" at Quelab.net just marked its 1 year open point.  Woohoo!!!!  And so we thought about combining our usual monthly/bimonthly event with a bit of a larger scale project.  And that was to fly a balloon with a camera.

But we have a pretty limited budget and a short time frame to get it done.  Here is how it went, (still uploading the video to youtube as i write this).  Sadly the video is not as good as i hoped,  the wind had picked back up, so its loud,  and very jiggly.

I didn't know at the time of planning this that there was a contest about launching things  (does it hurt your chances to mention a contest in an entry??) I found the contest when making my mini instructable on making "LED Flyies" But I did stay up the night after our big event to write this up and post if because the deadline is 11pm tomorrow!

Video of the flight and some still photos can be seen on the last page of this Instructible!

Step 1: The Parts

1 36" latex balloon, $3.85 got it at (balloonsfast.com)
1 Tank of helium ( was able to borrow my dad's otherwise rent one.  the disposable tanks are overpriced)
1 6"x6"  square of foam-core board.
1 spy pen video camera. $30
1 Kite reel (i had one already, but they go for about $4)
1 postcard $0.25 and $0.29 stamp
1 ziploc bag.
1 Dollar bill (prize)
1 sticker prize.
Tape,  used both scotch and 3m double sided sticky tape

Step 2: Assembly

Sadly I made some photos of this part, but lost them by formatting the wrong memory card. 

so i only have the photo of the platform on the scale.

I cut a slot on the foam core board,  its a little less than 1/2CM wide. the balloon just above the know will go here

I cut it off center to allow for the prize/postcard ziploc to counter balance the camera.

Prize pouch contains, ziploc baggie, full of 1/2 of a dollar bill (part of the prize if they return the postcard with an address) a sticker from Quelab, and a postcard pre filled out and stamped, requesting where it was found and a return address to send other 1/2 of the bill.

Prize pouch is just taped down, and also taped down with scotch tape on the other side.

Camera is double sided taped down, and also had a thing of tape around the board make sure it didnt fall off.

I weighed it to make sure it was well under the 66gm  of lift the balloon is supposed to be able to do (was also worried it would lift less than 66gm due to the fact i'm a mile above sea-level.

Step 3: Launchday

Today was launchday.

We had a large event involving local rocketry experts, and astronomers, and all sorts of paper airplane testing/contesting.

I was worried that the afternoon storms had whipped up some wind,  but we got a little calm, so i decided to go for it.

I was worried that the wind might catch the balloon as i was filling it or tying it, so i had friends hold a netting over me. while I inflated it.  It was a good idea. made the act of tying a knot and getting it on the string much less stressful

It had more lift than i thought.  (was not totally full probably only 80% of the way to being frighteningly full)

Slid the platform on the bottom of the balloon, and turned on the camera.  (note to all of you out there, apparently i bumped the button so it recorded one second. :(   but  after letting it up and reeling it back, i found that out so we launched again, this time being sure it stayed recording. ! Woo! two for the price of one! )

Step 4: The Video! and More Photos.

Ok, so first off it was a little windy,  and apparently the kite reel i had lets out line a little jiggly.  so if you get motion sickness be warned!

Next  time i hope its a more calm day,  i may also put a wide angle lens on the camera. ,  maybe a fin or tail on the camera so it only looks one way.

When we were all done I retrieved the camera from the platform, taped the platform to the balloon, and set it free! It was visible for about 11 minutes until it started to kiss the clouds. Lets hope someone mails back the postcard!  if so i will scan it and post it here!

If you want to do something like this and are in the Albuquerque area, come checkout Quelab!  Its a Hackerspace/Makerspace having a lot of fun!

Launch It! Challenge

Runner Up in the
Launch It! Challenge

Celestron Space Challenge

Runner Up in the
Celestron Space Challenge

Camera & Photo Skills Challenge

First Prize in the
Camera & Photo Skills Challenge



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    34 Discussions

    I saw an rv with smoke comeing out of it......

    Does the camera upload to a computer or Idevice as it's filming ?

    1 reply

    Sadly no, it just locally recorded, which is why it was on a string, and also sadly why we had to send it up twice, had not pressed the button well enough and it was not recording the first time.

    there are some new wireless cameras folks could use, but probably not as cheap still.

    that's not funny, seriously you think plane crashes are funny?

    That is the same faa guideline i looked over, and it has nothing about the limited size of the balloons i used, its talking about. "that has a diameter of more than 6 feet or a gas capacity of more than 115 cubic feet."

    My balloon had a rated cubic footage of 5.5 feet. if you look at the w6xe link above you can see he went and did a big job of playing phone tag, and was unable to find any regulations.

    That's an excellent point that I forgot about. The applicability section that you're quoting would mean that FAR 101 doesn't apply to your balloon and that you can legally fly it at any height as long as you do so in a safe manner that doesn't cause a hazard to others.

    I found a good discussion of this topic here.

    However, in practical application the FAA will most likely want to have a word with you if you're flying it over 500ft or anywhere near an airport. They'll probably consider it hazardous at that point. (think helicopters or small planes running into it) Double check with the local Air Traffic Control if you're unsure.

    There is some good information on balloon cameras at Public Laboratory. They are doing mapping work. Check it out: http://publiclaboratory.org/home

    indeed i may look into one but it would ultimately have to be under about 6 grams.

    not sure it would have helped so much, our wind was pretty strong, and most of the cause of jitter. it it was a free flying balloon i think it would have happily floated on the wind.

    Hi, I love the idea of the camera in the balloon but you need to gimbals like on a ship compass, you may need thee balloons then, to take the weight.
    Good luck, ferjanyen@hotmail.com

    Where can I get a camera for this since I don't have a spy pen and I'm not going to buy one online. Is there a webcam I could use that costs less than $10?

    1 reply

    search ebay for "Key chain spy cam" or search for "808 key chain cam" they can be bought for under $10 us and shoot decent video and stills. We use them on RC planes all the time.