Earthly/Geo/Astro · Education · Film/Video/New Media · Photographics · Public Space · Technology

Grassroots Cartography with Ballons and Kites


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

How to make your own

at least 1000 ft of string on a spool
a cheap digital camera with “continuous mode”
a balloon or kite
a rubber band
tape & scissors
leather or cloth gloves

How to use it

The illustrated guide includes lots of tips for a successful flight; print it and bring it with you!
Be sure to review the Balloon Mapping Regulations for the US, or the equivalent wherever you are planning to map.
Try to launch your balloon to at least 1000 ft for a good compromise of high resolution vs. large area.
Stay away from power lines, airports, and traffic.

Source: Public Laboratory. More info and download material HERE

An example without the mapping: iPad Survives 100,000+ Foot Fall From Space Near Area 51.