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Balloon Mapping Kit


Public Labs Balloon Mapping Kit

Best for windless days, this DIY kit – developed by community researchers from Public Lab – enables you to take your own aerial photos from 1000 ft or higher. For windy conditions, complement it with a Kite Mapping Pack.

Using the open source tool MapKnitter, you can stitch the resulting images into an online map – your own “counter-cartography” version of Google Maps. Use it to tell a different story from the “official” map – document contamination (it was used to map the BP oil spill) or wetlands loss, or to record a temporary condition like the Occupy Oakland encampment.

To learn more about balloon mapping and get involved in the community, check out the open source documentation on the Public Lab website.

In addition to this kit, you’ll need a camera that can do continuous shooting and a 2-liter soda or juice bottle. Click here for details, but each kit includes:

  • A 5.5 foot (170cm) reusable* balloon made of a latex/chloroprene (neoprene) mix
  • 1000 feet (305m) of 110lb test (55 kilo) Dacron line, pre-wound on an 8” hoop winder
  • Protective canvas gloves for handling the line. Thin line can cause burns to unprotected hands.
  • Three high-strength (270lb) swivel clips. For attaching the balloon and camera
  • Twenty rubber bands. for making a camera cradle
  • Reusable ties. for closing the balloon (3 hook/loop or 10 plastic)
  • One 1” rubber ring. for attaching the balloon to the line
  • One steel carabiner. for anchoring the balloon on the ground
  • Two aluminum mini carabiners. for attaching cameras to the line
  • Printed instruction booklet
  • Reusable box with handle

*We are seeing 5-12 inflations if the balloon is minimally filled (40-50 cu ft) 3-5 if it is medium inflated (60-70 cu ft) and 2-3 inflations if the balloon is filled all the way to 80-85 cu ft.


Public Lab

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