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Make your own aerial photos and maps with our flight kit and MapKnitter browser app.  Add a camera to our reusable 5.5' balloon & kit.
Make your own aerial photos and maps with our flight kit and MapKnitter browser app. Add a camera to our reusable 5.5' balloon & kit.
463 backers pledged $34,646 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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What is Balloon Mapping?

Balloon mapping is sending a camera up on a balloon, snapping photos, and stitching them into a map. Over the past 18 months, we’ve build a global community of mappers who use balloons and kites to take aerial photos, and our browser application MapKnitter to stitch them together.  We've put our experience into a comprehensive balloon mapping kit that only costs $85 (shipping included) and comes with illustrated instructions.

 Follow us at grassrootsmapping.org, and check out our map archive at the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science .  this is what a small map can look like (by Jaroslav Valuch, Czech Republic):

Who is the Public Laboratory?

The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) is a non-profit and a community of activists, educators, scientists, technologists, community leaders, and organizers that develop and apply open-source tools to environmental exploration and investigation. By democratizing inexpensive and accessible “Do-It-Yourself” techniques, Public Laboratory creates a collaborative network of practitioners who actively re-imagine the human relationship with the environment.

You've believed in us before and been a major part of our success. That's why we're coming back to the Kickstarter community that gave us our start.  We need your help to initiate large-scale distribution of our tools.  As a fully funded-non profit, we are only looking to Kickstart our first run of balloon kits, and launch distribution and assembly infrastructure that we can then apply to other tools in development.  All money collected beyond our costs will go towards tool distribution to communities in need.  

Why balloon mapping?

Balloons fly low and can be used to take high-resolution images.  Residents of the Gulf Coast are using balloon mapping to produce their own aerial imagery of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  For the first weeks of the disaster a restricted flight zone was declared below 4000ft... but not for balloons.

The Gowanus Canal Conservancy uses balloons to track their reclamation work and to discover new aspects of their Superfund waterway.

More recently, protest mapping has become popular, with video. Fundacion Ciudadano Inteligente started it all.

What is in the balloon kit?

A 5.5 foot (170cm) reusable balloon made of a latex/chloroprene (neoprene) mix, making it UV resistant, fairly tear resistant, and excellent at retaining helium.  Two-four days of flights can be had with one filling of helium.

1000 feet (305m) of 110lb test (55 kilo) Dacron line for tying to your balloon, all pre-wound on our favorite 8" hoop winder. We tracked these back to the factory and are having them custom wound.  No other winder is sold with more than 500' of line.

Protective rubberized gloves for handling the line.  Thin, high-strength line can cause burns to unprotected hands.  We ship you a pair of rubber-coated cotton gloves.  With rubberized gloves the line is also much easier to pull in.

Three high-strength swivel clips.  For attaching the balloon and camera, with one extra.

ten rubber bands. for making a camera cradle and a spare.

ten zip ties. for closing the balloon.

one 1" ring. for attaching the balloon to the line.

What kind of camera works?

You will need a camera that can do continuous shooting (or "continuous drive")-- there are apps for iPhone and Android.  See if your camera is on this list of continuous drive cameras at Digital Photography Review.

What is Grassroots Mapping Forum?

Grassroots Mapping Forum is a brand-new quarterly publication produced by the Public Laboratory to support grassroots mappers.  One of our balloon or kite made maps appears on the front side, with notes, how-tos, and interviews on the back.  The first issue is 25"x35" and printed on acid-free paper. We have 300 copies left. if they run out, we will ship Grassroots Mapping Forum #2 to you in April.  

What 12" x 18" prints are available? 

Pointe aux Chenes, Deep Lake, Louisiana, October 22nd, 2010. A low and gnarled coastline.

Lake Borgne, Louisiana, June 11th, 2010. Lake Borgne's winding channels and brilliant foliage will grab you.

Washington Square Park, New York, New York, April 27th, 2011, a sort of Where's Waldo in the park.

Occupy Oakland, 10AM, November 2nd, 2011, with three views of the crowd marching, this map really captures the eye.

FAQ

  • yes! we have a sign up for kits, and will begin retail sales soon.

    http://publiclaboratory.org/wiki/advance-kit-orders

    Last updated:
  • Fully inflated to 170cm (5.5ft) the balloon can lift a maximum of 1500g (3.4lbs) at sea level and 20 degrees C (68 F)-- but we don't recommend payloads above 1000g (2.2lbs), or 2/3 of the maximum lift.

    Calculating lift at higher altitudes and different temperatures and pressures is tricky, but 80%-85% of sea-level lift should be available at 2000m (6500 ft)

    Breakdown at sea level:

    170cm (5.5ft) inflation = 2460 liters of helium (87 cu ft) = 2540g gross lift @ 1.03 g/l (5.4lbs) - 350g balloon weight - 600g string - losses to back pressure (pressure of balloon) = 1500g max lift

    Last updated:
  • As part of our mission to get kits out to the widest possible audience, there is no additional charge for international shipping.

    Last updated:
  • Yes! we apologize for not including a "get everything" option. $125 will get you a t-shirt, subscription to Grassroots Mapping Forum, and a balloon kit. $145 will get you a 12"x18" wall print, t-shirt, subscription to Grassroots Mapping Forum, and a balloon kit.

    Last updated:

Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $8 or more About $8

    Grassroots Mapping Forum Issue #2
    A large fold-out map created by grassroots mappers, with interviews, articles, and how-tos on the back.

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    12 backers
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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Grassroots Mapping Forum #1
    a 23"x35" map of Deepwater Horizon's oil in Wilkinson Bay, Louisiana, July 22nd, 2010. printed on acid free paper, with interviews and how-tos on the back.

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    Limited 32 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    12"x18" matte print. Choose one of our favorite maps:
    Lake Borgne, Louisiana,
    Pointe aux Chenes- Deep Lake, Louisiana,
    Washington Square Park, New York, NY,
    Occupy Oakland, 10AM, 11/4.

    +One Issue Grassroots Mapping Forum

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    34 backers
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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    A full year's subscription to Grassroots Mapping Forum, published quarterly. You receive a fold-up map made by grassroots mappers, with notes, writings, interviews, and how-tos on the back.

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    23 backers
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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    Grassroots Mapping T-shirt, blue. S M L XL. +a full year's subscription to Grassroots Mapping Forum, published quarterly.

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    23 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    5.5 foot (170cm) chloroprene-latex rubber balloon ONLY. You must add string, winder, gloves, clasps, rubber bands, about 35$ of helium, a camera, and a soda bottle.

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    4 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $85 or more About $85

    Balloon Mapping Kit, including shipping +one issue Grassroots Mapping Forum. With printed flight instructions and map making how-tos.
    Kit includes:
    5.5' (170cm) rubber balloon, 1000' of 110-pound line on an 8" hoop winder, protective rubber-coated gloves, three 100-pound swivel clasps, 10 zip ties, 1" ring, 10 rubber bands

    You add a camera, a soda bottle, and about $35 of helium.

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    262 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $105 or more About $105

    balloon kit + print + subscription to Grassroots Mapping Forum

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    7 backers
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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    balloon kit + t-shirt + subscription to Grassroots Mapping Forum.

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    5 backers
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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $145 or more About $145

    balloon kit + t-shirt + print + subscription to Grassroots Mapping Forum

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    4 backers
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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $325 or more About $325

    Matched Infrared and Visible Light camera set (Canon A490/A495 cameras) with DIY kit for mounting and dual camera shutter synch.
    + a balloon kit + subscription to Grassroots Mapping Forum

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  12. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $425 or more About $425

    Matched Infrared and Visible Light camera set (Canon A490/A495 cameras) with fully assembled mounting and dual camera shutter synch.
    + a balloon kit + subscription to Grassroots Mapping Forum

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    Reward no longer available 3 backers
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Funding period

- (21 days)