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August 2012

Operation Ice Dragon – Part 2 – Legalities

Ice Dragon Logo

I’ve reached out to the FAA in regards to the legalities surrounding launching balloons and received a call back from a gentleman in the Tampa office last week.  Overall he was very helpful and pointed me to the same portion of the regulations I had been looking over.  Based on section 101.1 and 101.31 of the FAA code regarding balloons it appears I can launch the balloon without notifying air traffic control and do not need to worry about the type of airspace I’m launching from based on a few rules.

According to the exceptions listed in 101.1 of the FAA code, as long as I do not exceed the items listed in section 4, the balloon will not apply to the sections, in particular 101.31, following:

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Operation Ice Dragon – Part 1 – Tracking

Ice Dragon LogoIt went where?!

One of the most crucial portions of this project is the recovery of the balloon, which will take a bit of technology.  Since I’m a programmer I couldn’t resist building the tracking application myself.

The tracker is an Android app that will be installed on an old phone and placed in the styrofoam cooler during the flight.  The tracker uses the phones built in GPS to then track it’s position and report it back in the following ways:

  • A file on the phone will record every position it observes, so if there’s no cell or internet connection, I’ll have a copy of where the balloon was to see later.
  • If the phone has cellular coverage it will send me a text message with it’s position, battery remaining, as well as it’s speed and altitude.
  • Finally, if  the phone has internet connectivity it will submit information contained in the text message to a web server that will then plot it’s position in real time on a Google map.
Below is a screenshot of the application on my phone, and then the Google Maps view of the points received.
Ice Dragon GPS Tracker
Ice Dragon GPS Tracker


Ice Dragon Google Maps Tracker
Ice Dragon Google Maps Tracker

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Operation Ice Dragon – Introduction

Ice Dragon Logo A few people have been asking about my posts on Facebook lately regarding sending a weather balloon into space.   I’ve indeed decided to try and accomplish this project following the footsteps of many others around the world.

The basics of the project work like this, you buy a large weather balloon to which you then attach a parachute and then a small styrofoam cooler.  You then fill the cooler with various electronics such as cameras and some sort of tracking device so you can figure out where your balloon lands when it comes back down.  I’ve dubbed this “Project Ice Dragon” complete with logo for the mission.

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