Last night I went into London to meet up with other Pi enthusiasts over a pint, and to do a talk about my Pi-based weather balloon activities. Thanks to Andy and Matt for organising it and inviting me! Here’s a pic from Andy of me in “action”:
The talk seemed to go down well and as requested I’ve shared my slide-show which you can view here.
A few people asked me about how to get involved in the hobby. Even if you don’t fly your own balloon you can have a lot of fun helping other people by tracking their flights. All you need is a suitable radio aerial and receiver, and you can find out all about how to do this on the UKHAS wiki which is a triumph of content over organisation, but the first link you need is to the Tracking Guide. You don’t even need an expensive receiver, as a simple SDR (aka TV USB Dongle) will do as explained here. To get the best range (so you can receive flights across the UK) you need to get an aerial (cheap or make one yourself) up high, and preferably add a HAB Amp specially designed for the task.
The HAB (High Altitude Ballooning) community is small but very friendly and active, and almost everyone in it hangs out in the #highaltitude IRC channel. To ask questions, or see what we’re all talking about, use an IRC client (I use Hex-Chat) or connect via the web client. I’m on there as “daveake” but you’ll find plenty of other friendly people there too.
Finally, flights are (usually) announced on the mailing list first, telling you when the launch is planned to be (weather and technical issues often have a say in that), what frequency etc. To track a flight, join the list first and when you see a flight you want to track, join the IRC channel and check that it’s still going ahead. People there will be pleased to help if you have any trouble setting up. Even if you don’t help track, you can watch the action on the map and that will usually have links to any extras such as live images or video streaming from the launch site.