PIE1 – Raspberry Pi Sends Live Images from Near Space

HAB (High Altitude Ballooning) is a growing hobby where enthusiasts use standard weather balloons to put small payloads typically 100g-1kg into “near space” at altitudes of around 30km or so, carrying a tracking device (so the balloon position is known throughout the flight) and usually some sensors (temperature, pressure etc) and often a video or stills camera storing to an SD card for later retrieval. The job of the tracker is to read the location from the GPS receiver, possibly also read some sensors, and then format and send a telemetry sentence to the ground over a low power radio link. Flights only happen once the predicted path is known to be safe (avoiding airports and densely populated areas for example) and permission has been gained from (in the UK) the CAA. Here the tracking system uses the 70cm radio band (around 434MHz) using RTTY to send the telemetry down to a number of ground stations run by other enthusiasts. Telemetry from all receivers is sent to a central server that then drives a live map which can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. The system works extremely well and has been used to track payloads at distances of 800km and more even though the transmitter is limited by UK law to 10mW ERP.

In early May I received my first Raspberry Pi computer, and having flown several high altitude balloons before I thought about using one as a flight computer. In almost all of my previous flights I used Arduino Mini Pro boards, and these are ideal – tiny, weigh almost nothing, simple and need very little power. I looked at the Pi and saw none of these desirable features! What I did see though was a USB port offering quick, easy and inexpensive access to a webcam, meaning that for the first time I could have live images (SSDV) sent down by my payload – something that hasn’t been done very often.

“Near Space” is a fairly hostile environment – less than 1% atmosphere, temperatures down to -50C or so – and if anything goes wrong it’s likely to stay wrong. The radio link is one-way so there’s no chance of remotely doing a “sudo reboot” let alone powering off then on again! Descent can be violent, as can the landing, so even things like SD card sockets can represent a potential failure mode. The Pi is a step up in complexity from the usual boards we use, that have no SD cards, or USB, or even an operating system, so the extra power and capability does come at a price, and the first one is an increase in the power requirement from around 60mA to over 500mA, and that of course means much higher power dissipation. People often worry about the low temperatures in near space, but when your payload is generating a few watts of power that is not likely to be a problem! I was much more concerned with how hot it was going to get inside the payload, so I added some heatsinks to the Pi:

I used special thermal adhesive to glue heatsinks to the USB/ETH chip and to the 3.3V regulator. Both get warm but not hot normally, and I feared that at 1% atmosphere (so less convection) they’d possibly get too hot. You can also see 2 wires carrying 5V directly to the Pi – soldered joints are more reliable than using a connector. Another modification was to remove the S2 video connector to make space for components on my expansion board. The final modification was to short out the USB fuses since my webcam’s current requirement exceeds their rating. I then added a small piece of stripboard carrying a Radiometrix NTX2 radio transmitter to send the telemetry and images down to the ground, and connected that to a simple GPS receiver on a wire tail so it can be kept away from the transmitting devices.

The final item for a basic tracker is a suitable power supply. Energizer Lithium AA cells are the obvious choice since they are specified to work down to -40 degrees C, and are very good at high currents (we need over 500mA for the Pi plus webcam). On the way to 30km the outside will get down to -50C, and even with minimal insulation the batteries will self-heat to stay within their operating range. The Pi needs 5V supplied to it, so I used an external LDO (Low DropOut) linear regulator fed from 6 AAs which will supply enough voltage to the regulator until they are pretty much flat. With the regulator dissipating up to 3 watts it needed and got a heatsink. This is a lot of heat to get rid of a payload (which is insulated because you don’t want it to get too cold either because that can affect other parts). I had some switched mode regulators ordered but they didn’t arrive in time for my flight, so it went up with the linear regulator.

The usual technique with the NTX2 is to send the ‘1’ and ‘0’ values in RTTY by waggling a general purpose I/O pin up and down at the correct rate. e.g. every 20ms for the common 50 baud data rate. This is easy when you’re programming a bare-metal AVR or PIC – just use a delay routine or, as in my trackers, a timer interrupt. However the Pi runs a non-real-time operating system, so I could not rely on accurate timing especially if the operating system is busy taking a photo from the webcam. There are other options but I opted for the simplest one – connect the NTX2 to the serial port. RTTY is just normal RS232-style serial marks and spaces and stop bits etc., so why not let the hardware UART do the timing for me? It didn’t take long to write a small ‘C’ program that opened the serial port at 4800 baud, read enough GPS strings to find the longitude, latitude and altitude, then close the port and re-open at 300 baud (I found that switching baud rates without closing and opening wasn’t always reliable) to send out a formatted telemetry string. Of course to do this I had to disable the login prompt on the serial port, and stop the kernel debug messages being sent to it, but all in all it was simple. All of this was done using the standard Debian image on a 4GB SD card.

Now for the live images. I had to apply a patch to Debian after which it happily recognised the webcam as /dev/video0. I tried a few webcams and settled on the Logitech C270 which is reasonable quality, light and cheap (in case the payload goes missing!). I tried several webcam imaging programs and found fswebcam to be the best (worked without fiddling, yet had enough options to tailor the picture taking). Remember that the radio system has low bandwidth and with a typical flight lasting 2 hours or so we don’t have time to send large images, so there’s no point using the very best webcam and the highest resolution. I settled on 432 x 240 pixels with 50% compression as a good compromise between quality and download speed. I measured the webcam current and it went from 50mA at idle to 250mA peak when taking a picture, hence the need to short out the USB fuse (140mA max). A simple shell script took a photo every 30 seconds, saving them on the SD card so that the tracker program could choose the “best” image (largest jpeg!) for transmission. Each chosen image is then converted to the form for download (split into blocks each with FEC) before being sent 1 block at a time. I interspersed the image data with telemetry – 4 image packets for each telemetry packet). Here’s the Pi making a self-portrait:

With the completed tracker tried and tested, and permission for the flight gained from the CAA, I built a container for the Pi, webcam, GPS, aerials, batteries and regulator. I didn’t want to use too much insulation as the package needed to not get too hot with 3 – 5 watts being generated inside, so I used 10mm thick EPX material. Any thinner would be too fragile.

As the launch day approached the wind predictions consistently showed an S-shaped flight path from the launch site near my home in West Berkshire, initially flying south, then east, then briefly north before turning west at higher altitudes. Then during descent it would go through those directions in the opposite sequence, finally landing somewhere in the Chilterns. With the weather (i.e. rain, as it’s summer now) looking OK if not ideal, I ordered and collected the gas for the balloon. I obtained permission for 2 flights, so a friend and fellow enthusiast Anthony Stirk could come down and fly two new trackers that he’d built. With 3 trackers and 2 flights we opted to fly a large balloon with a small light tracker, and then fly a second balloon with Anthony’s larger tracker and a GoPro HD video camera, then attach the Pi to that. After a bit more thought we decided to add a third tracker as a backup to make sure we got that GoPro back!

The flight day came, and so did the rain, but that was predicted to pass so we waited and then went to the launch site as it eased to a light drizzle. First was the larger balloon with the small payload, so Anthony could make an attempt at the altitude world record. Then came the rather more complicated flight with my Pi payload at the top, then the GoPro payload, and finally my backup “Buzz” tracker which I’d flown before. Here’s “PIE1” waiting to go:

and the balloon it’s being attached to:

The entire train of parachute and 3 payloads weighed 1kg (same as my very first payload) and from the balloon to the lowest payload it was around 60 metres in length! The launch was interesting, as initially the wind kept the balloon low and the line was nearly horizontal! After a short wait the wind eased, the balloon lifted and got to an angle where it was safe to launch after running towards the balloon as fast as I could! I was relieved to see it all lift nicely, and that huge train made an impressive sight as it went up towards the clouds.

The launch site is in the village where I live, so afterwards we drove the chase cars back to my house to our “mission control” to watch the tracking and images from there. The predicted landing spots meant there was no hurry to get back into the cars to chase the payloads, so we had plenty of time to watch the images come in and grab some food.

The first flight was the altitude attempt, using a make and size of balloon that from experience either bursts early at around 27km, or exceeds specification to reach 40km or so. In fact the top few places in the altitude record table are all held by that make/size. Anthony was of course watching the altitude reading in the telemetry quite closely!

Meanwhile I of course was much more interested in how well the Raspberry Pi was doing. The GPS position was still showing the position at the launch site, which is a sure sign of interference to the GPS signal. I’ve not determined yet which it is, but the GPS receiver and antenna were quite close to both the Pi and the webcam in the payload. For next time I’ll add screening and increase the distance a little. However, the image data was coming in perfectly, not only through my antenna and receiver at home, but also via other receivers around the country. As the balloon got higher the pictures got better, and more receivers started getting good data, with some image data even being received as far away as Northern Ireland (over 500km away – not bad for 10mW!). Now, a PIE flight isn’t complete without a PIE chart, so here is one, showing the number of image packets received by different listeners (thanks all!):

The first flight meanwhile was creeping up the altitude table, eventually reaching the #4 position only 300-odd metres below the world record. Part of me was hoping it would go higher, but part was happy that it didn’t knock me down from my #2 spot in the table! The balloon then burst, and initially the descent looked perfectly normal. However most of the balloon was still attached and it managed to produce a parachute-like shape which slowed the descent to only 2 metres per second at an altitude where it should have been doing at least 5 times that! Turning to the main flight, it was sending in image after image without errors, and each image being better than the last as the balloon got higher and higher.

We were expecting it to burst at around 34km, but obviously the balloon wasn’t aware of our calculations. It went through 34km, and 35, and …. and eventually burst just a few metres short of 40km (39,994 metres to be exact, putting it at 12’th place in the UK altitude record table). Quite amazing for a medium sized balloon with about 1kg of payloads underneath it! With both balloons having burst it was time to get going in the chase cars, both of which were equipped with aerials, radio receivers, netbooks or car PCs for decoding and mapping, and 3G internet. The landing prediction for the main flight was for near Didcot, so we headed there and parked up to check on the latest prediction. We weren’t far away when the payloads landed in at Milton Heights, just a few miles from the launch site. Amazingly, one of the receivers was close enough to still be picking up live images, and after a while everyone could see that the payload had safely landed in long grass:

Anthony saw the payloads first from his chase car, in long grass next to a football field. Having obtained permission from the club we rescued all 3 payloads and the parachute:

Meanwhile, the earlier flight was still coming down, but very very slowly – less than 1 fifth of the expected rate! We didn’t know at the time but we’re pretty sure now that the latex had managed to form its own parachute. Then, with a few km to go, it suddenly sped up (we think the latex tore) and landed in a field north of Oxford. Here’s the very unsual altitude plot:

It took a while for us to get the final position but having done so it seemed that it was in a rather inaccessible location. With the rain pouring down, Anthony decided to call it a day rather than try to retrieve what is only £50-worth of tracker. He then drove off, and I went online to tell the other receivers in the UKHAS chat room that I was about to go home too. “Ah, but it’s near a layby on the A34” I was told, “easy to get to” and “the rain will pass in 5 minutes”. Well, that didn’t sound so bad so I set off north up the A34, then back southbound to get to the layby.

Well, of those 3 statements, 1 was correct – it was just 155m from the layby. However the rain just kept on coming, only easing from torrential to very heavy as we sat in the car waiting. Eventually I decided to just go for it, and crawled past trees and bushes to find … a field full of 5′ high maize. No chance of seeing the payload from there, though I tried. After failing I went back to the car to get my Android phone loaded with HamGPS software that guides you to a target location. It took a lot of effort to get there, and for a while I felt like I was starring in “Dave Of The Triffids”, but as I got to the target position I walked into the nylon cord between the payload and remains of the balloon! It really wasn’t visible at all until I was almost on top of it. Here I am emerging, successful, after my expedition:

So, all in all, a great day HABbing. All 4 trackers worked well, all were recovered, and we got some stunning live images back. For more information on this fascinating hobby, visit the UKHAS web site. For more images and video, see:

All SSDV images

Photos from the day

pAVA Inflation Time-Lapse

Burst video from the GoPro

Launch video of PIE1, uAVA and BUZZ8

Landing video from the GoPro

Recovery of PIE1, uAVA and BUZZ8

Anthony’s Write-Up

Thanks go to Anthony Stirk for driving down from sunny Yorkshire to grimmest darkest Berkshire for the launch, and supplying the GoPro HD footage, to Philip Heron for providing the webcam imaging and image encoding software, to Nick for coming along to help out, and of course to my wife Julie for keeping us fed and watered during the day and for driving my chase car whilst I did the techie stuff.

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254 Responses to PIE1 – Raspberry Pi Sends Live Images from Near Space

  1. Pingback: Launch UAVA & PAVA with BUZZ + PIE1 | Ava High Altitude Balloon Project

  2. stevepdp says:

    This is truly very inspiring, and definitely my favourite Raspberry Pi project to date.

    Many many thanks sharing 🙂

  3. Viperfang says:

    A brilliant story, great use of a RPi. Hope to see more of it.

    Thanks for showing us everything


  4. Guilherme de Sousa says:

    Congrats on this project.. I loved it!

    best regards

  5. Andy says:


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  8. Waiphot says:


  9. Pingback: Raspberry Pi used as flight computer aboard black-sky balloon | Technology News

  10. I think you might have also captured a satellite on there too… it’s not lens flare as it doesnt appear to be in the same plane as that and it changges shape with rotation of the camera.


    • @Charles Blackburn

      We have reviewed the footage at length and we are confident it was lense flare probably through the GoPro’s polycarbonate case. We did catch the crescent moon though !

      and @Chris

      The balloons follow the atmospheric winds which do change both speed and direction at altitude. If you have a look at uAVA Track you will see as it climbs it changes direction quite drastically and it mirrors this on the way back down. The winds are unlikley to be so quick as to take the payload out over Europe/Atlantic in the short time we are up there.
      Thanks to the team at CUSF we are also able to predict these paths with a reasonable accuracy in advance to ensure we don’t land anywhere daft.

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  12. dave says:

    Interesting! A fellow enthusiast built the GoPro payload so I’ll send this to him so he can take a look.

  13. Jan says:

    Hey, what a great project! fascinating and inspiring to see the Pi being used for science like this. Awesome.

  14. Chris says:

    This is so amazing

    May I ask a simple question?

    If the Pi reaches nearly 40Km in altitude, how come the expected & actual flight path for the balloon does not lead to the Pi landing in the Atlantic or Europe?

    • dave says:

      It just goes where the winds take it, and if those aren’t strong it won’t get very far. Also, the winds at different altitudes can be in different directions, and this flight went south then east then north and and finally west for a while on ascent. So a lot of the movement at on level got cancelled out by opposite winds at another level.

      Sometimes, especially if they get caught by the jet stream, then can go a lot further. One of mine landed in Belgium (as per the prediction), having reached speeds of 240mph at one point.

  15. Pingback: Sending a Raspberry Pi to 130,000 feet - Hack a Day

  16. Pingback: Pi in the sky | Raspberry Pi

  17. James Abela says:

    Amazing work there. Very, very impressed!

  18. Pingback: Pi in the sky – Raspberry Pi in near-space! « adafruit industries blog

  19. Bob Spafford says:

    Nice work doing a lot with a little!
    My last balloon flight cost over a million dollars and the 450 lb. package spent 2 days at 260,000 feet testing a cosmic ray detector destined for the first satellite to leave the solar system. No one trusted my data recorder of 1/2″ computer drive tape running over two 1/4″ 4 track heads (It worked perfectly). So, an illegal three watt transmitter running at the bottom of the FM band backed me up. A Sherwood FM tuner with a Radio Shack rural TV antenna was the ground station. Ah! Real hacking! The FCC never got us! The link sent solid data over 1,500 miles. It still amazes me how much work was done in a very short time when driven by the embarrassment of Sputnik!

  20. Gerry Kavanagh says:

    Excellent work guys! Great write-up too.
    I was wondering if there was any reason you used RTTY in favour of APRS?
    Also, was the 10mW limit imposed as you are not licensed radio amateurs?

    • dave says:

      I’m not a licensed radio amateur (that’s on the to-do list though!), however even though Anthony is, UK rules specifically preclude airborne transmissions. So APRS is, sadly, out. Pretty much all flights in the UK use the 10mW unlicensed portion of the 70cm band.

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  22. Federico says:

    And i was getting my Pi to plug it to the TV . Now i am thinking seriously in sending a monkey to the space with it . I love it : ) !

  23. Carl Clement says:

    Very impressive – the photos are amazing – thank you for being so inspiring

  24. Marco says:


    very impressive your project.
    Is there any chance to get souces of the software on board ? I would love to
    learn about the transmission of images over a slow serial link.

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  27. Jim says:

    I was just thinking, totally off the wall I admit, that if your payload was in the form of a small glider, then I`m sure that the Pi could further be expanded to control flaps etc. and with gps onboard already be used to guide it self back to some acceptable landing sites…

    just a thought…

    • dave says:

      That’s a tricky area – once you do that it’s a “UAV” and a different set of rules come into play.

      I am thinking about steerable parachutes and the like.

  28. JRDEMASKUS says:

    That was very well written, An inspiring story. Didn’t know there was so much work involved. You explained it in an easy to digest manner. Thank you

  29. Simon Gotlieb says:

    Truly inspiring. Well done chaps!

  30. Leo McMartin says:

    That is nothing short of impressive. I’m not a radio amateur either but I’m keen as about radio and I was not aware a 10mW signal could travel over 40km (let alone 500km!) Surely the receivers had gain antennas? In Australasia our limit is 25mW so it would be interesting to try this out. Thanks for this post! 😀

    • dave says:

      Depending on distance, even a low gain antenna (such I use on my car) is just fine. The receivers though are quite sensitive.

      I suggest you check out the HORUS flights in Australia. Those guys know all about the rules down there.

      • Rene says:

        Do you use the plain, original Radiometrix recievers with an antenna or do you use ham radio equipment and a software(?) decoder?

        • dave says:

          The latter. The NRX2 receiver is nowhere near sensitive enough. I have various receivers and use them with dl-fldigi software to decode.

  31. Yoram says:

    very beautiful.
    GoPro produced a weired distortion in the Earth shape in the burst video
    is this due to its fast horizontal spinning?

    • dave says:

      Yeah, that’s a very wide-angle lens on the GoPro, which on the plus die gets a lot into the image, and on the down side has that weird distortion. I’m not really a fan of that, and the camcorder I use doesn’t have such a lens.

  32. Simon says:

    That is just awesome. Truly inspiring! 😀

  33. Pingback: Check Out These Photos Of Near-Space Taken By A Raspberry Pi « SGHostWrx SGHostWrx

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  37. Henry says:

    Beautiful story. Well described (also for non-HAB people like me).
    Whilst awaiting my PI delivery,
    this is the nicest story to read to shorten the waiting time.
    Greetings, Henry (Netherlands).

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  39. That’s a really cool idea. I was asking myself how you do it but I saw all video explaining after 🙂

  40. John Patrick says:

    That’s fantastic. I’ve been building some home grown photography equipment around Arduino myself recently but nothing anywhere near as impressive as this. Just heard my Pi’s now on it’s way now after being in the queue for weeks too 🙂

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  47. Andy Cox says:

    Fantastic adventure! Inspiring, creative and innovative. Well done.

  48. Tim Grosvenor says:

    Great stuff. Wonder is created and you have made your mark. Power to your imagination.

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  52. Anny Millar says:

    Well done, I was absolutely amazed.

  53. MisterX says:

    I’ve seen the video on youtube. Super Project. I hope the next video comes from our moon 😉

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  60. Niklaas says:

    Really, really great! Not only a nice story, it’s also very nice written! All the best and greetings from Vienna, Niklaas

  61. Pingback: Developer Sends His Raspberry Pi into Near Space | Free Best Trends

  62. I Watched aged 9 the Lunar Landings….I studied hard got adegree…met an inspiring lady called Rosie Dalziel..An American Lady who worked at East Ham College of Technolgy…..turned out she wrote the simulator for nasa for the lunar landing in less than 64k.

    What you doing at EHTC she says i joined the London Dockland Development Corporation and they have given me a grant to develop my computer robotics contoller…..You meet some people along the way

  63. ProDigit says:

    Next time, try to put some tape on the balloon, and pop a little hole in it.
    Balloon explodes quite often because of the vacuum of space and the pressure in the balloon, where on earth the balloon would be ok, in pure vaccuum the balloon has 1BAR more pressure within it.
    For that reason it’s best to have a hole where the gas can escape out of; one way propelling the balloon a tiny bit upwards (when making the hole on the bottom), otherwise keeping the pressure lower.

    It takes time and experience to determine the right size of the hole (I guess about the size of between a needle and a nail would be a good sized hole).

    It would allow your balloon to go higher, without popping!

    • dave says:

      No, what actually happens is that the leak reduces the lift, and the balloon will float at a lower altitude than if it didn’t have the leak.

      If the aim is to float, then a controlled leak (i.e. a valve in the neck) is the way to do it.

      If the aim is altitude, then you fill with the correct amount of gas to achieve that. Too little and it will float; too much and it will burst too early. A leak serves no purpose.

      Also, to get altitude you use hydrogen, and a leaking hydrogen balloon is not a good idea for obvious reasons. There’s also the danger that the balloon will slowly descend, and I don’t want to land a hydrogen balloon in smoeone’s back garden while they’re having a BBQ.

      On this particular flight, we didn’t aim for particular high altitudes. In fact we over-filled to ensure the balloon burst with no danger of floating. We had an expensive camera on board so the aim was to get to a reasonable altitude (30km would have been plenty) and then retrieve the payloads. We used hydrogen because it’s 1/3rd the price of helium (a limited resource) not because of the altitude gain. I should note that both of us are experienced at filling balloons with hydrogen, and I strongly recommend that beginners use helium for the first launches.

      • Jim Swarthow says:

        How pure did the Hydrogen need to be? Is there a big difference between 99.5% and 99.9% for a high altitude balloon?

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  66. GSS Mahadevan says:

    That’s great achievement . Nice description of the whole experiment.

  67. Emre says:

    Amazing work dude congratz!

  68. markyd says:

    Very impressed ….. if a British space project had a billion pounds it would get wasted …. but no budget and a tonne of ingenuity look what you can achieve! Much respect 🙂

  69. iaroslav hapenciuc says:

    Mr Akerman, this is the nicest project I have ever seen. I would like to try it.

    Could you please tell me what software was used for the “audio transmission” of the pictures?

    Thank you,


  70. Nick says:

    very nice!

    What GPS module did you use?

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  74. vbe says:

    How did you put the various components together ? any schematic? what is the role of raspberry pi – is it to connect to camera or gps or image recording — how did you transmit the images – which module? By the way it was the amazing scene – actually I dream to make the same (capturing and transmitting as well) with my foam plane – so looking for ideas. There is always conflict of Tx Rx frequencies with these setups, you luckily avoided 2-way control – so normally some 433MHz will do one way and maybe 2.4GHz 800mW will Tx images and maybe videos also well enough. That is where I thought that RPi is no go here some Atmel IMU with GPS, gyro, accel, Magneto would have done the job but then 2.4 GHz 2-way comes to play with huge power issues and control becomes big than the job of Tx’ing videos / images.

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  77. Hi
    Thanks for the article and it has captured my attention. I run a small youth work project in Lostwithiel. We would love to set up a web cam or 2 on the woodlands we have and upload the images to the web. We exist totally off-grid. Would it be possible to adapt your project to do this please?

  78. Peter Browne says:

    Congratulations from the HAM-1 team, Peter, Merv and Alister. Very impressive

  79. Ed says:

    I would like to get a copy of the C program you wrote to interface the GPS for tracking your location.
    I am trying to build a simple low cost equipment tracking system.
    The current GPS tracking equipment is expensive and the monthly fees are to expensive.
    I appreciate your help.
    Thank you,

    • dave says:

      The GPS program onlyworks in conjunction with the radio tracking system that other HAB enthusiasts set up for each flight. It uses low-power license-free transmitters that when on the ground only have a range of 100 metres or so, meaning that they’re completely useless for general tracking. Of course when attached to a balloon the line-of-sight is much greater enabling us to use them over distances of several hundred miles. However for your application this system just won’t work.

  80. Matt says:

    Hi Dave – love this project – well done!
    Very similar to an idea we have been pondering, would be great to chat about it.


  81. Frank Lund says:

    Very well done.

    Now, if I can get one of my BBC Bs (the inspiration for the Pi) fitted with a new 14MHz 6502, connect it to my Vidicon camera, swap the bottles for FETs, stick on the 20″ aerial survey lens and bang on a couple of car batteries, I could do a retro verion???

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  83. chris allen says:

    Mission Control- Berkshire style 🙂

    I love it – well done.

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  85. Alistair says:

    Hi Dave
    Just saw Eben gave an interview to Tech Crunch which he mentioned you in

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  95. Tom Harding says:

    Awesome work!

    I was wondering if you could please help me out a little Dave. I am also looking to use the raspberry pi to transmit images (though at significantly lower altitudes!), and was wondering if you could please provide a little more guidance on the software you used and the schematics for transmitter circuits.

    My goal is to eventually use the pi to send images from deep within the bush for animal monitoring.

    Any help here is much appreciated!

  96. Dylan Frost says:

    hi this is amazing and I had considered doing this myself but now i realize how difficult it is maybe we could do another one together?
    anyhow if i ever have the knowledge to do this i definitely will try!

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  98. Jim says:

    You might be able to reduce weight if you used some Li-Ion/Polymer batteries.

    [advertising removed]

    • Anonymous says:

      Er, no.

      Primary lithiums have a higher power/weight density and unlike those are specified to run at -40C.

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  107. Did you connect the Raspberry PI’s TXD output directly to the Radiometrix TXD line? Or did you use some kind of v3.3 to v5.0 level conversion hardware? If you did level conversion, can you share your design? I am planning to build an APRS transmitter using a cheap USB GPS and a Radiometrix HX1, and I am wondering how complex the connection between the Raspberry Pi and the HX1 needs to be.

    • dave says:

      Connected via some resistors to set the level and bias. This means that the low/high digital outputs from the Pi result in 2 slightly different voltages at the NTX2, which then transmits two frequencies approx 600Hz apart.

      This won’t work for APRS. For that you need an analog output, or PWM.

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  114. Bill says:

    Amazing, just simple amazing.

    I love the pictures you got to take and love that you are taking amateur space experiments to a whole different level.

    Keep up the amazing inspirational work!!

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  116. Xencored says:

    Best use of the Raspberry Pi ive seen to date! Thanks for the great post!

  117. Aaron Wu says:

    Nice job. I translate the article into Chinese. Hope more people can share it.

  118. sky on RPI says:

    Where in the article mentioned in the all program and scripts ?

    • dave says:

      The software isn’t open source. If you want to fly your own Pi (or any other suitable processor board) there is ample information at http://www.ukhas.org.uk on how to build a tracker and how to write the software.

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  129. Hi Dave
    I have a PI running on 4 aa batteries, recharged via a solar panel. Would it be possible to run the Logitech webcam with this set-up please? Would you add more batteries?
    Thanks for any help.

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  131. James F. says:

    My (University) students recently brought your project to my attention when I assigned them a project of building balloon payloads to fly in “Mars-mode” where they must send all data back by radio (as opposed to just tracking the payloads and recovering them — much simpler — which I’ve done about 60 times (so far)).
    Are you willing to share your code, or at least some suggestions about how to encode photos in RTTY which is new to us, so if they decide to pursue this idea they don’t have to reinvent the wheel?

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  150. This is the best thing I that have seen for a while :). Congrats…

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  155. Seth Ludwig says:


    Your project inspired me to use a similar setup in my fundraiser for the local Food Bank. Thanks for being so detailed in your post, it is certainly helpful!

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  161. Nelson says:

    Hello Mr. Dave

    Can you tell how you genereta the code to Radiometrix NTX2. here I found the program code to convert some data to RTTY.

    Best regards

  162. AndyB says:

    A fantastic project and loved the write up and video, I will be keeping a close eye on your further projects.

    Thanks to the whole team


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  167. zara says:

    dear friend
    what gas have you used in your balloon? Hydrogen or helium? thank you

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  169. mike says:

    The greatest problem I thing is the air preasure in altitudes of 40 km.
    The most problems will cause water-containing electronic parts, like electrolytical capaciators. OJK, some with low ESR will be better – on your pictures I stil see these capaciartors. The best will be ceramic capaciators.
    And the LI-Ion cells with their electrolytes inside? In preasures only 1-2% of ground ATM-preasure – how did they survive ? or have you a special camber for these cells to keep ground-based preasure for these cells?
    Whats about the heat convection of the circruits without the normal air-conditions?
    And whats about the EM-shielding of the electronics in that altitudes?
    Whats about the UV-filtering in front of the webcam-optics?
    How long the equippment did need to pass the very cold temperature zone in 16-25 km altitude while ascending ?
    In the web-video (http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/raspberry-pi-die-besten-projekte-fuer-den-46-euro-pc-a-874993-6.html) there is sound of the webcam-mic
    and some radiotransmitter-accoustic-interferences you can hear….

    thanks for answer in advance
    Sincerely: mike

    • dave says:

      Low pressure isn’t a problem even for the cells or electrolytics.

      I don’t use Li-Ion I use primary lithium cells, rated to -40C. They never get that cold anyway.

      There isn’t enough heat generated to overheat anything.

      No need for EM shielding in general; the only issue there is that some devices (usually video cameras) can interfere with the GPS if too close.


  170. Kevin W. says:

    This is definitely my favorite Raspberry Pi project to-date! My high school is thinking about doing a near-space balloon program before spring break this year so I’m definitely gonna use my Raspberry Pi for that and get a brake from programming useless text-based games xD Anyway nice job Dave! And thanks a lot for the helpful information!

  171. Sam says:

    One word: Wow!

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  173. Daniel says:

    Impressive. We use the PI for ODB diagnostics on cars which have spontaneous electrical problems. We connect the PI to the diagnostic port and the customer can drive some times till the error arrives. With these we can find almost every problem …

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  175. haziq says:

    hey superb work 🙂 i want some help from you !! how did you access the photos from your pc ???

  176. roman keller says:


    would it be possible to do the same (tracking and live stream) with this board:
    http://www.pridopia.co.uk/pi-p-hab.html ?

    thanks for your support, roman

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  182. MMO Guy says:

    Do you have an estimated cost/figure … if I wanted to this now? I would assume the costs would have went down.

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  189. Junaid says:

    Fantastic work and nice write up!
    (Reached here from article “Raspberry Pi: Top 19 projects to try yourself” at ITPro site.)

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  203. Krishna Teja says:

    Awesome!! 😀

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  206. Anonymous says:

    fascinating! thanks for posting this. i’ve been considering buying a high altitude balloon, and found this post inspirational =)

  207. Karan Vyas says:

    A fantastic project and loved the write up and video, I will be keeping a close eye on your further projects.

  208. Gurpreet Singh says:

    Mind Blowing!! Love your work.

  209. JayPeeeeeee says:

    Wow this is a very very very nice project and nice idea! 🙂
    It really has inspired me to create something like this to !!
    I’d love to see more of your creations.

  210. Nick says:

    I am looking at doing the same thing and found this blog very interesting. Have you any opinions on using a Pi Zero? That is my main focus with this project.

  211. dave says:

    If you look elsewhere in my blog e.g. http://www.daveakerman.com/?p=1943 you’ll see that I’ve used the Pi Zero a few times, and it’s a very good choice.

  212. Nick says:

    Thank you for the response. This would be my first time attempting a HAB project so I am eager to see if I can achieve at least half of what you have achieved.

    Bring that it is winter time here, I might delay. But I can plan ahead.

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  218. Santiago says:

    Hi , this was awesome, i saw couple years ago. but now that there is the pi zero which i would like to try with it. My question is. for the live images. how did you set up the radio link? any instructions? thanks

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