Is this a good idea for determining my weather balloon launch site?

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Offline scienceguy1200

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I'm planning on launching a 1200g weather balloon with a camera soon. (i will be notifying the FAA). However, i live in chicago so im not launching anywhere around here b/c of the risks of having my payload landing in lake michigan. I have considered going down further south but from what ive researched there is little cell phone coverage in those areas (im placing my phone inside the payload and using is as gps). I have found a simulator that will estimate the landing zone but im not sure how much to trust it.

Anyway my idea is to determining my launch location based off the wind (direction and speed) that day. Ex: If the wind is blowing southeast, i will launch in an area northwest of chicago (at least 50 miles from chicago). this way, in theory i should be able to have it land away from the lake but still in an area with cell coverage. I will also use the landing estimator to supplement this. What do you think?


Offline CliffordK

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I would target a rural area for your experiments, perhaps even a desert area, as in the southwest USA, unless there is a reason to have it in the Northeast/Midwest.  If you could protect and recover the device, there would be advantages of a water landing (less likely to hit a house, car, or tree).

Also, be wary of airports (the FAA will help you with that).

Keep in mind, though, the more rural, the worse the cell phone reception is.

There would be advantages of tracking it inflight, in part because of better unobstructed views of cell towers which would allow you to better guess where it came down at if it lost signal.  Does your cell plan allow you to track the phone real-time?.  However, there would likely also be blind spot at high altitudes (20,000+ feet?).  Do you get altitude with your cell's GPS?  Can you record past GPS info even if out of cell range?

There may also be advantages of a radio beacon or other homing device that would be independent of cell coverage, especially if being done in a rural area, or over a lake.

You can add an external antenna to some cell phones to improve reception, just make sure you don't mess something up with the FCC.


Offline alancalverd

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And don't tell anyone what you are doing - the use (including automatic use) of cellphones in aircraft (including balloons) is illegal!

A cheap general aviation GPS will record the track and altitude.

Check with your local meteorological office to see if you can use a licensed radiosonde transmitter as a tracking and homing beacon. Or consider Citizen's Band.
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