I suppose this is a good time to talk more about balloons, our hobby of Pico Balloons and other balloons.
As licensed Amateur Radio operators, we follow regulations for launching a balloon. Here in the United States we follow the Code of Federal Regulations 14 CFR Part 101 This information is found our our Technical Page
Our Pico Balloons are 32 inch diameter with a 100 inch circumference, pre-stretched prior to launch and becomes full at highest cruising altitude (Between 32,000 feet and 50,000 feet depending on the package weight)
Our Trackers, solar panel, and antenna packages are lighter than a small bird. Our balloons are filled using a gram scale filled at less than a cubic foot of gas, enough to lift the package +- 8 grams of gas, and are exempt from 14 CFR 101
Below are excerpts from 14 CFR 101
This part prescribes rules governing the operation in the United States, of the following:
- (1) Except as provided for in § 101.7, any balloon that is moored to the surface of the earth or an object thereon and that has a diameter of more than 6 feet or a gas capacity of more than 115 cubic feet.
- (2) Except as provided for in § 101.7, any kite that weighs more than 5 pounds and is intended to be flown at the end of a rope or cable.
And Part 4
Except as provided for in § 101.7, any unmanned free balloon that –
- (i) Carries a payload package that weighs more than four pounds and has a weight/size ratio of more than three ounces per square inch on any surface of the package, determined by dividing the total weight in ounces of the payload package by the area in square inches of its smallest surface;
- (ii) Carries a payload package that weighs more than six pounds;
- (iii) Carries a payload, of two or more packages, that weighs more than 12 pounds; or
- (iv) Uses a rope or other device for suspension of the payload that requires an impact force of more than 50 pounds to separate the suspended payload from the balloon.
§ 101.17 Lighting and marking requirements.
(a) No person may operate a moored balloon or kite, between sunset and sunrise unless the balloon or kite, and its mooring lines, are lighted so as to give a visual warning equal to that required for obstructions to air navigation in the FAA publication “Obstruction Marking and Lighting”.
(b) No person may operate a moored balloon or kite between sunrise and sunset unless its mooring lines have colored pennants or streamers attached at not more than 50 foot intervals beginning at 150 feet above the surface of the earth and visible for at least one mile.
(Sec. 6(c), Department of Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 1655(c)))
[Doc. No. 1580, 28 FR 6722, June 29, 1963, as amended by Amdt. 101-4, 39 FR 22252, June 21, 1974]
§ 101.19 Rapid deflation device.
No person may operate a moored balloon unless it has a device that will automatically and rapidly deflate the balloon if it escapes from its moorings. If the device does not function properly, the operator shall immediately notify the nearest ATC facility of the location and time of the escape and the estimated flight path of the balloon.
I’ve previously wrote about our Team Member, John Walsh, W9BLN who is a member of the Adler Planetarium Far Horizons Project. John volunteers with the GoNet Project that monitors Light Pollution in the Chicago area. They launch weather balloons that get as big as a house at maximum altitude. These balloons carry a 10 lb payload with cameras and other equipment costing thousands of dollars. These High Altitude Balloons with expensive payloads must be recovered. Far Horizons has a launch committee and a recovery committee. I’ve followed a past flight on APRS that usually lasts 5 hours. The Far Horizons group flys a flight plan with the FAA.
The Code of Federal Regulations is a good read, and I hope you follow our link above.
On our Locate and Track page we have several links to follow the worldwide Amateur Radio Pico Balloons in flight that are registered through APRS. One of the links is Amateur Sondehub
We are a small group of Pico Balloon enthusiasts.
Sondehub also tracks other balloons flying around the world at Sondehub.org
These are very crowded skies.
Clicking on the Sondehub links above and scrolling out will show all the registered balloons flying around the world.
New from the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade
From the start of our program in June of 2021, besides having fun, our goal was to teach others how to build and launch Pico Balloons. This is a continued work in progress.
Our Team Member, Jim Janiak, KD9UQB has designed and started to teach our team members how to build our solar panel packages. Jim has updated our website on the solar panel builds.
When you visit our main page https://nibbb.org/ you’ll read about the introduction to our program and our members. The heading on each page show the links for more information.
Two recently added links are information on how to build our Low Sun Angle – High Power solar array with Bill of Materials and the Standard Array with Bill of Materials. The Low Sun Angle High Power array was designed and built by Jim for the Antarctica launch on November 24th 2022, now on the 71st day of flight and getting ready for the 6th circumnavigation.
Our Pico Balloon K9YO after missing in action for 30 days, made the 6th circumnaviation on January 31st 2023, and is expected over Finland around February 4th.
For updated information on our balloons in flight, please visit our Locate and Track page. For posts starting with the most recent please visit our Blog page.
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. I can be reached through my QRZ page or the Contact Us link on our website.
73, Cary KD9ITO