WGARS Balloon Launch Presentation

Just a few notes and bullet points for me to use for the short presentation at the 4/11/2017 WGARS club meeting. It won't make much sense to read as an article, but if you're here because I mentioned it in my talk, you can look at the cool photos at the end. :)

  • The balloon is a weather balloon, not standard party-type balloon. It's big: 10 feet when inflated, 20 feet when near burst alt.
  • Try to keep the payload lightweight - around 4 lbs. Styrofoam cooler
  • Track it with amateur radio: reports its position with APRS connected to GPS. Standard APRS frequency - 144.390 MHz
  • Simplex repeater, amazing range at that altitude. Frequency TBD
  • You can also track it on aprs.fi by entering N4BWR-11. I-gates send APRS traffic to internet
  • We do a morning prediction from several sites to get an idea where it's going, discuss, and then start driving
  • You can track with aprs-enabled radio while moving, or on aprs.fi on a phone or tablet with a data plan
  • Bit of fox hunting (RDF work) at the end. May not be able to hit an I-gate on the ground, and it may not be immediately visible. Treat it like a fox and triangulate

 Click photos to view full size. Click here to see all 362 flight photos

Support Our Weather Balloon Flights

Many of you know that I launch weather balloons with the West Georgia Amateur Radio Society. While they are fun, and a good learning experience (and even an emcomm training experience), they are expensive. I have already purchased the cameras and tracking equipment. The balloon and helium for each launch cost more than $100 each. You can help support us by purchasing a t-shirt (don't forget to customize it with your callsign!), or donating to our GoFundMe campaign. Thanks for your support!


Balloon Launch & Recovery Team T-shirt  GoFundMe Campaign

Our Balloon Flights

Flight Designation
Launch Site
Houston, TX
Recovered after a week in a Louisiana swamp
Read story here
Carrollton, GA
Recovered after landing in a lake
GPS not rated for high altitude. Cut out at top of flight
Carrollton, GA
Lost when batteries died in flight
Predictions and potential search area here
 Unnamed  8-5-2017  Carrollton, GA

 Lost in flight. Theory is that APRS antenna got disconnected. UPDATE: Found 2/11/2019 in Blacksville, 1.2 miles from my prediction pin on the map

 Predictions and potential search area here
Unnamed Pico Balloon  2-16-2019    Clinton Nature Preserve Successful launch   Tracking shows it reached the ocean and then went silent as expected in darkness. Probably taken down by weather near Bermuda
 Unnamed 7-13-2019  VFW Fairgrounds (Carrollton, GA)  Completely successful launch and recovery (albeit difficult)  VHF side of crossband repeater malfunctioned, but APRS tracking worked great, both built by WX4BK. Landing site.
 Unnamed Weather Balloon 9-14-2019  VFW Fairgrounds (Carrollton, GA)   Successful launch and recovery APRS performed perfectly. Crossband repeater may be desensing, and excessive heat may have affected sensors
 Project Hindenburg 8-8-2020   VFW Fairgrounds (Carrollton, GA)  Successful launch and recovery  Crossband repeater and APRS unit may still be interacting with each other. Also, we were sent the wrong balloon size, which turned out to be good because it shortened the flight. I underinflated and it would have been very long. Also, first flight with hydrogen
 Unnamed Weather Balloon  7-10-2021 VFW Fairgrounds (Carrollton, GA) Successful launch and recovery 

 We had some issues with a low ascent rate, weird issues with periodic altitude drops, and we lost the 2 meter antenna for the crossband repeater, but successful recovery. We flew ashes of our friend and dedicated club member Lonnie, WC4EE (SK).
Flight Path

 Unnamed Weather Balloon  8-6-2022 VFW Fairgrounds (Carrollton, GA) Successful launch and recovery 

APRS performed perfectly, and we had a full suite of telemetry data that performed perfectly. Easy recovery in a front yard in Anniston. Flight Path