Balloon Aerial Photography

This page will consider simple, cheap, low-level, low resolution (up to HD video) techniques using tethered balloons

(No higher than 60 metres in the UK)

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Near/Thermal Infra-red and UV Photography

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Aerial Photographic Techniques for Children

Balloons can be one of the safest options

Party Balloons (1) (2) (3)

Rubbish bag balloons (1) (2)

Suppliers (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (eBay)

Solar Balloons  (1) (2) (3)* (4)*

Suppliers (1) - Will this lift a 18g a Scottish summer?


How to inflate a foil balloon

25 Dec 2012

Helium-filled rubbish bags or balloons, with the 28, HD 808#16D keyring video camera, are a fun way to take aerial photos. An advantage of using small balloons and cameras, with children especially, is that the spool can be chosen (or weighted eg with a padlock) so that if it is dropped it will not be lifted away.

Heidi flying the 808#16D camera
Uncorrected for distortion

Most of the distortion corrected in the free program GIMP (main lens distort adjuster slid to the left). GML undistorter is another free, simple alternative.

First successful attempt with multiple balloons in a light, gusting wind.

808#16D video stills

The video, from which the above stills were taken, was made by flying the camera on a 40 inch annular foil balloon (a number zero) with three latex balloons taped to the upper edge. The 808#16D wide-angle camera was velcroed onto one of the small flaps on the lower edge of the zero. A 6lb fishing line was used looped through the zero. When the line was under tension, the balloons bounced about on the ground until the flier walked towards the balloons in the direction that the wind was blowing. In retrospect, it would have been better to reel out the line and release the balloons on the windward side of the flyer.

Rubbish bags are a cheap alternative for one-off use, using either an iron, or more safely, a 2 plastic bag sealer to close off the end. The end can also be simply gathered together and tied with string.


25 Feb 2013

Another windy flight with a helium-filled, rubbish bag (Morrison's 16g, clear refuse sack, 860mm x 735mm approx. at 2 for 20) with the 18g, near infra-red converted HD 808#16D video camera velcroed to the lower end:

A rubbish bag filled with helium, which should be flown immediately after inflation.  Video clip

A bit rough and ready with the tied-off rubbish bag visible at the right.  25 February 2013

As above, but corrected for lens distortion.

Most of the day was relatively calm but when Heidi flew the camera, as luck would have it, a transient gusty wind appeared out of nowhere!

For the next flight, we will attach the camera to the fishing line.

Hot air balloons are not recommended, especially in this form but they may be viable using a fixed, non-flame heat source on the ground.  They are very sensitive to wind and potentially dangerous with an integral heat source which can pose a threat to crops, especially when the crop is near to harvest. Any free flying system, after landing, could also pose a risk to grazing animals, as reported with flying lanterns (1) (2). See also Wikipedia.

PLOTS - a more substantial approach.