Grassroots Mapping is a series of participatory mapping projects involving communities in cartographic dispute. Seeking to invert the traditional power structure of cartography, the grassroots mappers used helium balloons and kites to loft their own “community satellites” made with inexpensive digital cameras.

Kite-balloon prototyping

April 4th, 2010 by Jeffrey Warren

We’ve had a lot of trouble with winds between 5-10 mph, where it’s not enough for a kite, but too much for a balloon… so this weekend at WhereCamp a few of us designed and built a hybrid kite-balloon, which we named Black Knight 1, made from a 99-gallon trash bag.

Sadly, after a lot of careful work, it immediately exploded! But in fact it made a pretty passable large sled kite, even after falling apart. So we learned a lot, and are moving forward on the Black Knight 1.1. I encourage anyone interested to tackle this problem, since it just takes a lot of plastic and packing tape! Basically it’s a balloon which acts as an airfoil, so that instead of a light wind pushing the balloon down onto the ground again, it provides lift and flies more vertically.

We really need an ‘open source’, easy-to-build design for a kite-balloon! Read more about the concept and upload pictures and notes from your own experiments at Helium Kite page on the Grassroots Mapping wiki.

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