A group of friends decided to strap a GoPro to a weather balloon to see what happens, well, nothing happened for two years. Back in 2013 the friends got together to work on the project. After months of planning they almost scrapped it due to costs. Once that was figured out they went ahead with their plans. The end result was a spectacular video of the Grand Canyon.[clickToTweet tweet=”This Grand Canyon view will BLOW you away! ” quote=”This Grand Canyon view will BLOW you away! "]
We used GPS on a smartphone to continuously log the phone’s location on its memory card. The standard GPS receiver these days can track your phone well above 100,000 ft – there used to be a limitation of 60,000 ft but that was recently lifted. The harder issue was to figure out how the phone can communicate to us. We used an app (myTracks or something similar, I forgot) to have the phone text us its GPS location once it got signal as it was returning to Earth (about ~3000 ft altitude).
We planned our June 2013 launch at a specific time and place such that the phone was projected to land in an area with cell coverage. The problem was that the coverage map we were relying on (looking at you, AT&T) was not accurate, so the phone never got signal as it came back to Earth, and we never heard from it. We didn’t know this was the problem at the time – we thought our trajectory model was far off and it landed in a signal dead zone (turns out the model was actually quite accurate). The phone landed ~50 miles away from the launch point, from what I recall. It’s a really far distance considering there’s hardly any roads over there!
Two years later an AT&T employee found their cell phone in the desert and used the SIM card to track down the owner. The friends were amazed that this happened and after two years it paid off because they got some awesome footage, check it out below.