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Hot air balloon tracking: GPS position from ballon to base station in vehicle

Hello experts

Has anybody an idea how to solve the following problem:

A hot-air ballon is equipped with GPS. I'd like to transmit the position of the ballon (3D data) to the ground station which is essentially a truck following the ballon. This is to facilititate retrieval of the balloon once it has landed.

Now, the ballon can climb to altitudes up to 5000m above ground where there's no more GMS reception. It also can land on a place where GMS reception is very poor.

Equipment of the ballon:
- GPS
- VFR radio (118-136 MHz), no external interface
A solution should consist of a low-power and light-weight air station (every kg in the balloon reduces its capability to transport passengers).

The retrieval vehicle is equipped with a standard PC and mapping software (in this case, Fugawi). For the retrieval vehicle, weight and power do not matter that much, however, there's no Internet access available.

... and of course, the solution shouldn't cost an arm and a leg, since ballon pilots prefer to spend their money for gas...

Any ideas how to solve this?

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fulscher
Asked:
fulscher
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2 Solutions
 
Jaime OlivaresCommented:
I use to work with radios and GPSs, configuration is quiet simple, my suggestion is:

1) NMEA GPS with serial port (any)

2) Yaesu FT-2800 base radio, heavy duty, up to 10 - 65W very long range, < $200
http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/fm_txvrs/2800.html
Proper antena (Morad desirable, $50) and data cable

3) Kantronics KPC-3+ Modem, with GPS protocol support, very low power, < $200
http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/tnc/1908.html

A standard 12 VDC automotive battery, optionally a solar panel or wind charger.

----------------

The modem can be programmed to receive GPS signal and send automatically by radio, so you will need a second modem and radio at reception place, modem connected to your PC, Fugawi software will recognize modem signal without problems.
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fulscherAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the quick reply.

Follow-up questions:

- Does one need a licence to use radio in these frequencies (144-148 MHz)? If so - what kind of licence?

- Do you know of any device which can send messages by SMS OR by Radio, switching depending on signal quality?

- Do you have a recommendation for the on-board antenna configuration? Space is pretty tight in a balloon basket and I wouldn't want to transmit with 65W anywhere near a human body (we use normally 5W radios for VFR communications).

- Is it correct that Fugawi allows for up to two signals? I need the location of the vehicle shown on the map as well as that of the ballon. If not - any other software which allows for this, optimally giving the optimal path from the vehicles location to the target location?
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imarshadCommented:
Here are quite few Solutions for you.....(Though to be honest I have never ever riden a balloon nor have I ever tracked one.)

http://www.explorium.org/exhibits/Tech_Corner/Balloon%20Tracking.htm
http://www.explorium.org/balloon_tracking.htm

Imran
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imarshadCommented:
Another option might be to use Satellite Phones. Although it might not be a cheap solution....

Imran
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Jaime OlivaresCommented:
>Does one need a licence to use radio in these frequencies (144-148 MHz)? If so - what kind of licence?
This will depend on your specific country regulations, every country has different regulations, but as far as I know, this band (2 meters) is free.

> Do you know of any device which can send messages by SMS OR by Radio, switching depending on signal quality?
No really, but this radio provides you a good response from 1 meter to more than 100 kilometers

>Do you have a recommendation for the on-board antenna configuration? Space is pretty tight in a balloon basket and
> I wouldn't want to transmit with 65W anywhere near a human body (we use normally 5W radios for VFR communications).
You can use an omni Morad antenna. Since you are floating antenna can point down, so it will be located above your feets.
25 Watts will give you at least 10-20 Km and is used normally in Marine applications, including little yatches.
http://www.rell.com/pdfs/Moradcatalog.pdf

> Is it correct that Fugawi allows for up to two signals? I need the location of the vehicle shown on the map as well as that of the ballon. If not - any other software which allows for this, optimally giving the optimal path from the vehicles location to the target location?
You can ask this question directly to Fugawi, but modem can identify every gps so you can track 10 or 20 vehicles with a single radio frecuency
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Jaime OlivaresCommented:
Satelite phones have annoying hang-off times due to satelite switching... I have tested them, still not a good solution, maybe Iridium is better than GlobalStar but hope Teledesic will have better performance....
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fulscherAuthor Commented:
Thank you both for the helpful comments. I'll leave this Q open for a bit longer to wait for additional insight.
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Jaime OlivaresCommented:
Found a typo:
Since you are floating antenna can point down, so it will be located above your feets.
must be:
Since you are floating, antenna can point down, so it will be located below your feets.
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fulscherAuthor Commented:
I thought so :-)
J.
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fulscherAuthor Commented:
Thank you, guys.
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