To honor Earth Day, the Hi-Impact L&D team mounted an Insta360 ONE X2 action camera to a weather balloon and sent it into the sky, capturing an incredible view of the Earth from over 80,000 feet in the air.
Last December, the NewMakeIt team conducted a similar experiment, launching a camera setup into low orbit to generate a "drone-like" panoramic image of the Earth.
That trip was essential in the Hi-Impact L&D team selecting the Insta360 platform. The team picked the ONE X2 camera for this configuration because it has shown its ability to operate in severe temperatures. For instance, this flight brought the cameras to a height of 24,650 meters (about 80,872 feet). Temperatures drop to -45 degrees Celcius at that altitude (-49 degrees Fahrenheit).
“We used to use a fly360 camera but it stopped working after a few years of going to the edge of Space and we required something to replace it,” Hi-Impact L&D says. “It was good to know that the camera would survive the temperatures and that the image quality was going to be really good, so we opted for the X2 and haven’t been disappointed!”
According to NewMakeIt's video, the weather balloon soared to an incredible 100,000 feet. This launch from Hi-Impact L&D did not go nearly as high as the last one, but that was intentional.
“We have done more than 20 flights and have reached 33,000 metres (108,000 feet) a couple of times but we control the amount of helium according to the conditions and on this occasion, we loaded up with more helium in order to trigger an earlier burst as the winds were taking the balloon too far away,” Hi-Impact L&D explains. “In doing this, we sacrifice a bit of altitude as the balloon goes up quicker and bursts earlier.”
The launch was not without complications.
“The weather was terrible for this flight,” the Hi-Impact L&D team explains. “Very high winds, cold temperatures, and lots of rain as we were preparing to launch. The camera survived the conditions admirably but obviously, the image quality is reduced by the rain on the upper facing lens.”
The camera captured over two hours of footage while the balloon ascended, survived the extreme temperatures, and was found when it plummeted to Earth. However, the typical recuperation process did not proceed as easily as it has in the past.
“We have a GPS tracker (SPOT Messenger) on our payloads as well as a mobile phone with a GPS tracking app. However, both of these failed on this particular flight,” Hi-Impact L&D says.
“Luckily we also had another GPS tracker linked to a radio system and a Raspberry pi computer and this worked up until the final few hundred metres of the descent. We just worked out the path it was on and how fast it was travelling and walked around in the area until we found it! Usually, the SPOT tracker works perfectly though and we know exactly where it is.”