[Talk-us] Public Labs/balloon mapping?

Toby Murray toby.murray at gmail.com
Tue Oct 29 03:27:43 UTC 2013

On the subject of RC and drones: I have been working on building myself a
multirotor RC platform this year. One of the ideas behind it (besides just
being fun) was to be able to go to some new construction, send it up, grab
pictures and then map from them. So far I'm still stuck on the "flying it
without crashing" part. I did strap my GoPro camera to it on one flight.
but had it capturing the view, not the ground. You can see the results

There is a twist ending. Several twists actually. And some bumps. I'm not
sure how high up I went that time but it was approaching the point where it
was getting hard to keep track of visually. After that video I got a new
flight controller that is much better and might give me more
confidence/flexibility. Some LED strips on the arms might help as well.

The GoPro or similar cameras have a very wide field of view (up to 170
degrees) so they might be able to capture a decent area even from a few
hundred feet up but I'm guessing the distortion will be hard to compensate
for, especially at the edges. So the useful field of view will still be
kind of narrow. I guess if I ever get something to work, I'll probably
brag/blog about it :)


On Mon, Oct 28, 2013 at 11:21 AM, andrzej zaborowski <balrogg at gmail.com>wrote:

> Hi,
> On 28 October 2013 02:35, Ian McEwen <ianmcorvidae at ianmcorvidae.net>
> wrote:
> > Hi; I've been recently looking around http://publiclab.org/, especially
> > at their tools for doing ground-tethered balloon and kite mapping
> > (http://publiclab.org/wiki/balloon-mapping). The bulk of the prose on
> > the site seems to be activism-oriented -- documenting the BP oil spill,
> > Occupy encampments, etc. As you might guess I'm more interested in the
> > potential to use this for OSM, but stories of others doing that seem to
> > be sparse.
> >
> > Has anyone here used balloon mapping or these tools (or similar ones)
> > who can share experience, pitfalls, etc.?
> I've done some kite photography around the San Francisco Bay area and
> more recently one session in Seattle, but haven't had time to process
> & stitch any images from within the US.  I've been following what
> Public Lab / grassrootsmapping.org do, and had a chance to fly kite
> with Jeff Warren and Stuart Long of Public Lab, but as you say their
> process and tools are designed for activism, perhaps documentation
> (historial, social, not geographical), and not exactly what we need in
> OSM.  The MapKnitter tool is great for easy stitching but it's
> difficult to get a precision map from it, although it surely would be
> a good base for an OSM oriented tool.  In theory most of the process
> can be automated away but there's a shortage of opensource tools for
> that.
> Public Lab generally (not always) shoot from low altitudes at high
> ground resultion, thus covering small areas.  It's possible to go up
> to at least 3000ft so you can actually cover a couple square miles if
> you allow for a bigger angle than Google Maps etc. which is not so
> much of an issue for mapping.  Going high is difficult technically and
> possibly legally though, and requires great conditions.
> I've done some attempts with balloon mapping and many attempts using a
> cheap DIY RC platform (which is gradually improving) but I've had most
> success with the kite so far.
> These same methods (kites, ballons, drones) are used a lot in
> archaeology with established processes, but mostly use commercial
> software.
> Best regards
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