Operation Helios attended the Young ICT Explorers competition today and placed third. It was a great day - we met many amazing people and saw hundreds of incredible projects.
Over the last two months we have been putting together a full report on Helios 1. This report can be found here. Every stage of the project is detailed, from R&D to launch, to the inner workings of all electrical systems. This report has been submitted to the Young ICT Explorers competition for award consideration.
On the 14th of April, Helios 1 took to the skies, capturing amazing video footage. A special thanks needs to go out to the Tamworth Radio Club, who assisted greatly in the logistics of the launch. A full report will be published at some point into the future, but we can’t give a specific date as we are extremely busy at the moment. For now, just sit back, relax and take a look at this flight montage:
Raw footage (you may want to mute your speakers):
It has been a long time since our last post but our project is still very much alive. Over the last couple of months we have successfully implemented the following systems:
We moved away from the FoxTrak and Lassen iQ due to a hardware fault and instead decided to use a OpenTracker+ APRS modem in conjunction with a GT-320FW High Altitude GPS and a small 2 meter band Amatur Radio with an external antenna.
We reevaluated our low cost camera system and decided that it was not suitable for our project due to its low build quality. We replaced the array of action cameras with a GoPro HD Hero.
Remote Emergency Cutdown
With the help of Leon S we put together an Arduino based cutdown system for our capsule. When the system receives a specific series of DTMF tones it activates a piece of nichrome wire attached above the parachute. Using this system we can abort the mission at any time if necessary.
A small LIPD for RDF
We have also included a small LIPD radio transmitter (Low Interference Potential Device) in the capsule which will be our last resort for tracking the location of the capsule. The LIPD constantly transmits a low power signal which we could locate the source of using radio direction finding.
We are aiming to launch this Easter from the Tamworth area, stay tuned for more updates.
We are going to be raffling 10 kg of chocolate at school in order to raise money to fund the massive expenses. The raffle will commence in early October and tickets will only be available to members of our school. This is so that the draw can be made in front of the school with all the possible winners present. Looking at the massive chocolate bar which sits beside us, we are already envious of the future winner.
We discovered some issues with the cameras we were planning on using for the launch: they stop recording after 30 minutes and run out of battery power very quickly. In terms of the battery issue we were planning on supplying power via an external battery connected to the cameras’ USB port. Unfortunately, the camera does not record when power is supplied via USB. We opened the camera and found that we can easily change the battery of the camera out with a higher capacity battery bank. In terms of the software limited record time, we are going to solder a transistor to the record button so that we can use an Arduino to stop and restart recording automatically.
The cameras arrived couple of days ago and they are working very well. We have completed some tests in daylight and the video quality is superb, especially once an adaptive deshaking filter has been applied though VirtualDub. Although the actual video quality is good, the build quality is questionable, and we do have some worries about the cameras failing at altitude under the tough conditions.
We assembled a prototype capsule today out of two foam boxes and a can of expandable foam. There are some concerns around its weight. We may have to explore other options.
We have also purchased some items for Helios, including a sports camera, a portable USB power supply and a mini SD card.
Just a quick shout-out to Amanda MacKinnell of Heaton-Miller Safety Systems for the amazing help she has given us over the past few months. We have talked to Amanda about the feasibility of using devices designed for marine rescue as a tracking device for Helios. Her industry insight has been invaluable. Thanks Amanda!
After much research we decided that the ISM band would not be a feasible option of APRS transmission. Instead, we are thinking that Amateur Radio may be the way to go. We have sent an email to a local radio club (VK4BA) and hope to meet with them to discuss this option in the near future.
We are looking at using an APRS based tracking system to aid in the recovery of our capsule, perhaps a FoxTrak connected to a Lassen IQ and some kind of radio transmitter. The awesome Whirlpool user trash has been very helpful in answering our questions around such a system.
The most troubling part seems to be the radio transmitter. We don’t have Amateur Radio licences so we can’t use the standard ham transmitters. We were considering CB radio but there seems to be some doubt around legality. Perhaps we could use the licence free ISM band. The main concern there however is that ISM transmitters have very limited power output, and considering the long range, this may present a significant issue.
Terry over at Project Horus has kindly offered to lend us a SPOT Personal Tracker with a full plan for the first launch. This means that we will be able to reduce our overall costs. Thanks Terry!
We also must thank Simon Kelly, Fiora Miceli and Marie Kelly who made donations of $150, $30 and $50 respectively.
We are now starting to bring in some more money for our project. We have received $105 of donations, $30 from Rosa Bonfiglio, $25 from Ralph Alcock of Ralph’s Garage and $50 from Clare Tilbury and Tracey Smith. Thank you very much! In addition, Liam has been able to raise $40 by repairing computers and has been offered a part time job helping out in a local shop. It looks like we are on track to be able to fund our project.
Furthermore, our school newspaper is going to write an article about our project. This is exciting and will hopefully generate further publicity, and by extension, donations.
We have been getting quotes on the cost of Helium. Seems quite expensive, for 13 year olds with no income, that is! We are currently writing up a pitch which we will be mail dropping to local businesses with the intention of gaining sponsorship.
The team had its first real meeting today. After discussions with Terry of Project Horus, we felt confident to progress in the planning of our project. We put together a rough list of materials and continued to research the technical challenges of our project.
We went on to estimate the total cost of the project. Taking into account a 600 gram Kaymont Balloon, a low cost action sports camera, helium, and a SPOT Personal Tracker with a basic plan and tracking service, we estimate a cost of approximately $500. We may have to engage in some fundraising...