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LOHAN chap to launch Raspberry Pi eye in the sky

Live stratoimages promised as minicam invades European airspace

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High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) geezer Dave Akerman will tomorrow dispatch a Raspberry Pi camera into the stratosphere, promising live images from altitude as the diminutive snapper drifts from Blighty into European skies.

Dave, who's head hydrogen handling honcho for our Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) mission, recently managed to get his hands on a preproduction example of the much-anticipated miniature camera, and as fellow HAB aficionado and LOHAN team member Anthony Stirk explained, "there was only one way this was going to end".

From left to right: Anthony Stirk, Dave Akerman and Neil Barnes

LOHAN team members Anthony Stirk, Dave Akerman and Neil Barnes, seen in December 2012 before our SPEARS board test flight

There was indeed, and that's a launch on Saturday morning from the Cambridge area of two mighty hydrogen-filled orbs. Both are rigged to ascend to around 30,500m (100,000ft) and then travel across the Channel, continuing their airborne adventure as long as they hold out.

The first globe will carry a 70cm tracker on 434.450Mhz 50 baud 7N2, plus an APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) unit which will transmit on the callsign M0UPU-11. Since aerial APRS transmission is not permitted over UK airspace, this will kick in once the payload has entered a less restrictive atmosphere.

The second balloon, carrying the PiCam, will send back live Slow Scan Digital Video (SSDV) images via no less than two Radiometrix NTX2 transmitters, as used in our Special Project Electronic Altitude Release System (SPEARS) control board.

Doubling up the transmitters "increases the bandwidth from speedy 300 baud to a simply ludicrous 600 baud", as Anthony put it. The data is RTTY 300 baud 8N2, on frequencies of around 434.075Mhz. You'll be able to get final confirmed frequencies, plus live mission updates on the #highaltitude chat room at irc.freenode.net. You can connect here.

The balloon's callsign is $$PIE, and you'll be able to enjoy the live images here.

The position of both balloons will appear here, and if that's not enough, there will be live coverage of the launch at http://www.batc.tv/streams/ukhas.

As ever, anyone with suitable radio kit is invited to join the distributed network of listeners, and if you fancy it, there are instructions here.

Regular readers will be aware of Dave's previous form with high-altitude Raspberry Pi tomfoolery. In July 2012, he sent one of the wallet-sized computers aloft, beaming back webcam images.

Dave Akerman and his Pi payload

Dave and his Pi payload

In March this year, he and Anthony provoked an explosive geekgasm by dispatching a Pi-controlled Tardis to 35,409 metres (116,000ft).

The Tardis seen against the curvature of the Earth

Geekgasm: the Pi-powered Tardis

Tomorrow's launch promises to once again push the envelope of Pi endeavour. Dave tells us he's using an A model of the computer, whose reduced power consumption means it should run for 27 hours - vital for a successful invasion of Europe. He also assures us the camera images will be a great improvement over previous webcam efforts. Watch this space...®

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