Weather balloon payload guides itself home (almost)

From Hackaday:

The biggest issue with sending expensive electronics into near space is trying to recover them. [Lhiggs] set out to solve this issue with his Senior project for a Mechanical Engineering degree. He figured that a payload dropped from 100,000 feet should be able to glide its way back to some predefined coordinates. Here you can see one of the tests, where the payload is guiding its descent using a parafoil.

Directional control is possible with a parafoil simply by shifting weight between the two supporting ropes. In this case [Lhiggs] designed the payload to hang from a pair of servo-motor-actuated arms. Since the payload already carries altitude and position hardware (such as a GPS, electronic compass, and altimeter) it’s just a matter of waiting for the target height before separating from the weather balloon, then using the servos to navigate to the landing zone.

Unfortunately the project was never fully completed. But you can see that he got pretty far. There is test footage embedded after the break showing the device being dropped from a plane.

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Comment by Daniel Nugent on October 3, 2012 at 10:14pm
Dang thought of that 2 years ago. Maybe I should do it and actually get it done. Its honestly isnt even that hard of a project. For being a college student, I'm not impressed
Comment by Jack Crossfire on October 3, 2012 at 10:23pm

If it didn't have to be completed, wonder what kind of senior project I could get away with.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on October 4, 2012 at 1:34am

There are quite a few guided parachutes out there, hats off to the chap for trying though

Comment by Ed on October 4, 2012 at 7:24am

@Daniel have a go, especially at high altitude as was the aim of this project. I think you'll be unpleasantly surprised by some of the dynamic effects you encounter, for example the added mass effect in low density fluids making it very unstable. It might make you less quick to dismiss it as easy.

Comment by Adrian Eves on October 4, 2012 at 9:14am

I think low altitude dynamic effects and stability issues are the elephant in the room.... :)

Comment by Gary Mortimer on October 4, 2012 at 11:13am

I think Elephants by parachute is an excellent concept.

Comment by Kevin Brown on October 4, 2012 at 12:02pm

Parachute and Parafoil are two different things.A parafoil was never designed to open like a chute....problem number one. Still like the idea.

I think I might chop up my X8 to look and operate like VG space ship II

any ideas on a rocket?

I saw the acrylic rocket on hackaday 

Comment by Daniel Nugent on October 4, 2012 at 2:53pm

You are correct the thing has to be in a free fall for a bit before it deploys its parachute so that it can be traveling at a high enough speed that the little air will have any effect on the parachute. Its more complicated than it sounds. I mostly just upset that I havent done it yet 

Comment by MarcS on October 4, 2012 at 4:06pm

The problem is already solved since years... Wings actually seems better than parachute.

It is just that no authoroty in the world allows for controlled recovery of radio-sonds (yet). At least on a regular basis...

One example here:

Comment by Ed on October 5, 2012 at 4:31am

@ Daniel: no, that wasn't what I was talking about and that's not correct either. There is enough dynamic pressure up there for it to deploy, that is not a problem. Have a read up on the 'Added Mass effect' - Wikipedia is a good start.

@ Adrian, indeed if you cannot get it to work in the thick soup near sea level then you have larger problems.


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