What Is It?
A small, self-guided glider, designed to fly at very high
altitudes. The glider is carried up by its tail with a helium
weather balloon to altitudes of up to 85,000 feet above sea level, and
then released to fly back to the launch point. During the flight,
it transmits down navigation data, some sense data, and low-res digital
photos. It can also carry a 35mm film camera, or other
Why Build It?
Because it can be done, and because it's cool. The combination of
weather balloon, GPS, and R/C sailplane technology makes it
possible. The incredible altitudes obtainable with a weather
balloon make it irresistible! Above 60,000 feet, the
sky is black, the horizon is curved, and incredible speeds are
obtainable in the frigid, near-vacuum environment.
Vehicles similar to this one could also be used in future for
upper-atmosphere research, allowing small science payloads to be
launched to up to 100,000 feet, and reliably recovered the same
day. However, the maximum instrument load able to be carried
without a Transport Canada waiver would be about 1 kg. The glider
would also then require a commercial frequency for telemetry, among
However, the glider described on this website has been developed for
education / recreation, and thus would not be suitable for science
payloads in its current form. This project has provided an
excellent means to learn hands-on application of automated navigation
and control, telemetry, and real-time software methods, in addition to
high-reliability, safety-critical software development standards.
Is there any danger to aviation?
The short answer is no; there is very little risk to larger
aircraft. According to an MIT study, the risk of a small Unmanned
Aerial Vehicle such as this being hit by a jetliner is on the order of 1
in 1 billion per UAV flight hour. The risk to light aircraft, in a
relatively busy area such as the Fraser Valley, is higher, but can be
made easily below the risk light aircraft pose to each other. For
the long answer, please read further.
A Proposal for Simple, Parachute-Based
Landing Site Control