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Swedish Engineer's RC Plane Gets a Balloon Lift To Space

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  • by Internal Modem (1281796) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @09:56AM (#43421879)
    Total flight time was 108 minutes. Total distance between launch and landing site was 101km.
    • Instead of an RC airplane, he should've put a model rocket on the balloon and fire it when the balloon popped. That would've been cool.

      Hmm maybe I should do that....

      • The Register *is* doing that. The LOHAN project will have a rocket after their successful PARIS mission.

  • cool (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 11, 2013 @09:56AM (#43421883)

    Pretty sure we Americans cant do this without written permission from the FAA.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't be so sure. I remember the twin-fan personal "thing" the Mythbusters built, they had some guys from the FAA look at it and catalog it and they determined that, because of the weight, there wasn't a license requirement to fly it.

      A small project like this, I guess depending on weight, altitude, motors, source of power/fuel and a couple of other factors that I have no idea... might not need permission from the FAA to get off the ground. If you've got a project in mind, it never hurts to check.

      It's like a

    • by smartin (942)

      On Flitetest they talk about attempting this in the US, Ohio i think, and said that it was not that difficult to get FAA approval.

    • At current, the only license required is from the FCC, an amateur radio technician's license for the 2W transmitter.

      However, due to media hype over "drones," there's a lot of legislation in process that would ban anybody flying any RC aircraft that is capable of capturing any kind of images.

      The Academy of Model Aeronautics (http://www.modelaircraft.org) is working strenuously with state and federal government organizations to bring some reason into the situation.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Pretty sure we Americans cant do this without written permission from the FAA.

      You're right about the FAA. Also, in the U.S. lowly citizens aren't allowed to use those types of radios and power levels in order to have the range for remote control, video and telemetry. FCC regulations ban them. A couple of Americans have chosen to start a bitchfest on this guy's blog about how he's going to ruin everything for them in the U.S. and genuinely believe that he should stop what he is doing in Sweden because they might be impinged by their own government!

      I think it's really sad that the whi

      • Re:Sad. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:19PM (#43424175)

        Also, in the U.S. lowly citizens aren't allowed to use those types of radios and power levels in order to have the range for remote control, video and telemetry. FCC regulations ban them.

        No, they ban them from unlicensed use. But getting a license has been getting easier and easier every year...

        Heaven forbid some work is done toward managing common resources like airspace used for travel and radio spectrum, so they don't suffer from tragedy of the commons.

    • by serbanp (139486)

      Hmmm, it's been done many times before, the oldest I recall seeing dates from the early 2000s: http://www.canuck-boffin.net/sonde/ [canuck-boffin.net]

      It's still an amazing project and I wish I could pull off something like that - maybe next life...

  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:04AM (#43421953)

    I wonder how he tested the radio link. That would be the main technical challenge, I would think.

    • There are a couple of places around here where if someone carried one end of the radio link up the side of a mountain, you could get the straight line range needed. (Around 20 miles in this case.) So that's one possible way.

      Another big issue is recovering the vehicle to a stable attitude as it comes back into denser air.

      But, from reading his blog, it sounds like he didn't do much if anything in the way of testing, he mostly just hoped.

      • by nametaken (610866) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @01:33PM (#43424339)

        But, from reading his blog, it sounds like he didn't do much if anything in the way of testing, he mostly just hoped.

        He did a fair bit of research for a hobby project. He used someone else's published results on the performance of the radio equipment.

        He also had to test the effects of temperature on the servos, and determined he had to remove most of the grease, as that's the part that locks up at lower temperatures.

        He tested the line cutting method (resistor and match head) on a previous project of his, that was good fun... a quadcopter shooting balloons like a video game.

        He's done quite a lot of work with all the other stuff from his other FPV video projects. He's done a lot of really interesting stuff and knows what he's doing, so he wasn't just gluing a bunch of rc plane parts together and crossing his fingers.

    • 9/10 A technical challenging project, despite the technical issue before launch he was able to control the aircraft all the way down. Well done!
  • Old school (Score:5, Funny)

    by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:08AM (#43421979) Homepage

    The trip is captured on film

    ORLY?

  • Edge of space? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @10:14AM (#43422025) Homepage

    Not to dismiss this guy's accomplishments, but saying his model plane reached the "edge of space" is sort of like saying I've reached the "edge of the ocean" when I'm at Times Square in New York City.

    Typically, the "edge of space" is 100km up [guardian.co.uk] (the United States is a bit more lenient, and puts it at at around 80km up and you get astronaut wings if you make it that high).

    He hasn't even made it a third of the way there.

    Still neat, but it could have done without the hyperbole.

    • Makes what we did as kids with Estes rockets seem rather dull and mundane. Shoot rocket, hope parachute deploys. Chute didn't deploy? Save paper route money up for next rocket.

      That is a real neat project. And the video captured from 30,000+ feet is damn clear.

      • by jkflying (2190798)

        30,000 metres. 100,000 feet.

        • Please excuse my in-exactness (I was born American, still not a good excuse). High enough to have the Earth's curvature clearly defined. Now seems like a great time for RC projects. Crashing one today doesn't mean you're out of thousands of dollars pfft like that.
          • Please excuse my in-exactness (I was born American, still not a good excuse). High enough to have the Earth's curvature clearly defined.

            The apparent curvature was mostly an artifact of the lens used. Get a short enough focal length lens, and you can photograph "the Earth's curvature" from your backyard.

            • Thanks. I wasn't sure if it was a wide lens effect or not. I saw that the 'curve' kept changing as the video played.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's actually 33000 meters, which is 100000+ feet

    • by CKW (409971)

      Perhaps. But 100km is a pretty arbitrary number. When I was growing up (and where I live everything was still in miles, especially anything written by or about the US space program), space was "100 miles" up. Funny how it's a neat round number like that.

      http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/guides/mtr/prs/gifs/hght2.gif [uiuc.edu]

      He's above 99% of the atmosphere. That's good enough for me. "Edge" -- how do you define that? He's not IN space, certainly. I wouldn't compare it to a beach, a beach is only 10-100 feet wide.

      • Re:Edge of space? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Somebody Is Using My (985418) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @11:06AM (#43422481) Homepage

        Related question - what would make a good fundamental "minimum altitude" to say "space"?

        From SpaceWatch [guardian.co.uk](the website I linked to in my parent post):
        "The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), formed 107 years ago and widely recognised as the governing body for aeronautics, astronautics and related activities, puts the beginning of space at 100km. This is now sometimes dubbed the Kármán line after the person who calculated that aerodynamic lift was impossible at higher levels without attaining orbital velocity. "

        Also see
        "The Kármán line, or commonly simply Karman line, lies at an altitude of 100 kilometres (62 mi) above the Earth's sea level, and is commonly used to define the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space."

        I think these are both workable definitions.

        Mind you, none of this pedantic bickering is to take away from Windestål's accomplishment; it's great and he should be proud of what he has done. I eagerly await hearing about further successes from him. It's just that he's nowhere near space, by any accepted definition of the word.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          From SpaceWatch [guardian.co.uk](the website I linked to in my parent post): "The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), formed 107 years ago and widely recognised as the governing body for aeronautics, astronautics and related activities, puts the beginning of space at 100km. This is now sometimes dubbed the Kármán line after the person who calculated that aerodynamic lift was impossible at higher levels without attaining orbital velocity. "

          I like all the official sounding

          • by ediron2 (246908)

            LOL. You oughta win the internet for the day. Wish I had modpoints...

            I'd learned to put a 3 or a 7 into any fakebake number by the time I was seven. See, I just did it again! Apparently Le FAI and others didn't get the memo.

            (now I'm goin' back over to reddit, where "everything's modded and the points don't matter!", to steal Drew Carey's Whos-Line introduction)

          • by draconx (1643235)

            It just happens to be such a convenient number in their preferred units?

            Obviously the number 100 was chosen for its convenience. From Wikipedia (Kármán line [wikipedia.org]):

            Although the calculated altitude was not exactly 100 km, Kármán proposed that 100 km be the designated boundary to space, since the round number is more memorable, and the calculated altitude varies minutely as certain parameters are varied. An international committee recommended the 100 km line to the FAI, and upon adoption, it became widely accepted as the boundary to space for many purposes.

          • by 2short (466733)

            "It just happens to be such a convenient number in their preferred units?"

            No, they just don't engage in spurious precision. They could have said 107.2527 Km (or whatever the calculation came to exactly), but that would imply their calculation was that precise, and it isn't.

            Picking a value for something that doesn't have an obvious definition but people would like to agree on the definition of is what old, official-sounding (because they are) standards orgs are for. If you want to argue with their choice,

            • And based on what the Karmin line is measuring (if you've got this far, you're likely going into orbit), my guess is that the actual limit is a range slightly under 100km -- meaning that if you reach 100Km, you've got far enough to escape. Of course, if the line was defined in a cautionary way (don't go above this line, or you'll be sorry!) it's possible that the actual limit range starts slightly above 100Km. Anyone know for sure?

              • by 2short (466733)

                No. Going into orbit is a matter of velocity. You can go as high as you want, but if you're not going very fast sideways, you won't orbit.

                The speed you need to go sideways to orbit goes down as you go higher. The speed you need to go sideways to stay up via aerodynamic lift goes up as you go higher (and air pressure goes down). The crossover, where generating enough lift would require going faster than orbital speed is the Karman line. Above that, you can't stay up via aerodynamic lift, you must orbit

      • by 2short (466733)

        "what would make a good fundamental 'minimum altitude' to say 'space'?"

        My intuition says if you can/do get there using the atmosphere to generate lift (planes & balloons), it's clearly not space.

        The typical distinction is more arguable but, in my opinion, a reasonable principle:
        If the atmospheric drag at a given altitudes orbital velocity is too high to allow you to orbit, it's not space. If the atmosphere is thin enough to allow you to orbit, it's space.

        That's a somewhat fuzzy definition, but that's

    • Hmm, you new here? Hyperbole is the bread and butter of anything remotely to do with space, or 3D printing.
      • Says the guy with a UID almost three times bigger than mine
        (I kid, I kid; it's not as if my six-digit UID is anything to boast about either)

        Actually, I was referring more to the hyperbole in the original article (well, video since the website with the article was slashdotted when I tried to view it) more than the usual over-the-top claims made in the Slashdot summary.

        With the former, it's (unfortunately) expected; however, as the Swede in question obviously has engineering skills, I had hoped he would be mo

    • by nametaken (610866)

      I hear you, and that's a fair point. But at the same, I think "edge of space" works well enough. We all know what altitudes they're talking about in weather balloon projects.

      As far as the general public is concerned, when you're up high enough that you see inky black sky above and you're obviously looking way, way down at the planet... that's close enough for a blurb to use "edge of space", if only as very vague altitude reference.

      Those of us that care will look at the listed altitude, and we're familiar en

  • David is awesome, he is here in the US right now working with FliteTest [youtube.com]. Checkout some of his other projects there. I recommend subscribing to their channel.
  • by slacka (713188) on Thursday April 11, 2013 @11:03AM (#43422447)

    "Where I live helium is ridiculously expensive. So I went with the much cheaper alternative, hydrogen. It’s also more buoyant, about 8% more. Which means a higher burst altitude as you can use less gas."

    Bonus points for using hydrogen instead of helium. Hydrogen is not dangerous if handled properly and helium is a scarce resource needed for many medical uses like MRIs.

    • Funny how we call helium a scarce resource... it's the 2nd most common element in the Universe.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Funny how we call helium a scarce resource... it's the 2nd most common element in the Universe.

        Hey Mr Spaceman, for those of use here on Earth, helium is a scarce resource. Sure, I can see the sun, which is huge and 27% helium (by mass), but what good is that to me here on Earth?

        • Shush. Reality is not welcome in any story to do with space. Let the nice man think space is like a giant IKEA just a balloon ride away.
      • Funny how we call helium a scarce resource... it's the 2nd most common element in the Universe.

        In the universe, yes. On Earth, no. All the helium on Earth has been here from the beginning, and no process on Earth is creating more. Once it's released in to the atmosphere, it's gone.

        I'm always envious of stuff like this. Where I live (southwestern British Columbia, Canada), it would be very difficult to retrieve a payload that came down 100 km away, in just about any direction. A steerable RC glider is an option I've thought about. Live video, GPS and telemetry would make me even more motivated to ge

        • by daremonai (859175)

          All the helium on Earth has been here from the beginning

          Not exactly. It's produced from alpha particles, mostly generated by the decay of uranium.

        • by cellocgw (617879)

          Funny how we call helium a scarce resource... it's the 2nd most common element in the Universe.

          In the universe, yes. On Earth, no. All the helium on Earth has been here from the beginning, and no process on Earth is creating more.

          Oh, I dunno, I keep hearing about "fusion this decade," after which we'll not only have unlimited free electricity but all the He you could ask for. Until we run out of deuterium, anyway.

        • Someone local attempted something similar: http://www.canuck-boffin.net/sonde/index.htm [canuck-boffin.net]

      • That whole "bringing it back to earth" thing is a bit of a bitch.

        I mean, percentage wise, our solar system is primarily emptyish void. Next is being in a state of FIREY HELLSCAPE OF CONSTANT FUSION, followed closely by entombed in soul-crushing pressures under miles of rock. The percentage of our solar system where it'd be nice to have some helium for fun and profit is shockingly small.

        Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

      • Unlike hydrogen, helium does not chemically bind so much, so we have a local scarcity of it.

        Kinda like how we - locally - have a large amount of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and so on around, compared to the universal distribution.

        To be honest, I can live without the helium. I'd have a harder time living with the extra oxygen, so please don't start a government program to redistribute the elements.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Helium for balloons is not medical grade. In fact, it's usually discarded (let's not call it "waste") helium already used in medical environments mixed with "normal" air that is used for balloons*. I think there was already a discussion here on /. about that some months ago.

      Source: http://weinterrupt.com/2012/09/helium-shortage-may-mean-no-more-balloons-its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it/

    • by houghi (78078)

      Hydrogen is not dangerous if handled properly

      Is that not true for anything? And next you compare something to helium.
      This makes it sound as if helium is dangerous when handled properly.

      • Well, compared to dioxygen diflouride (a.k.a. FOOF, which explodes on contact with just about anything above -300 F), or chlorine triflouride (which can set sand and asbestos on 'fire'), hydrogen is quite safe, yes.

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