Balloon flights and ZL1RS ocean buoy news
February saw the first QRP Labs High Altitude Balloon flight launches of 2017, both on the same day, 20-Feb-2017! The first was flight S-21 by Dave VE3KCL from Toronto, Canada; followed close behind by flight U3S-7 by Jim N2NXZ.
These are Internet of Things (IOT) or RIOT Radio INternet of Things
Dave VE3KCL used the special QRP Labs Ultimate3S transmitter firmware installed on his own board assembly, with the WSPR telemetry overlay first developed by QRP Labs. The entire payload weight was only 10.26 grams and flew on a single Qualatex mylar film “party” balloon. S-21 made very rapid progress South across the US and the following morning, woke up over Puerto Rico! However there appears to have been some new problem with the GPS, a reminder of how difficult this type of balloon flight is. The position reports were transmitted all day, but stuck at the same point over Puerto Rico without updating. The following morning (day 3) there was no sign of S-21. So presumably it hit bad weather, a high altitude storm, that could have brought it down. Full details here: http://www.qrp-labs.com/flights/s21.html. Dave has already built two more transmitter payloads, which will fly on S-22 and S-23 (they use a different GPS module!).
Jim N2NXZ used the standard QRP Labs Ultimate3S firmware installed on a bare ATmega328 chip, carried by two balloons. His position was reported over WSPR and JT9. The flight path was quite similar to Dave’s but a little further East. The same as Dave, nothing was heard from the U3S-7 balloon on Day 3 so again, it must have taken a swim in the Atlantic ocean. Full details here: http://www.qrp-labs.com/flights/u3s7.
Over in the South Pacific, Bob ZL1RS’ “ocean floater” project has now been at sea for 285 days (more than 9 months). An amazing endurance journey! It uses the QRP Labs Ultimate3S transmitter sending WSPR and JT transmissions. The position is now RG93SQ, near New Caledonia. Relatively speaking, it has made a lot of progress West since last month, having evidently seen a period of steady winds (the loops are thought to be more due to wind than ocean currents). The power onboard is 18 D-cell batteries. The battery voltage decline will accelerate as more current is drawn from the batteries by the boost regulator circuit, to maintain the operating voltage.