Stratosphere Flier Takes Shape on Paper.

Stratosphere Drone

First, an apology. We have been too busy to post too much. Life gets busy. Although HABworx is not the lead, it is where the knowledge has come from to begin work on this massive craft. Interested in being involved. Contact me on our contact page.

This update may surprise a few of you as it is a massive project and it will take millions of dollars to complete, but tests have begun and a Joint Venture with a Sydney University is in the wind. I was there 2 days ago working on our first dedicated test flight using a super pressure balloon and flying the unit to the stratosphere. hovering for a while and then descending back to earth. It all costs money and we are looking for a sponsor of course. The concept and initial designs are also in front of the Australian Air Force as this will be an obvious watch dog for anything from battle fields to border protection. Drones with wings are used at the moment and they are hugely expensive. This will be a fraction of the price of operation and initial cost.

We have nicknamed it a StratoDrone for obvious reasons – it lives in or just below the Stratosphere. We need to finalise the image before we get ahead of the objectives, but it will look something like the image here. This is drone is not space, but the opportunities for space research are enormous. As we at ThunderStruck Aerospace (our commercial business)  begin the long task of produce our own our StratoDrone, we start with a shape and test it on the PC and in any wind tunnels that we can use., it takes shape, morphing slightly as we test the drag and flight parameters. This image is the first pass. It is way to big in the tail and there needs to be a better tapper along its length. The tail fins need to be about 1/4 the size. There is no steering on the fins although I am considering a gimballed set of rotors on the very rear. This would have to be a sunset image with the light so low. The StratoDrone will sit on station at 20Km or higher or lower depending on winds.. The instrument Nacelle will be slung under the forward ring and is not shown at this angle. The StratoDrone is expected to revolutionise communications / radar and observation, bush fire fighting and almost anything. A stunning video of its operations and capability will be available soon. This is a sample photo only and not the final product.

StratoDrone in flight headed to the Stratosphere

The Stratosphere or Bust:

This was posted on Facebook and the comments were:

Comments were:

Robert Brand: Hey, John, we are starting on our StratoDrone. it is not for people, but equipment that can stay stationary in the sky – “on station” for months at a time, or cruise the coast for erosion, illegal fishing or whatever. The cost curve to operate is way under commercial drones and the ability to stay in one place a real opportunity for telecommunications. It is not space, but the future is one step closer. By the way, the gap between the troposphere and the Stratosphere is called the Tropopause. We live in the troposphere and so do the jet streams. The Stratosphere starts at about 16Km to 20Km (10 miles to 12.5 miles) altitude depending on your location, season and more.

Victor: Wow !!! I have been looking for a static drone for 30 years ! My dreams come true ! ya I know a blimp is great! Any Facebook page for it ?

Robert Brand: In case anyone thinks that this platform is not a massive benefit to space, let me suggest 2 uses to start the ball rolling.

1/. Stable telescope platforms
2/. Comms downlinks with massive coverage

Telescopes – Imagine being able to launch a 100Kg telescope to close to 30Km altitude and only have 1% of the atmosphere above you. Without the earth’s atmosphere to interfere with observations,you might as well have a telescope in orbit only this one you can bring back down and swap out the payload the next day and relaunch. The opportunity for space research will take on a whole new meaning with short low cost refits and redeploys within a day. Somewhat a cross between NASA’s Sofia aircraft and a low orbiting spacecraft. Other sensors can be fitted without having to wait for a launch of a spacecraft.

Communications – Unlike ground based radios, that can only see a spacecraft from horizon to horizon with all sorts of caveats such as mountains that may block the signal, thick atmospheric issues that will attenuate the signal, being 20Km to 30Km up, a passing spacecraft will have a good and clear signal available for a much longer time in a pass. The footprint to communicate with passing craft and the signal strength necessary will improve greatly. In other words, it will have acquisition for much longer and accept much lower power levels. This makes it an ideal platform for a whole range of things, but especially as a downlink for small spacecraft such as cubesats. Uplinks are usually not an issue as the ground can increase its power levels to make comms easy. The StratoDrone however will be able to see further than ground based systems, thus increase the number of viable passes possible.

These machines may replace many spacecraft functions, but mainly to free them up for other projects. The most congested radio frequencies are for geostationary spacecraft at 36,000Km altitude. With this technology, we are effectively a geostationary object at 20Km altitude. The possibilities are endless and the emergency facilities is can provide when ground based infrastructure has been destroyed is phenomenal. Once these machines are fully operational, they will be here to stay..

There is no page yet, but I will be posting an update here soon.

Steven: Very interesting Robert. What is the payload mass for your balloon? How do you deal with the problem of high altitude wind?

Robert Brand: We sit at the transition between the stratosphere and troposphere. The winds are minimal in the tropopause. The occasional reversal of winds creates an issue. This does not happen between the tropics so it is best use is southern parts of the US and northern parts of Australia or in most of the worlds trouble zones. Payload mass maybe 100 to 200 kg. Maybe much more depending on the final size of the machine and the maximum altitude.

HAM APRS Tracker – Byonics to the Rescue – sort of

APRS Tracker Issues – an Amusing Response.

APRS Trackers are used by HABworx for our non commercial payloads. We have experienced a few issue with degrading of the transmitted signals over time. This story is a pat on the back for HABworx, but a costly pat on the back.

In Australia to use an APRS tracker you will need a “full call sign” for an amateur radio operator. A foundation or other license is not good enough. We use these trackers by always ensuring that we are not putting it on to a commercial payload, or that the commercial payload agrees to space in their payload for community experiments. We always use 2 trackers and they simply may be a pair of SpOT trackers or a spot tracker and APRS. At times we have even used 2 APRS trackers with different SSIDs (identifying codes)

My High Altitude Balloon (HAB) work just got made a little easier. My old trackers were all starting to fail. I just took delivery from Byonics of one of their MT2000 HAM radio APRS trackers. This is only for licensed Ham Radio operators and it is a sweet device for its size. It can output over 2W of power and has a full transceiver on board. It is easily configurable and runs off 5v to 12v. I think power output is a bit less than 500mw at 5V. It is as light at anything and easily programmable as I also bought the USB cable – a 9 pin D connector for RS232 slips over the end and I will solder it in place. I usually slip a VHF antenna right on the end (red cover cap) and I will solder the special GPS receiver in place on the board. There is still a connector on the GPS unit. It should be noted that these GPS units are configured to work above 60,000 ft as most GPS stop there. Don’t try using the GPS in your phone for tracking on a balloon!

Hey, before I go too far with the Tracker, here is a video from one of our flights. Made for MYOB, it shows the quality of our work. This payload was extreme and we built it on the spot from a wooden frame prepared the night before:

I suggest that you click full screen to get the real impact of this video! In fact go to YouTube and it is really HD

The payload had 8 cameras 3 power banks, 6 voltage regulators, 1 actuator and 2 trackers. One camera was a Fly360 x 240 camera.

Back to the tracker:

Here is what they say:

The Micro­Trak 2000 (MT2K) is a frequency agile, 2 Watt, programmable miniature APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) transmitter utilizing a TinyTrak3 controller chip and is capable of operating from 144 to 148 MHz.

Just plug in a GPS receiver, such as the Byonics GPS5, add a SMA antenna, and start tracking!

  • No need to tie up an expensive radio for APRS tracking
  • Simple 2 wire GPS connection
  • Supports all the latest Byonics TinyTrak3 features.

Note the special GPS block in the picture below. That is what to look for:

Byonics MT2000 APRS Tracker

APRS Tracker Failures – Why?

We could not get an answer to this question because we are simply too good at recovering the units.

We insulate them with bubble wrap, but the super low temperatures in the jet stream (-50ish C) seem to affect the devices over time. Several have died. When I asked Byonics the question as to why, it appears no one can answer me. It seems customers always loses their trackers and we seem to only notice this problem because we have never lost a payload and keep using them. It looks like they only last about 10 flights with super low temperatures and super low pressure. If this works as expected, then I will have to order more. Everyone else loses them by this time. I expect it is a temperature issue and we will try and compensate of update our units after about 7 flights.

Configuring your APRS Tracker

The important parameters to specify for preconfiguration when ordering from Australia for a MT2000 balloon tracker are:

Your HAM radio Call Sign with the appropriate SSID. Mine is VK2URB-11

The Digi Repeater parameters:  WIDE 1-1

The Australian APRS frequency:  145.175MHz

Transmit interval:  every 20 seconds – no receiver check

Symbol:  /o balloon

Any appropriate text:  mine is “UpLift Balloon”. Keep it short as it makes the transmit packet bigger.

Watch out – other countries use different frequencies

We Now Accept Cards – Amex, MasterCard, Visa, PayPal

Pay now with your PayPal account or major cards.

Faster, Easier and Safer  Card Transactions

Cards will make dealing with us so easy compared to having to transfer money to our account. You never have to give out your account details and neither do we. It is securely done via PayPal and soon we will also be taking phone transactions if that makes it easier.

Faster with Cards

Soon we will have a full checkout basket service. Until then tell us what you want and we will direct you to a page where you can finalise your transaction via PayPal. Don’t have a PayPal account? – not a problem. Pay with your card. Fast and simple and we will send you your balloon(s) within 24 hours on a weekday. With Australia Post Express delivery it will arrive overnight for most people. We will provide tracking too so you can check your delivery.

Easier with Cards

No more phone calls, no more hard work in getting your balloon(s) sent and soon we will have our online shopping working and PayPal at the checkout. It has never been easier.

We can even rent you support items like fill regulators and even gas cylinders.

You don’t have to wait until you can transfer money to our account and you don’t need to go and make a deposit over the counter. Simple, Fast and Easy.

Safer with Cards

We never see your transactions. It is done via PayPal either through a PayPal account or via credit or debit cards. PayPal is one of the World’s biggest financial institutions, well known for its Internet Security. You finalise your transaction through PayPal and HABworx never sees your financial information. Similarly, we do not have to give out our account for any reason. All PayPal transactions are done over secure encrypted pages.

PayPal also acts on your behalf. If you have a dispute, they will work with HABworx until there is a satisfactory outcome.

Phone Purchases

If HABworx is talking to you over the phone and you wish to complete the order via phone, we can do that too. All transactions are completed on line via the Commonwealth Bank over secure pages. PlusComms does not keep hard or soft records of the card. We do keep hard (paper) records of your Name and Delivery Address and what you ordered. Again, this is as safe as we can make it. Eventually this will also be soft copy with the online shop, but no financial details will be kept as they will go through PayPal- again ensuring the maximum security that the Internet can offer.

Other Services

We can accept cheque and other payments – eg via the Post Office. Please arrange these with HABworx via our “Contact” page. This will take time as cheques need to clear and special trips need to be made to the Post Office and may not be possible every day.

State of the Art?

Soon we will have the latest services with the on-line shop and checkout. We are close now and have made it Faster, Easier and Safer. There is only a little more that we can provide and it is coming soon.

Autumn is a Time for Advertising

IMG_4479Balloons and Advertising

Interested in using HAB services for advertising? Read on, but first a quick update on our balloon stock. Due to an illness in the family, we have moved HAB product to be a  a team commercial effort to ensure that our customers are well looked after.

We currently have 800 gram and 1,500 gram Totex balloons. This is the original stock from last year and we are nearly out. They are still under 12 months old and new stock is on the way.

We are also able to supply (for rent) CB radios to help with your communications and HAM radio tracking systems, (We need to prove that you are a HAM operator before I will release them). We can rent almost anything including Spot trackers. We can even organise supply of helium tanks, regulators and other components.

We are preparing a range of new products to form a complete starters kit for HAB flights in Australia.

Advertising and Corporate HAB

Want to create TV advertising or other media? We specialise in meeting the needs of the corporate sector. Ask us for a quote for your advertising needs. We look after, TV science, live events, relays from the stratosphere or “near space”, corporate branding, photography, animated models and just about any advertising you can imagine. We have worked with teams of 40 in the field and can arrange catering, accommodation, toilet facilities and much more at our country launch site at Rankin Springs of other locations around the state or country. We can even handle bookings for flights in other countries through our network of HAB providers. Animated moels can be expensive and take months to complete, but flights of a basic nature can be organised quickly and if the weather is on our side, some flights can be organised within a matter of weeks.

Although no one can guarantee 100% recovery of your payload, we do have guarantees in place to re-fly your payload should certain failures occur. We often can do that on the same day or next day depending on arrangements. Payloads of up to 1kg are normal, but payloads of up to 4kg are possible and even larger payloads can fly, but may require the use of specialist balloons that have to be hand made for the job.

We can work with drones or even supply some drone services.

Speak to us about your needs. Advertising is our business.