[WATCH] Free State from space: House4Hack bring video glider down from the sky

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote that a team from Centurion’s House4Hack makerspace were planning on sending a glider high up into the Earth’s atmosphere – as close to the edge of space as they could – in order to grab video from it on the way down. We’re happy to report that the mission took place as planned and was a complete success – and there are stunning pictures to accompany the news too.

The High Altitude Glider (HAG) was floated up on helium balloons to 6km above the Vaal dam and recovered with an almost depressingly straightforward landing. The team had hoped to send it higher, but CAA regulations stipulated the maximum height in controlled airspace for the glider. The balloons, of course, went much higher after releasing their payload and hit an altitude of 32km – almost as high as Felix Baumgartner’s recent record-breaking space parachute jump. Since they were armed with on-board cameras too, the H4H team was able to recover those shots as well as the footage from the glider itself.

Fellow South Africans from HABEX helped advise H4H with the flight – and un-coincidentally also hold the record for the highest unmanned gas filled balloon flight at over 39km.

The balloon carriage and release mechanism was custom built by the H4Hers, and the glider kitted out with Arduino-powered telemetry and cams.

Here’s the in-flight data for the balloons, recorded using Google Maps.

Flight data recorded and mapped.
Flight data recorded and mapped.

The glider itself reached a maximum velocity of more than 230kmph, and took 28minutes to land. It was piloted back to Earth using real-time footage from the on-board cameras, streamed to a pair of video goggles worn by the pilot.

It may look easy, but it’s not. The full story is told better than we could hope to in the video below. Watch the full thing, marvel at the ingenuity, then head over to Housee4Hack to congratulate them.

*Don’t try this at home – Team HAG had approval for Flexible Use of Airspace from the CAA.

Adam Oxford

Adam Oxford

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.