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High School Student Launches a Trash Bag Aircraft

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the only-terrorists-want-that-much-helium dept.

Transportation 103

An anonymous reader writes with a great write-up of a project completed last month by Manuja Gunaratne: "A high school student at Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada managed to launch an aircraft using trash bags. The trash bag aircraft traveled for hundreds of miles and rose to thousands of feet while capturing thousands of images of the Earth. The trash bag craft consisted of household equipment and only cost $50."

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103 comments

Mr Wizard did it first (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502368)

well the trash bag part ... anyway this is pretty cool

Re:Mr Wizard did it first (1)

a803redman (870583) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502426)

howling mad murdock did it, he could fly anything!

Re:Mr Wizard did it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502564)

+1 jibber jabber

Re:Mr Wizard did it first (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 2 years ago | (#37504644)

I pity the fool who is confused by this. (Murdock can be heard in the distance screaming "Trashbag! Trashbag!")

But Mr Wizard didn't get arrested (5, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37503524)

Arizona: Two people are being detained by the Department of Homeland Security after being found with suspicious surveillance equipment that they had recovered from the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. The pair were tracked to their home by DHS working in conjunction with local and state police. The FBI executed search warrants at two locations - the suspects' home and an unnamed local welding shop, where they found all the ingredients necessary for constructing Unmanned Reconnaissance Vehicles, as well as quantities of highly compressed gas - helium - which also powers thermonuclear reactions.

The pair were found in possession of approximately 2,000 surveillance photos from their last sortie. Officials refused to comment on whether the arrests have any connection with either of two nearby military installations, Area 51 or the Nellis AFB Test Site at Groom Lake.

Additional quantities of liquid dihydrogen monoxide, a clear substance that is toxic when inhaled, were also recovered. No court date has yet been set.

Re:But Mr Wizard didn't get arrested (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37507828)

That is a brilliant idea. Why haven't Area 51 "theorists" just sent ballon after ballon over Area 51 with cameras on them. It should be hard to see on radar and it could stay low enough to get good picks.

slow news day eh? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502394)

Using trash bags as balloons is nothing new, or innovative. Its a bag that holds stuff.. making a balloon out of them ( or using them to restrain a bunch of smaller balloons ) is just common sense.

Using them as kites isn't even new..

Re:slow news day eh? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502436)

Don't see you doing it.

A high-schooler is thinking outside the box, yet you come along and just crap over it because it isn't anything new.
Seems a little childish.

Re:slow news day eh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502686)

I was using trash bags (and cleaner's bags), before high school, twenty plus years ago. Pointing out its hardly new, novel, or even NOT out of the box, is hardly crapping all over it. The accomplishment is cool in its own right. The fact is was done with trash bags is simply an interesting side note. If the fact its made out of trash bags is the point of interest in this story, you entirely missed the point. The same goes for the student.

Re:slow news day eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37503896)

What makes the trash bags relevant is that he did it really cheap, which the trash bags, instead of the more expensive balloons, were a large piece of what enabled the cheap price on doing so. It's not new by itself, but it is connecting dots to do something really cheap that most people who may have even thought of it didn't actually do it (or accomplish it). It raises the point of why the hell don't we already do these sort of things in our high schools? The camera and GPS would be the most expensive bits, but those are theoretically re-usable still.

Re:slow news day eh? (1)

yourmommycalled (2280728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506024)

Typical rawinsonde ballons are not very expensive. I buy them in lots of 50 at $10 a piece. In single units Vaisala and iMet charge $15 for the standard 300 gram ballon. If I fill the ballon carefully and don't get too much in the way of body oils (from handling the ballon in strong winds) on the ballon the rawinsonde will clear 100,000 feet. I suspect the cost of a box of contractor grade (Contractor's Choice) isn't that much cheaper than what Vaisala or iMet would charge. You might even get them to give you a couple of balloons by telling them what you are going to do. Because my launch site is near an approach to an airport I have to call ATC every 5000 feet and give them the GPS lat/lon/alt I'm surprized he didn't get into trouble over his launch considering where he launched from. The big deal though is why in the heck aren't more schools doing cheap, really cool, heavy-duty science projects like this. The cost certainly isn't going to be factor.

Re:slow news day eh? (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506418)

I don't mean to rain on anyones parade as I'd love to see more hands on experiments offered to kids but what do you think the chances are that a school could afford to reproduce this and a fair number of other experiments at even $20-30/pair of kids given how their budgets are being slashed lately? There are plenty of excellent experiments which can be performed on a shoestring budget but unfortunately some schools are finding that they don't even have that laying around.

Re:slow news day eh? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37504420)

You don't see me doing it beacuse i am no longer a child and can afford real balloons now.

And before you continue on your uninformed rant i did something similar 40 years ago, in GRADE SCHOOL ( not highschool as i couldn't afford 'real' balloons. The helium to go in it was hard enough on an allowance at that age ( of course we didn't have fancy GPS or WIFI cameras to put on them, only 8mm .. Oh and trash bags make great kite material, along with hollow aluminum tubing for bracing )

Re:slow news day eh? (0)

DrStoooopid (1116519) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506500)

Well it's NOT new. It's just that it's never been presented like it's news before. There's nothing new about it, and nobody's crapping on it. It's just someone trying to make it seem like these kids are inventive, and they're not. There's nothing amazing or spectacular about this. Now if they had built and airframe and used the garbage bags as the skin and flew it, that would be different. But no, this isn't news. The headline should've read something like "Kids take survailance photos with $50 worth of material" To make it say "aircraft" implies that it's a controllable piece of aircraft which it isn't.

Folk like you are the reason the USA is screwed... (3, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#37503872)

Slashdot posts an article on some kid flying a balloon and gps and camera for 50 dollars, he's worked out to do it with a couple of people and a bit of research. Slashdot posters moan about how crap the balloon is. You are guys are the reason the USA is screwed in the long term - loads of people moaning when a 17 year old or so kid pushes himself and gets something like this happening? A better place would have praised the kid, I think it's great teenagers are trying to come up with technological hacks that are new to them and dreaming great goals.

A better audience, had it had any reservations, would offer kind and politely worded guidance to help him keeping creating but in a better and informed way. Instead - bitchy comments from a good number of people who are too scared to use a slashdot identity.

If you're a representative sample of how Americans respond to teenagers trying to push their technical knowledge, I reckon the USA is screwed... stamping on 17 year olds trying to be innovative and push themselves is no way to encourage your future generations. So he didn't achieve a PhD level of novel research? he didn't do something worthy of a Nobel prize? Who cares?! this might be the spark that gets him to those heights ten years down the line. He pushed himself, he wrote it up nicely, he was brave enough to publish to the world and allow comments. What were you doing when you were 17? he deserves encouragement, not scorn. Shame on you.

Re:Folk like you are the reason the USA is screwed (1)

GrimmParoD (2468306) | more than 2 years ago | (#37504754)

The scope of dissemination is the problem. When I was 17 model rocket payload cameras were already back-of-catalogue novelties, my $20 microscope with inline camera/projection attachment had been sitting in my closet for around ten years, my first breadboard had been consigned to the realm of forgotten toys for nearly that long... and each kid who came after could rediscover each of things on their own because I was not going around ruining the surprises for everyone by disseminating all of my experiments.

I remember thinking that my first DIY crystal radio set, received somewhere around kindergarten age, ran on magic. This despite the fact that all of my older family members had already built their own once upon a time. They left the mysteries out there for me to untangle. This is where generational affinities are developed.

I'm more worried for a future where each thing is considered done once one person has published to the Internet. It is a big reason I stopped writing creatively and playing music - I couldn't stand the thought that instead of being discovered on a dusty shelf somewhere my work would join the legion of 'Already Been There So All After Are Derivative.'

Personally, I look at declining birth rates among the highly educated as partially attributable to the shrinking belief that there is anything worth doing on one's own. Who wants to bring a child into a world where wasting time being derivative and unoriginal is synonymous with exploring the world in logically primitive steps as did our fore-bearers.

Re:Folk like you are the reason the USA is screwed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37504980)

Worrying that anything doesn't have value because it's somehow a derivation is stupid.

What I can be proud of, is that it's a big, amazing world with lots of things to discover, and I'm doing my best to enjoy that. I'll die having only seen and learned a tiny, tiny fraction of everything there is to see and learn. I simply don't need a Nobel prize for my life to have value.

I think we all need to relax a little on the doom and gloom. Good on this kid for making something he thought was cool, and fuck anyone that has a problem with it. Comment less, do more, people.

Re:Folk like you are the reason the USA is screwed (1)

GrimmParoD (2468306) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505550)

Have you tried getting kids interested in things they have already seen done on the Net or t.v.? I have a highly motivated nephew in early elementary school that went from constantly building to only playing with his iphone because he already knows about cooler stuff now that his mom and teachers let him roam around educational sites. Two years ago you could walk into a room and find his self-made structures all over the place. Now, nothing but watching on his educational devices and tantrums when human reaction is required for too long. \ I would smash his fucking iphone, and remove all traces of Net access from his life for the next five years if I had the right. This technology is making little repeaters out of formerly promising minds. I'm with Ray Bradbury on believing the Internet is harmful at least for developing minds.

Dissemination is fine, it's about DIY... (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506930)

Interesting point though I'd not be too worried about the global dissemination: I think the important point is that teenagers are inspired to try something that pushes them, and they achieve some goals as a result. I can remember as a kid seeing science experiments on tv and trying them at home and being so proud when they worked, showing my dad. It didn't matter that this wasn't novel science, what mattered was that I'd had the drive to replicate what I'd seen and learn something on the way (not always what I'd expected either). I think this is the important goal we should try and enable children/teenagers to reach. It doesn't matter that they've been inspired by somebody doing the same on the internet, or they've found a kit advertised in a magazine and sold to millions of others, it's that they've pushed their own knowledge a little bit further. This might give them confidence to go further, insights into real innovation, or even just a lesson that things aren't always easy to do and require plain hard work.

So I am completely in agreement with you - I'd hate a future where kids don't do something because they've seen it on the internet. On the contrary, I think seeing an example will inspire them to try it themselves. I'd take a guess this kid has seen balloons for a couple of hundred dollars and his perceived innovation is that he's made it a bit cheaper by using trash bags. It doesn't matter that a thousand other folk might have done this. He's learnt how to do it. He'll carry the sense of achievement with him. He says he wants to take up aeronautical engineering, well I reckon he's showing future university professors that he's keen and he's learnt some lessons. Better than a student who has all top grades but hasn't got his hands dirty. I have to say as well he's written it up reasonably, documentation is always a killer after the event so credit to him, heck there are open source projects by adults written up more poorly than this ;-)

I think we should be optimistic while teenagers want to go out and do things, I think there will hopefully always be kids wanting to buy the 20 dollar kits and try and tweak them a bit, or at least build them themselves. As you say, your dad and granddad probably smiled benevolently when they saw you struggling over your kits, knowing they'd done something similar - but they knew that all the learning that came along with the actual building would be really good for you. Here's to DIY! :-)

Re:Folk like you are the reason the USA is screwed (1)

yourmommycalled (2280728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506100)

Oh you mean like telling him to call Vaisala or iMet and politely asking for a couple of rawinsonde ballons for a science project? No the US is screwed because in the late 1960's and early 1970's the US started listening to the MBA's. Instead of looking for and setting long-term goals for a company, the MBA's told us the only thing that was important were this quarter's profits. Thus, instead of investing in research and development that paid off three to five years down the road, we cut research and development to the bone to make sure this quarters profits look good.

Re:Folk like you are the reason the USA is screwed (0)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506218)

You are guys are the reason the USA is screwed in the long term - loads of people moaning when a 17 year old or so kid pushes himself and gets something like this happening? A better place would have praised the kid, I think it's great teenagers are trying to come up with technological hacks that are new to them and dreaming great goals.

No, you're the reason the USA is screwed up. This kid did not push himself, he watched a youtube video [youtube.com] or googled it [google.com] . Why should we praise a 17 year old for doing what he saw in a youtube video?

This generation has been brought up to believe that every child is a winner. [freedomblogging.com] Awards aren't just given to the top of the class anymore, they give awards to every kid, no matter what they do or fail to do. Brookings Institution 2006 Brown Center Report on Education finds that countries in which families and schools emphasize self-esteem for students—America for example—lag behind the cultures that don’t focus on how students feel about themselves. [scholastic.com]

All this praise has resulted in overconfident college grads, who believe they should be given larger salaries than their peers without working for it. [dailyherald.com]

So you should not praise a kid that did the same or worse than other kids else, praise should only be given when the child actually excels or achieves something few of their peers have achieved.

Re:Folk like you are the reason the USA is screwed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37506680)

You're pretty much the next best thing to a dumbass, aren't you?

Re:Folk like you are the reason the USA is screwed (1)

slackbheep (1420367) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506464)

How many times have you seen this story on Youtube? I'd be willing to put money on this being a submission either by the kid himself, or someone close to him. What he did was cool but not at all newsworthy.

Re:slow news day eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37504060)

Agreed. This has been done by plenty of people though it still requires some know-how.

I just hope he picked up the trash bags when they came down. I'm sick of crap littering the landscape. I always find balloons washed up on otherwise clean beaches from some person's party.

Re:slow news day eh? (1)

Discopete (316823) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505272)

It landed in a wildlife preserve and yes he did clean it all up.

Re:slow news day eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37504692)

Some years ago (probably some 5 years) I set to the local plant market to buy me some trees to populate my backyard.

There at the market, at about 9 AM, I saw a long (5 to 7m) black trash bag (probably used as package for some item, I couldn't know what).

It was flying.

The idea probably went like this: a market worker after doing his/her chores (they start early at 3 PM) picked up the unused long bag an blew it until it was full of air; air which got warmed by the rising sun (I'm Brazilian). The bag holding a lot of air with little plastic (which is light de per se) -- and having no payload -- started possibly to rise slowly and was at some 10m high in the air when I saw it.

Pretty impressive if you ask me. Simply no helium, hydrogen or anything but basic Physics.

Next time, kids, why not start from this idea?

Re:slow news day eh? (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506240)

Pretty impressive if you ask me. Simply no helium, hydrogen or anything but basic Physics.

Next time, kids, why not start from this idea?

it's called a solar balloon [google.com]
here's a video with instructions to make your own [metacafe.com]

Re:slow news day eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37506304)

Thx for the links. Maybe I come up with some design one day and try myself, one that does not pollute Nature with more plastic, that is...

Inb4... (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502406)

Inb4 UFO sightings flare up!

Yay! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502430)

More helium stocks depleted!

Re:Yay! (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502468)

Yeah I don't get why hydrogen isn't used for more unmanned projects at least. The US military is straining world helium supplies to fill its massive Blue Devil unmanned recon blimps as it is. Hydrogen isn't super-dangerous if your blimp isn't painted with rocket fuel. We fly kerosene-filled planes all the time that would plummet if the kerosene tanks (wings) were seriously ruptured and it's no big deal.

Re:Yay! (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505390)

Hydrogen is flammable and a hazard to ground personnel filling static charged garbage bags. Storage of hydrogen is regulated by state and local law in my state. I'm sure if those obstacles were overcome it could be used but then it would not be a project made of cheap trash bags.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37505760)

Yeah I don't get why hydrogen isn't used for more unmanned projects at least. The US military is straining world helium supplies to fill its massive Blue Devil unmanned recon blimps as it is. Hydrogen isn't super-dangerous if your blimp isn't painted with rocket fuel. We fly kerosene-filled planes all the time that would plummet if the kerosene tanks (wings) were seriously ruptured and it's no big deal.

Hydrogen is highly flammable. Mythbusters proved it was the hydrogen that sent the Hindenberg up as quickly as it claims said, not the conspiracy theorists' claims of it being painted with Thermite (hint: it wasn't). This is why hydrogen makes great fuel for fuel cells.

Re:Yay! (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502606)

More helium stocks depleted!

Don't blame the kid that bought the Helium, blame the helium repositories that don't price it as the scarce resource that it is. If a 244 ft^3 tank cost $1000 instead of $100, then maybe there would be less waste.

Re:Yay! (1)

illtud (115152) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505402)

Don't blame the kid that bought the Helium, blame the helium repositories that don't price it as the scarce resource that it is.

ie, blame Congress, who passed the Helium Privatization Act of 1996 [gpo.gov] forcing the stockpile to be sold cheap regardless of any market forces on scarcity.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37505534)

Actually, you are probably wasting more than he is by using natural gas...it is going up every flue in the continent at the moment.

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502772)

Don't worry; the 3D printing folks will just print more! I've been assured by the droolers that 3D printing will change everything. Or maybe we can mine some from the Moon? Nah, we'll just use the exhaust from our fusion power plants! Gee whiz, our future is shiny!

Re:Yay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37504124)

Don't worry; the 3D printing folks will just print more! I've been assured by the droolers that 3D printing will change everything. Or maybe we can mine some from the Moon? Nah, we'll just use the exhaust from our fusion power plants! Gee whiz, our future is shiny!

But if we take you up on your offer and abandon our project for 3D printing of replacement organs [economist.com] , you're going to die of old age sooner than you otherwise will, QA.

Household equipment? (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502432)

I don't have any 55-gallon trash bags in my house, nor the helium it would take to fill even one of them.

Cool high-school project, though. Or should that be "high school-project".

Re:Household equipment? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502462)

well you can buy them at the local big box hardware store ... and if you want to try it out without the gas just get a black bag, fill it up with air and set it in the sun for a little while, it will float off (yay Mr Wizard!)

Re:Household equipment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502568)

"High school project". No hyphens necessary.

Re:Household equipment? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502642)

You can get 55 gallon trash bags from a hardware supply store like home depot. You can get the helium from AirGas or iParty to name a few, or even your supermarket's florist. In fact, you can probably get the local supermarket to donate all of the supplies if you're a high schooler with the ability to overcome any nervousness about talking to the manager.

Airgas is a great place to go for all kinds of cool "sciency" supplies, and they're all over the place.

"me and my father" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502446)

Well at least we know the school doesn't teach grammar. I wonder which engineering college will take this kid and if they'll even bother reading his essay submissions with his awesome website ~_~.

Re:"me and my father" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502562)

Well at least we know the school doesn't teach grammar. I wonder which engineering college will take this kid and if they'll even bother reading his essay submissions with his awesome website ~_~.

Same for the consistent use of "aircraft" instead of "balloon", I guess "air craft" might be an acceptable description, but "aircraft" generally means a heavier than air machine. We sent up hot air balloons in middle school (1960's), made from very thin plastic sold for painting tarps, taped into a cylinder. They didn't have enough lifting power to take a camera. How did this get to the front page of /. ?

Aircraft? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502472)

Technically it is an aircraft, when you fill a bunch of trash bags with helium, but it's not an airplane.

First one of these I've seen done in a desert....someone's probably done it, but it's kind of cool to see a different landscape.

Re:Aircraft? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37504050)

Yeah, technically. I was pretty disappointed to see it was a balloon though. An airplane made from scratch out of simple materials would have been something.

Re:Aircraft? (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506824)

Who said anything about airplane?

Why not hydrogen? (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502524)

I've seen a couple of these projects, and since this isn't a commercial vehicle, couldn't you just use cheap 'ol hydrogen, rather than comparatively rare and expensive helium?

It'd be a rather neat project to combine electricity and water to get the hydrogen for a project like this. Then, your only costs would be the bags, the cargo, strings, water and electricity.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Why not hydrogen? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502610)

DHS would probably put you in Guantanamo for terrorist activities.

Re:Why not hydrogen? (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502618)

It'd be a rather neat project to combine electricity and water to get the hydrogen for a project like this.

But then you're manufacturing an explosive device so you have to get licenses, and permits, and insurance...hire explosive experts, firemen, off duty police, ATF, FBI, Homeland Security, etc. What's that, kid? You can't afford all that? Sorry then. Safety first! Why don't you make a nice baking soda and vinegar volcano instead.

Re:Why not hydrogen? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37503748)

Issues with hydrogen;

Volatility; All one needs is a spark at the wrong time and all your work if lost and maybe some body parts too.
Permeability; Due to the small size of the H2 molecule it passes through plastic much faster than helium. This will decrease the range of the balloon.
Storage;: Sure you can make hydrogen using electrolysis but you need to store it before it is used. Electrolysis is relatively slow and you need to fill each bag and save them until you get enough for the launch. Permeability comes into this as you are losing hydrogen ever minute.
Portability; It is much easier to transport a cylinder of helium and some empty bags to a launch site than a number of hydrogen filled bags.

There are ways to get around these issues but helium is so much simpler.

By the way, it is a balloon not an aircraft.

Re:Why not hydrogen? (1)

sugarmatic (232216) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505576)

Actually, diatomic hydrogen is less permeable than monatomic helium. http://usa.dupontteijinfilms.com/informationcenter/downloads/Chemical_Properties.pdf [dupontteijinfilms.com]

Re:Why not hydrogen? (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505776)

Thanks. You just revived a project that I had given up on. I had wrongly assumed that hydrogen was a non-starter due to permeability and didn't bother to check. I'll have to think about how to handle the other danger, though I think my volume is small enough that it's safe.

This goes to show that you should a)check everything and b)recognize that there can be value in "wasting" time.

Re:Why not hydrogen? (1)

sugarmatic (232216) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505644)

And remember that literally thousands of perfectly safe Zeppelin inflations were effected prior to the Hindenburg, without a huge amount of safety protocol beyond minimal training and making sure common sense and non-ferritic tools were used in the vicinity of the work.

Hydrogen welding gas is far, far cheaper than helium, available in much larger tanks, and is quite safe. It's used for preheating in industrial welding.

Hazard to Aircraft? Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502544)

Nice job. FAA letter on the way and your education will now be complete. You may learn about high speed collisions and hazards to air navigation. I know it was probably day VFR, but controlled airspace is 1400 AGL (except in the mountains). Part of doing this correctly is to play by the rules and there are a lot of them.

Seems every geek modeler with enough sense to build a UAV ought to be wise enough not to endanger the flying public.

Re:Hazard to Aircraft? Yes. (1)

shpoffo (114124) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502674)

I don't think anyone considering the safety of human lives (in the air) can properly be considered a wet blanket

Re:Hazard to Aircraft? Yes. (4, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502690)

Nice job. FAA letter on the way and your education will now be complete. You may learn about high speed collisions and hazards to air navigation. I know it was probably day VFR, but controlled airspace is 1400 AGL (except in the mountains). Part of doing this correctly is to play by the rules and there are a lot of them.

Seems every geek modeler with enough sense to build a UAV ought to be wise enough not to endanger the flying public.

As long as they weren't in a restricted zone near an airport, I don't think this balloon and it's 1.6 lb payload violated any FAA regulations:

http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=ea968eea871ed9ab2380f6d979eaa7a6&rgn=div5&view=text&node=14:2.0.1.3.15&idno=14 [gpoaccess.gov]

Except as provided for in 101.7, any unmanned free balloon that—

(i) Carries a payload package that weighs more than four pounds and has a weight/size ratio of more than three ounces per square inch on any surface of the package, determined by dividing the total weight in ounces of the payload package by the area in square inches of its smallest surface;

(ii) Carries a payload package that weighs more than six pounds;

(iii) Carries a payload, of two or more packages, that weighs more than 12 pounds; or

(iv) Uses a rope or other device for suspension of the payload that requires an impact force of more than 50 pounds to separate the suspended payload from the balloon.

(b) For the purposes of this part, a gyroglider attached to a vehicle on the surface of the earth is considered to be a kite.

Re:Hazard to Aircraft? Yes. (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502734)

Part of doing this correctly is to play by the rules and there are a lot of them.

Indeed, so many that if you considered them you'd never even start.

Re:Hazard to Aircraft? Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37503188)

And I suppose small children losing a bundle of balloons should also get in trouble with the FAA.

I distinctly remember a day in elementary school when all of the kids got together, wrote down their addresses with requests for correspondence on cards attached to balloons and released them. There were hundreds of them released all at once and no permission was obtained or necessary to do that.

obligatory wet blanket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502584)

Science is cool and all, but there is no mention of this kid getting FAA clearance. (yes, light payload, not required ... except for the "no doing anything that ends badly" clause) It is a fairly good thing that this didn't park itself in LAS approach. The approach to Las Vegas is bumpy enough w/o having to dodge trash bags.

It also would have been cooler if he had done the research to figure out how coordinates and GPSR work w/o having to be shown.

Don't get me wrong --- adventurous minds are a good thing. But you would expect a bit more rigor from a high school student at Advanced Technologies Academy

Re:obligatory wet blanket (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506846)

What gets me is he didn't bother to record any height information.

Also, in the video montage at 1:43 you can see he's basically on a (extended) vfr approach path to North Las Vegas airport.

Trash Bags! I Want Some Trash Bags! (1)

glrotate (300695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502600)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8th2J3c88mU

Oh college admissions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502602)

This is pretty clearly a project that has been designed for the sole purpose of getting him into better schools

Re:Oh college admissions (2)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37504176)

Even if that's the case, then by completing it, he's shown he deserves it. What's your point?

probably not the smartest move (2)

spongman (182339) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502614)

if the wind had carried it slightly farther west, it would have ended up over the Nellis Air Force Range [wikipedia.org] which contains the Nevada Test Site [wikipedia.org] , Area 51 [wikipedia.org] and other fun stuff the Air Force probably probably doesn't want you taking pictures of.

Re:probably not the smartest move (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502764)

if the wind had carried it slightly farther west, it would have ended up over the Nellis Air Force Range [wikipedia.org] which contains the Nevada Test Site [wikipedia.org] , Area 51 [wikipedia.org] and other fun stuff the Air Force probably probably doesn't want you taking pictures of.

I guess his aim was a little off. Getting pictures of Area 51 would be my main objective with a stunt like this.

Re:probably not the smartest move (1)

bsquizzato (413710) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502790)

I really doubt the pictures would matter much. I could probably get better photos zooming in with Google Maps.

Like Area 51 [google.com]

I'll let you zoom in on the others.

Re:probably not the smartest move (1)

bored_engineer (951004) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505792)

I wonder if the folks who manage Area 51, and other secret sites happen to know when these commercial satellites will fly overhead and are capable of taking pictures. Hell's bells, I wouldn't be surprised if they see these images before the companies that own the satellites can see them. You won't ever see anything interesting at Area 51 through google maps, google earth or any other mapping/photo service.

Although it seems remotely possible, I'm also willing to bet that you won't ever see anything interesting (at Area 51) with a balloon that gets in there, either.

This is all speculation, and really just "the world according to me." Feel free to ignore anything I've just said.

Re:probably not the smartest move (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506668)

What, no streetviews! How disappointing!

Re:probably not the smartest move (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 2 years ago | (#37502884)

And he wouldn't have gotten the pictures, and likely not the camera, back.

       

Re:probably not the smartest move (1)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 2 years ago | (#37503148)

Not to mention the possibility of it getting sucked into a jet engine intake, or being involved in some other sort of mid-air collision with an engine-propelled, person-carrying aircraft.

Knock a Cessna out of the sky with your trashbag-levitated picture taker, and I'd wager that lawyers are gonna have you working to pay off that injury/wrongful death suit for the rest of your natural life, regardless of what the FAA regs say about your type of "aircraft" being legal (or not)...

I would hope that people doing this sort of thing take into consideration the airspaces it will be traveling through.

Re:probably not the smartest move (3, Informative)

luckymutt (996573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37503808)

Knock a Cessna out of the sky with your trashbag-levitated picture taker..

If your flying a Cessna and you can't see and maneuver out of the way of a floating collection of trash bags, you have no reason to be flying in the first place.

Re:probably not the smartest move (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505452)

I doubt trash bags would do much if any damage. They get occasionally on highways and probably float on airports as well, most likely the thing will be shredded to pieces. Even a simple phone or whatever electronics the kid had will be destroyed or knocked out of the way by either propeller or jet engine.

Re:probably not the smartest move (1)

sugarmatic (232216) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505614)

Silly. Even if a pilot had a hard time seeing it (which is likely), it could also be another airplane. Your chanced of hitting it are about the same as if it were another airplane. In other words, you worry about something a lot more threatening, like lightning.

Basically, the reason we don't see more mid-airs in sparse airspace (away from established, busy airspace) isn't so much that pilots are good at picking out other unannounced aircraft, but because it is so unlikely. Seriously. The FAA and the Force separately did studies that indicated a pilot might see a head on collision target well under 50% of the time unless the pilot was vigilant in airspace near an airport or the airspace was announced (radio presence).

This fact should not scare you.

Re:probably not the smartest move (1)

waives (1257650) | more than 2 years ago | (#37504472)

Get real. Do you have any idea how much space there is in the sky? I would be a lot more worried about it landing on someone's windshield, and even that is terribly unlikely

Been there...done that.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37502756)

In sixth grade, my MGM class built a hot-air balloon out of trash bags. In 1980. And ours was better than this. We cut open the bags then ironed them together to make a single unit, not this hackneyed "I'll-use-trash-bags-instead-of-helium-balloons-and-recreate-UP" lazy approach.

So, in summary:
Get off my lawn;
Don't be a lazy-ass and go back and do it right.

How far did it go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37503314)

Even if your hot air balloon was cooler than his, it's still pretty cool, and I enjoyed the pictures.

Re:Been there...done that.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37503774)

In sixth grade, my MGM class built a hot-air balloon out of trash bags. In 1980. And ours was better than this.

Do you have 2000 pictures of your experiment?

Don't be a lazy-ass and go back and do it right.

Re:Been there...done that.... (1)

Pence128 (1389345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37503970)

This. He could have gotten much more volume for the same surface area. I just thought to duct tape them together, I'll have to remember to try ironing if I ever make one.

Re:Been there...done that.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37505484)

Or he could've made the balloon out of lead.
Which can totally work. Mythbusters did it.

Re:Been there...done that.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37505548)

Duct tape might work for helium, but it'd be way too heavy for hot-air.

I don't get it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37503098)

How is this even news-worthy? If it were an elementary school student that did it on their own, I could understand. But a senior in High School attaching a GPS and camera to helium-filled trash bags? Really? It is like creating your own computer out of cheap electronics - fun to do, interesting to those involved, but far from news-worthy. Whats next? Condoms instead of trash bags?

Waiting for the song... (1)

jejones (115979) | more than 2 years ago | (#37503310)

Neunundneunzig Muellbeutel?

fuC4. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37503464)

Boring (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#37503856)

Advanced high school? Seriously? This is something I would've done when I was 10, (in fact I did but there was no civilian GPS in 1970's and I used a 3.5 minute super 8 movie camera) this is one of the easiest off the shelf projects there is and frankly I expect more...wonder what other nations high school students are doing.

Drop Cloths + Clothes Iron Is Much Better (2)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37503926)

There is an infinitely better way. Buy the thinnest clear drop cloth plastic you can find. Fold it into a pillowcase shape. With a piece of fabric to insulate the plastic, melt the edges around all four sides with a clothes iron. Just melt it enough to make a seal. You have a perfect bag that will hold air much better than this painfully ugly trash bag aircraft. When combined with a balsa-wood cross at the open bottom and birthday candles, you have infinite teenage fun.

Re:Drop Cloths + Clothes Iron Is Much Better (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#37504040)

Teenage? Sounds like fun on a boring winter weekend.

Promptly, me and my father drove to Alamo, Nevada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37504030)

I surmise they no longer teach grammar to the smart students.

Otherwise, very cool.

more then just a baloon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37504072)

tfa provides no indication of how gps coordinates were transmitted back to the eager pupil. at the same time they suggest to download and install CardTricks.exe. trash bags are nice touch though...

Re:more then just a baloon (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37508632)

A small hack to a mobile phone will be enough.

And this project is similar to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFP1bDyJWJg [youtube.com] that I was involved in little over a year ago.

Housing estates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37504194)

Unsightly from any angle and/or elevation.

That's nothing (1)

slapout (93640) | more than 2 years ago | (#37504854)

The A-Team did that years ago!

Re:That's nothing (1)

neonfrog (442362) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505286)

Trash bags! [youtube.com]

trash bag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37505560)

I did this 40 years ago, it works better with dry cleaning bags they weigh less.

One word. (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505642)

Up.

Two words. (1)

cffrost (885375) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506106)

Thumbs down.

Re:Two words. (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 2 years ago | (#37507608)

Don't like movies?

Excellent stop-motion would promote this project (1)

qwerty8ytrewq (1726472) | more than 2 years ago | (#37505990)

Brilliant concept, well executed! Helium is a good choice, I initially thought that the balloon might be thermal, powered by wax or some liquid fuel. (eg kerosene). The ballon project video is good but it could be improved.
Perhaps with a 360 degree fisheye or some kind of spin correction system, I felt a bit dizzy watching it. A really stand-out high-altitude stop-motion vid' with good production like this one of mountain views of Annapurna in Nepal [vimeo.com] can be really successful and might do a lot to promote this amazing balloon project.

When you said Aircraft I think plane not balloon! (1)

madhi19 (1972884) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506394)

I believed somebody made a plastic plane by fusing trash bag the same way you can make a laptop case. Silly me! http://youtu.be/0oddEWnj7X0 [youtu.be]

The A-Team did it better (1)

elbonia (2452474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37506756)

I'm not impressed at all until he can make a flyable craft to escape a prison.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8th2J3c88mU

http://www.hulu.com/watch/14386/the-a-team-pros-and-cons @40 min 30 sec

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