Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Balloon mapping in Peru

We wanted to use a balloon to do aerial mapping rather than a drone. Before the Peru trip we assumed that a tethered weather balloon would be more sustainable than using a drone for aerial mapping which can include a downward facing camera gimble.

Mario Melgar students at Laguna Chacas with an aerial mapping weather balloon.

PRE-TRIP hypotheses:
My hypotheses of why a balloon would be preferable to using a quadcopter equipped with a downward facing camera:
  • Inexpensive: helium is the largest expense at about $40 for one balloon.
  • Less accident prone and less costly if an accident happens. 
    • If I crash my quad-copter, the cost could be a few hundred dollars. A balloon won't crash and if something happens, the string will break and you have to go hunt for it.  
  • Faster planning. You just need a balloon, camera and helium.
  • The outsider excitement and alarmist perspective may vary:
    • A community response to what we know as a "DRONE" has some fear associated with it. 
    • This perception changes for a group of people walking around with a balloon on a really long string.  
  • It's a participatory approach that any group can successfully complete in an afternoon or early wind free morning. 
  • It integrates well with other participatory approaches.
Two LLU MPH students walking with a windblown aerial mapping balloon. 
POST-TRIP Perspectives:
Our trip to the rural Laguna Chacas allowed us to work with local high school students and local college students with a participatory approach where we used qualitative methods such as problem trees, free listing, community mapping, biodiversity monitoring.  The community balloon mapping integrated well with the community mapping and transect walks.

Here are some shots of the Laguna Chacas mapping process:
All of us trying out the weather balloon

A possible cause for eutrophication of Laguna Chacas. This may contribute more nutrients then the fish farms. 
Some community mapping at the high school before the balloon mapping.

I'll update this topic as we develop some more trips and the actual map pictures. Currently I have a weather balloon outing planned for some community mapping around S. Cal.

I didn't get a chance to go to the MP this year, but there was a nice billboard at the Airport...

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