What you can see in the video … It looks like … I don’t know how to describe it. You definitely won’t confuse it with a plane. Planes do not change the direction so fast. They also do not fly in formations like this. And definitely do not change their color. So what is it?
This is episode #9 of RTFMs video blog and we will talk about flying glowing objects and their identity.
You probably remember Episode 7 explaining how to build a “magic locket”. There was an RGB LED and a microcontroller programmed to generate mood lamp light color change. Well, there is actually a simpler way to achieve the same effect. All you need is a special kind of two-pin RGB LED and a 3V battery. And the 3V battery doesn’t need to be large, even a small CR1620 coin-type battery can drive the LED for several days. Using CR1216 battery makes it even lighter, still works for more than a day.
I diffused the LED by removing its front lens shortened the leads and hot-glued it to the battery. In this project is important to diffuse only the front part of the LED and not the sides, unlike in magic locket.
The resulting package is very simple and cost me less than $0.50 per count. It is also very lightweight and can be sent to flight with a very small helium balloon.
Put the LED inside a transparent (i.e. clear, not colored) balloon and inflated it. I wanted the balloon to ascend as slow as possible so initially I sealed the balloon with a piece of wire to check its lifting capabilities. After a few gradual inflations and deflations I found that relatively 9″ balloon can lift this payload.
Here is what I’ve got: an orb constantly changing color and ready to slowly ascend into the sky.
Actually even not ascending it looks cool. Just try to shake the balloon with the LED inside and it will look like a plasma ball. Check out the video.
Look! Is it a UFO? Nope, it’s IGO: identified glowing object.
But why stick to balloons and UFOs? Let take this latex glove and make a ghost. It just worth mentioning that the glove latex leaks helium much quicker than a latex-grade balloon. So we need to overinflate it and add some weights. As the buoyancy of the glove will become lower we will keep removing the weights and keep it afly.
In some Asian cultures there is a beautiful tradition to launch sky lanterns on special ocasions. Sky lantern is basically a hot-air balloon made of paper with a candle attached to it. You light up the candle and the hot air from will make the lantern fly.
Needless to say having live fire randomly traveling in the sky and lending at unpredictable locations makes unhappy a lot of people. It’s not just firemen, but also farmers, park rangers, home owners and lots of other people who do want their property to be destroyed in the name of beautiful tradition.
So I thought how modern technology could help to reduce the danger and nature impact of sky lanterns. This balloon seems a great alternative. It’s not just less harmful, but also more colorful.
It is fun launching these LED Sky Lanterns. For a few moments you can manage to put the brightest star in the sky :)
This episode of RTFMS is distributed under Creative Commons license terms.