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Lightning from the Edge of Space

2014 ~ Present


We launch balloons loaded with electronics, cameras, communications, and sensors to the edge of space (100,000 ft) to not only capture incredible views but to gather valuable scientific data about thunderstorms (electric field, x-rays, optical measurements).

We have already launched and retrieved a balloon with camera payload (see picture and video) multiple times. At 100,000 ft you are above the sky and at the edge of space - our cameras can see the curvature of the Earth.

Now, our team works to make the platform and payload lighter, cheaper, controllable and trackable from the ground with wireless communications. We aim to add more complicated instruments and sensors, slowly transforming the balloon into a scientifically valuable tool with potential future applications to aviation safety, thunderstorm and severe weather forecasting. We are open to new ideas from team members about what cool and useful new capabilities to add.

A longer term goal is to develop high-altitude ( > 50,000 ft) UAVs and gliders which may be hoisted and dropped by a balloon, although regulatory restrictions currently make this difficult.

Issues Involved or Addressed

Detection of electromagnetic fields from lightning. X-ray emissions from thunderstorms. Monitoring of electrical charging of thunderstorms. Prediction of thunderstorm cessation, and onset of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Detection of upper atmospheric discharges related to lightning.

Methods and Technologies

  • Circuits
  • Smartphones and GPS
  • Wireless Communications
  • Ham Radio
  • Lightweight Electric/Magnetic Field Sensors
  • Lightweight Cameras
  • Atmospheric Wind Predictions
  • Aerodynamics
  • UAVs
  • Balloons

Academic Majors of Interest

  • Aerospace Engineering - OLD
  • Computer Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • OMSCS synchronous, case-by-case
  • Physics - Applied

Preferred Interests and Preparation

EE, CmpE - Circuits and embedded systems, smartphone app programming, wireless communications, electric field sensors, image storage and processing.

CS - Programming, mobile app development, wireless networks, server development.

ME, AE - Lightweight material platform design and fabrication, aerodynamics.

EAS - Atmospheric electricity, instrumentation, data processing.

Physics - Instrumentation, x-ray sensors

Meeting Schedule & Location

Meeting Location 
Van Leer 465
Meeting Day 

Team Advisors

Dr. Morris Cohen

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