Clandestine coffee meetings and ham radio breakfasts have been known in the past for being the catalysts for radio projects among hams in the Downeast region of Maine, and probably elsewhere. Such is the case with recent gatherings in Ellsworth and Milbridge. Some of the ideas generated are pretty lofty, as in really high up there!
About a hundred thousand feet high, to be more specific. Brian KC1FXF, Phil N1EP, Chuck AC1BS, and others have been discussing launching a high altitude weather balloon with a ham radio payload in the coming months. Brian has experience piloting the much larger balloons that carry several people to lower altitudes, so his insight should be invaluable during the project. Bob AB1EP, was also at one of the meetings and shared some of his FAA knowledge. Bob recently retired as a commercial passenger jet pilot. FAA rules, including international border laws must be reviewed, since Eastern Maine is very close to Canada and the likelihood of it crossing into Canadians airspace is high.
A team will be formed soon to tackle different parts of the projects. Possible payload equipment includes a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, a Baofeng ham radio, and packet/APRS, as well as weather and altitude sensing devices.
Talk about how to recruit new, and younger people to the hobby is what sparked the balloon launch project. Eventually the group would like to involve a local school, perhaps a science class, to join in the effort. They could also work on preparation of the payload, such as the Raspberry Pi. First, the ham radio group has to get all their ducks in a row and when they can legally launch, they plan a trial run first.
Other projects that hams Downeast are planning include the Maine Ham Radio Society organizing a Ham Radio Story Hour with the Milbridge Public Library, tracking down hides transmitters in a “fox hunt,” and actively participating in ARRL Kids Day in January and June.
Stay tuned. There should be some updates and more lofty ideas coming soon!