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What are solar balloons?

Solar Balloons are not as well know as they should be. I have a feeling that very soon they are going to go mainstream. They’re going to be seen flying over parks, playgrounds, fields and everywhere else where there are kids. For the time being however they are known only to enthusiasts like me. My name is Kylie Thomas. I’ve been playing with kites, solar balloons, blimps, rockets and as of late remote controlled GoPro drones for about 10 years now. It all started back when I bought the first kite for my daughter to play.

What are solar balloons

I plan on writing a series of short articles explaining all the ins and outs of solar balloons. Broadly speaking a solar balloon can be any black lightweight material that can be folded into a balloon. Best example of a potential solar balloon would be a black trash bag. The kind that can eb found in any household.

Pictured left you can see a trash bag. In its current state it is not a solar balloon. It’s completely deflated. First step is to load it with air. You can do this by grabbing the bag opening and running around holding the bag opening against the stream of air.


Doing that will inflate the trash bag. Now it starts looking like a balloon. What it still isn’t is a solar balloon. To fix this, you just need to put the bag out in the open during a warm sunny day. Air inside the bag will become hot, heated by Suns energy. Black color helps attract sunlight and that way the temperature of the air inside the bag increases even more. Hot air is lighter than cold air. Remember that from the physics class? Well that’s what helps our solar balloon get up in the air.

 

Keep the inflated trash bag on the Sun long enough and you will see it start hovering. If you don’t hold it down, it will take off into the air. Trash bag solar balloons have been known to go as high as stratosphere and flying off hundreds of miles from the place where they were released. Lift-off shouldn’t take long, although it depends on how strong the Sun is (if there are clouds) and of course on the size of the balloon that you have.

That’s what solar balloons are. I love them because not only are they fun to play with, they also allow me to spend time with my kid. While we play she gets to learn something in the process. We experiment with new balloon shapes each summer. A 10-year can pick up quite a lot from watching mommy design and build solar balloons. We talk about things like air volume, hot air/cold air differences, winds (once the balloon is up in the air) and so on. All in all, hot air balloons are just the thing for parents and kids alike.

What my plans are with this website

Now that we covered the basics of who and what let’s talk a little bit about this website and what my plans are here. You’ve probably already guessed it, but my plan is to use this website as a work log for the various solar balloon projects that me and my daughter have made. To start things off I’ll post a couple of articles that explain solar balloon mechanics in a bit more detail than I did here.

Crazy DIY solar balloon projects

One of the projects that I’m in the preparation phase is the merger of solar balloon and FPV drones. As I already mentioned I’m a huge nerd for anything that flies, kites, balloons, rockets, drones you name it. Recently this idea of attaching a drone with a camera to a solar balloon has been nagging on me. I’m still nowhere near actually going through with the project. There are still some variables that I need to work out. Like figuring out proper solar balloon size for heavy lift drone lift off. At the same time the balloon can’t be too big because then I couldn’t land it with the drone. Drone propellers have to be more powerful than the balloon lift in other words. We’ll see soon enough if I manage to build this Frankenstein or not.

Other projects

As far as more down to Earth projects goes, you can expect things like animal shaped solar balloons (my daughter loves these) and the occasional monster solar balloon build. A monster solar balloon build is usually made out of a large number of trash bags. They get pieced together from as much as several hundred trash bags. This process takes time and you need to be really careful to seal all the holes properly.

Even though there aren’t a lot of people who have heard about solar balloons, there are enough to form a community. People have shared their own creations on the web. Solar balloon creations of course, both video and photos. I will be setting up pages and sharing them with my readers here. You can submit your own by sending me a message. Expect new posts very soon. That’s it for now, bye.