The guys at Louisville, KY’s hackerspace LVL1 are trying to send a helium balloon across the Atlantic to Europe — autonomously. But to determine the helium’s lifting power, they first have to figure out how much helium their balloon holds. It’s a fascinating conundrum and the perfect sort of thing for a hackerspace’s hive mind to tackle.
When you’re flying a constant altitude balloon like ours, the amount of helium it holds, combined with the weight of the robot pilot dangling off the balloon, directly determines the altitude that you will fly at. When your goal is to cross the Atlantic using the thin Jet Stream, you need to fly at a pretty precise altitude, or you’ll miss it entirely!