Tracking Methods

Globalstar Communication Satellite

The most reliable method of tracking is to have the GPS coordinates of the payload transmitted to your team via a Globalstar satellite network. This method will allow you to track your payload anywhere in the country and at altitude during the flight. The SPOT devices are widely used in HAB for this purpose.
Fig. 1: SPOT tracker
Fig. 2: Coverage Map

Unfortunately, these devices require a 12 month service contract that will cost R1500. The device itself will cost at least R2000 landed in South Africa.

Cell Phone Network

If you include a mobile telephone in your payload that features GPS, you can receive the GPS coordinates via the cellular network. This method has the limitation that it will only work in areas that have network coverage. Network coverage in South Africa is limited to urban centres and major road transport routes. Large areas of the interior of the country are not covered. Considering that the balloon may travel up to 200km during the flight there is a reasonable chance that it could land in an area without coverage. An additional limitation is that cellular network radio antennas focus their energy on the area below 500m altitude. For a large portion of the flight this method will not be available. However, it provides a good backup to other tracking methods and it is definitely worth including a cheap Android phone in your payload. For an example look at the Samsung Pocket Galaxy S531. It is available from GAME for R595 (as advertised on 2 March 2015).
Fig. 3: Samsung Pocket Galaxy

There are two applications available on Android that will allow you to track your phone. The first is the Android Device Manager.

It supports Android phones with OS version 2.3 and up. The Samsung comes with GPS and OS version 4.1.2 so will run this app. The location of the phone can then be tracked on the Google web interface. In addition you can make the phone ring if you have traced it to a field/bush with GPS and now need to find it.

The other app is Cerberus

In addition to the basic functions provided by the Android Device Manager this app allows you to access the phone’s camera and microphone. This will enable you to potentially take a photo from the phone when it is in the air or after it has landed. This may help you to locate it.

© 2015. Space Engineering Academy. All Rights Reserved. Made in South Africa by Kevin Gema