Alt News March 14, 2013
This Guy Flew A Remote-Controlled Airplane To Space And Back

It seems like a lot of people have been sending toys into space of late.

Last year, two Canadian high school students sent a Lego figure more than two dozen kilometres above sea level. And a couple of months ago, some grade 7 students in the U.S. fired a Hello Kitty doll into space.

Pretty cool. But imagine a toy you can actually pilot around the upper atmosphere, and guide back down to Earth.

That's what David Windestål, a 24-year-old remote control flight enthusiast in Sweden, started dreaming about a few years ago.

He wanted to find a way to send a remote-controlled plane into the upper atmosphere with a camera attached. And he wanted to bring it back to Earth safely.

As you can see in the video above, Windestål managed to do it recently. And it only cost him a few hundred dollars.

This shot is 67 minutes after launch (Photo: David Windestål)

The plane had a weather balloon to help it reach the stratosphere and a GPS so he could locate it during the flight and after it landed.

It also had a GoPro camera, as well as a first-person view (FPV) piloting system - basically a video screen and camera that gave Windestål a real-time look at where he was going.

He got the plane up to an altitude of about 32 kilometres (20 miles), and logged a total flight time of 108 minutes, for all you 'Lost' fans out there. But not everything went exactly as planned.

First, the weather balloon popped before Windestål could separate it from the plane, which meant it could get tangled up with the plane, making the return flight impossible.

Then, when Windestål did release the balloon, it snagged the antenna on the bottom of the plane, and the camera went down for 20 minutes.

But in the end, he got the plane back to Earth. It landed safely in the woods near a road - not by his feet as Windestål hoped - but still pretty impressive.

He captured some amazing footage of our planet from above, and as the plane glided through the clouds.

Here's a shot of Earth he stitched together from 50 video frames taken at 30,000 metres above sea level (it's not the entire planet - the GoPro's curved camera lens just makes it look that way).

Photo: David Windestål

You can read more on Windestål's blog if you'd like to try your own remote controlled space flight. But be warned, it's not as easy as it looks.

Via Slate


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