Hot Air Balloon / Kite to Get a Node way up?

Not sure if there would be any FCC implications of this, but I’m thinking about emergency situations anyway…anyone know how to make a homemade hot air balloon? I’m thinking a node up at around 100 feet would give some serious coverage in our area.

Or a Kite. A drone would be cool but I’m trying to keep it low-tech and cheap.


This is completely possible. A tethered weather balloon filled with helium does not cost a lot and could stay aloft for a good amount of time. As far as the FCC is concerned this should be a-o-k but there might be FAA requirements to be met.


First, balloon launches are harder then you might think so you would want someone experienced to help or at least a few dry runs before hand. Helium can be pricey as well.

The FCC does limit antenna height in certain spectrum’s. My search was not exhaustive but I don’t see any restrictions for the ISM 900mhz segment.

The FAA does have regulations that must be followed and for a tethered or “moored” balloon you may have to deal with some local laws as well. In most situation you should be ok as long as you kept the weight down, kept the balloon at 100 feet, and stayed away frm airports.

Kites are an interesting option and I wouldn’t rule that out. Some local club members used a kite as an antenna for Amateur radio operations and that worked VERY well for them.

The stumbling block for drones would be battery life and keep in mind you must register with the FAA although that is cheap and easy.

Here is an interesting reference about balloons.


Here is an inexpensive kit ($50) that might work. The gotenna is 48g and each balloon 25 grams so 2 balloons should lift the gotenna mesh. Add a third balloon and you could add a battery pack for longer flight. Seems very interesting for festivals or fairs.

Remember all you need is line of sight so just getting above most obstacles should be all you need.


If you’re going with a kite I’d recommend a parafoil kite just from experience. They are the easiest kites in the world to get aloft and don’t require a lot of wind to generate a lot of lift. Checked Amazon and you can get one for like 8 bucks. Depending on size of kite would depend if you could string in an external battery too. But yeah, good idea. I’ll have to see if I can find my parafoil and do a test on it sometime. (I used to be obsessed with kites for a few years. The Kite Loft got a lot of my business…).

I do wonder though about the idea of a Kite as an Antenna. One of the box kites could be built to the proper specifications, and run a cable along the loft lines. But that’d be a MOAN option since you can’t use external antennas with the Mesh by default.



Wow that PublicLabs community is just amazing.

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The Gotenna has a lot of extra weight like the case and strap that could be tossed. Then the Gotenna could be weather proofed with something lighter. Even a nano coating. It probably wouldn’t be enough allow one of those balloons to lift it but a better weight ratio is optimal and you need to consider the weight of the tether in your calculations.

EDIT: I looked at that kit. It appears to be using fishing line and standard mylar balloons. You could do the calculations yourself an put that together with a shopping trip to your local party store and a side trip to a sporting goods store. It probably would be cheaper to let the florist / party store fill up your balloons. I had previously been thinking about pricing when renting the tank or buying it. Good for large projects but not needed for a Gotenna. interesting…

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Low cost, light weight weather proofing - A Ziploc bag with duct tape to seal the opening for the charging cable.


Have you considered using a blimp? Here is a really cheap one:


Years ago there was a failed Kickstarter called Rescue Me Ballon. It was a self contained system that would inflate on demand a foil ballon up about 50+ feet. It had LED lighting and ‘radar reflecting’ material and other things to assist rescue workers in finding you. Attaching a link which explained it much better. Something like this would have been great for a fast node setup.

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FAA Reg 14 CFR 101:

Subpart B—Moored Balloons and Kites
Source: Docket No. 1580, 28 FR 6722, June 29, 1963, unless otherwise noted.

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§101.11 Applicability.

This subpart applies to the operation of moored balloons and kites. However, a person operating a moored balloon or kite within a restricted area must comply only with §101.19 and with additional limitations imposed by the using or controlling agency, as appropriate.

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§101.13 Operating limitations.

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate a moored balloon or kite—

(1) Less than 500 feet from the base of any cloud;

(2) More than 500 feet above the surface of the earth;

(3) From an area where the ground visibility is less than three miles; or

(4) Within five miles of the boundary of any airport.

(b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to the operation of a balloon or kite below the top of any structure and within 250 feet of it, if that shielded operation does not obscure any lighting on the structure.

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§101.15 Notice requirements.

No person may operate an unshielded moored balloon or kite more than 150 feet above the surface of the earth unless, at least 24 hours before beginning the operation, he gives the following information to the FAA ATC facility that is nearest to the place of intended operation:

(a) The names and addresses of the owners and operators.

(b) The size of the balloon or the size and weight of the kite.

© The location of the operation.

(d) The height above the surface of the earth at which the balloon or kite is to be operated.

(e) The date, time, and duration of the operation.

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§101.17 Lighting and marking requirements.

(a) No person may operate a moored balloon or kite, between sunset and sunrise unless the balloon or kite, and its mooring lines, are lighted so as to give a visual warning equal to that required for obstructions to air navigation in the FAA publication “Obstruction Marking and Lighting”.

(b) No person may operate a moored balloon or kite between sunrise and sunset unless its mooring lines have colored pennants or streamers attached at not more than 50 foot intervals beginning at 150 feet above the surface of the earth and visible for at least one mile.

(Sec. 6©, Department of Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 1655©))

[Doc. No. 1580, 28 FR 6722, June 29, 1963, as amended by Amdt. 101-4, 39 FR 22252, June 21, 1974]

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§101.19 Rapid deflation device.

No person may operate a moored balloon unless it has a device that will automatically and rapidly deflate the balloon if it escapes from its moorings. If the device does not function properly, the operator shall immediately notify the nearest ATC facility of the location and time of the escape and the estimated flight path of the balloon.


And one more thing… if it’s less than 6 feet in diameter or has less than 115 cubic feet of gas, 6’ balloon will create 7.25 lbs of lift, and the payload is six lbs or less, these rules do not apply.

§101.1 Applicability.

(a) This part prescribes rules governing the operation in the United States, of the following:

(1) Except as provided for in §101.7, any balloon that is moored to the surface of the earth or an object thereon and that has a diameter of more than 6 feet or a gas capacity of more than 115 cubic feet.

(2) Except as provided for in §101.7, any kite that weighs more than 5 pounds and is intended to be flown at the end of a rope or cable.

(3) Any amateur rocket except aerial firework displays.

(4) Except as provided for in §101.7, any unmanned free balloon that—

(i) Carries a payload package that weighs more than four pounds and has a weight/size ratio of more than three ounces per square inch on any surface of the package, determined by dividing the total weight in ounces of the payload package by the area in square inches of its smallest surface;

(ii) Carries a payload package that weighs more than six pounds;

(iii) Carries a payload, of two or more packages, that weighs more than 12 pounds; or

(iv) Uses a rope or other device for suspension of the payload that requires an impact force of more than 50 pounds to separate the suspended payload from the balloon.

(5) Any model aircraft that meets the conditions specified in §101.41. For purposes of this part, a model aircraft is an unmanned aircraft that is:

(i) Capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(ii) Flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

(iii) Flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

(b) For the purposes of this part, a gyroglider attached to a vehicle on the surface of the earth is considered to be a kite.

[Doc. No. 1580, 28 FR 6721, June 29, 1963, as amended by Amdt. 101-1, 29 FR 46, Jan. 3, 1964; Amdt. 101-3, 35 FR 8213, May 26, 1970; Amdt. 101-8, 73 FR 73781, Dec. 4, 2008; 74 FR 38092, July 31, 2009; Docket FAA-2015-0150, Amdt. 101-9, 81 FR 42208, June 28, 2016]


Rahul, you realize that with the blimp you now have all the qualifications to be a Bond villain.


A helikite might be helpful. You fill these things with helium and flight them like a kite. Looks like people already use them for aerial photography and certain militaries use them for instant comms setup. Can’t see why one couldn’t fly a goTenna mesh on one.


Has anyone done this yet?

The pricing for those balloon / kite combo is a bit high. If I can find a cheaper helium balloon option I might give it a try. Need to check a few “party shops” to see what they offer.


My 10 year old daughter has a science fair comming up and needs a project.

Need suggestions for a cheap and easy tracker so we can recover and chart flight. (Something that is easy so it’s not obvious that her dad did it)



So into this. How can goTenna help?



Off the top of my head - When we schedule the flight, have people in the memphis area monitor the net for range info? We can make a mylar balloon and use hydrogen.

Pie in the sky- Flight tracking via location teathering for a node setting… an embedded M8N gps module or bluetooth gps sync to gotenna and everyone with gotenna plus could track?

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FYI - best deal I‘ve seen so far for balloons…