Picoballoon is an ultralight stratospheric probe. The whole probe with its power supply, processor, communications and sensors weighs less than 5 grams. It can measure various scientific data like temperature, humidity, pressure and UV radiation. It can be tracked using the integrated GNSS receiver. It's powered by ultralight solar cells. This means that the power supply can work for months. The balloon is made of a very durable material, which allows it to stay in the air for weeks or even months.
We are developing our own hardware, firmware and software for this system. We are currently working on a live dashboard, where the public could view the data from our probes in real time.
The probe PCB is the core of the whole Picoballoon. It includes all the crucial components: the microcontroller (the brain), the communications, the GNSS receiver and all the environmental sensors. It weighs only 1 gram. Our probe uses LoRaWAN radio technology in order to achieve a very high transmission range. The signals are received by more than 10 000 community LoRa stations in the world, which then send the data to our servers. Thanks to the precision GNSS receivers from u-blox, we can get the location of the probe down to just a couple of meters. The environmental sensors range from UV, through humidity, to barometric pressure and gas sensors so we can get as much data out of every flight possible. There is a possibility of integrating various other sensors inside the probe.
The balloon itself is made out of Mylar, a very durable plastic, which enables the probes to fly for weeks, or even months. This is much longer than the classical widely used high altitude balloons, which fly for only around 2 hours. The balloon is filled with helium at a very specific calibrated volume. In order to strike the right balance, we want to keep the payload weight as light as possible, so a minimal amount of gas is needed for reaching the desired altitude. The probe is tied to the balloon using a nylon tether.
Our material engineers are going to work on developing our own balloons as well as tethers in the future. We also plan to work on a special conformal coating.