Eye in the Sky Over Balmoral Show

Aerostat flying over Balmoral Show Car Park

The SkyWatch A300 Aerostat flying over the Balmoral Show Car Park

Firmly tethered, the SkyWatch A300 Aerostat floated happily in the blue skies over Balmoral Show 2014 while tens of thousands of visitors enjoyed three days of agricultural displays and shopping.

Combined with over-flights by SkyWatch pilots in the Foxbat fixed wing aircraft, the aerostat, donated by local company Search Systems, provided a live feed of traffic updates around the site, making it easier for organisers and ground staff to manage queues, blockages and gates. Feeding video directly back to the control room or at longer range to ground crew with a radio relay, the aerial feedback trial proved both successful for the Balmoral Show and SkyWatch NI.

With flights covering a wide area in the morning during rush hour and the aerostat providing local imagery of the car parking and inroads, SkyWatch was able to provide invaluable feedback throughout the three day show.

Aerostat flying in the evening over Balmoral Show

Flying in the evening as families made their way home.

The balloon also proved popular with families and children, attracting a lot of attention and debate regarding it’s purpose. Most discussion centred around having a camera or being a weather balloon.

Other ideas put forward were having someone inside the balloon, which would be a lot of fun, but a balloon of this size (3.6 cubic metres) is only capable of lifting 1.5kgs.

An unexpected but very welcome use for the balloon also arose on the last day when people were finding it difficult to locate their cars. By photographing the car park and zooming into the images we could locate the occasional, distinctly coloured vehicle. Ultimately that job still remained most effective with the folks from EventSec on the ground who provided site security and parking management.

Flying High at the Ulster Aviation Open Day

Ulster Aviation Open DayThanks to everyone at the Ulster Aviation Society for their kind donation of stand space for their 2013 Open Day. It was a huge success for both the society and SkyWatch.

Our own Paul Trimble was marshalling the helicopters visiting on the day and putting on a fly past which was great to see.

We also took the opportunity to test fly our custom built remote camera system on board the helium balloon. Visitors could see themselves on the ground from around 60ft in the air.

When fully deployed the balloon can reach 200ft and with a new camera will give us a detailed zoom and infrared capability, perfect for night searches and a fast view over a wide area, a valuable asset in rural and urban areas.

The camera will cost around £6000 so every donation and sale on the stand brings us a step closer to that goal.

We were also joined by some new volunteers, including Tom from Switzerland, who is studying Aeronautical Engineering at Queens University.

More volunteers also signed up to give us a hand next week at the Portrush Air Show. We have plenty more space for more volunteers if you would like to help out on Saturday or Sunday so please get in touch if you have an hour or two to spare.

Helium Balloon to be deployed in hunt for missing Omagh woman

Helium Balloon cameraA new search device is to be deployed on Saturday 20th July in the hunt for a woman near Omagh who has been missing for over a week now.

We will be launching the helium based unit in Drumquin near Omagh in an effort to assist the PSNI search.

This will be our first live deployment of the Helium balloon and adds to the range of airborne search equipment we now deploy.