The GoPro line of action cameras, especially when paired with drones, have yielded a massive library of photos and videos that would have been otherwise impossible to take using commercial equipment. But when paired with a weather balloon, things get even more dramatic. In 2013, a group of five students from Arizona did just that and launched the GoPro into the atmosphere. Sadly, they lost track of the camera during after its reentry. Good thing they recovered it two years later in good condition because the footage it had stored is truly a sight to behold.
The story of the recovery of the camera is just as amazing as the video and photos it yielded. It started out simple enough when, after four months of preparations, the five friends launched the GoPro attached to a weather balloon to take some shots of Arizona. They used a special smartphone GPS to track the GoPro’s location since, at that time, smartphone GPS were limited to a 60,000 ft range. They projected the GoPro to land at a specific area with cell coverage so that they could use the attached smartphone to locate and retrieve the contraption.
Sadly, the coverage map from AT&T that they used for their model was inaccurate and the balloon landed a good 50 miles or so away from their estimate. At that time, they considered it a lost cause. Somewhat ironically, the camera has chanced upon two years later by an AT&T employee who was hiking near where it landed. Long story short, the GoPro was returned to its owners and yielded the footage that could be seen below.
These days, there would probably be more sophisticated equipment available that would ensure that a GoPro would be easily located and retrieved. But such resources were probably not available, not to mention affordable, for five students in 2013 who were simply trying to make a fun project. At least the story had a happy ending, even if it was two years too late.