Lightning from the Edge of Space

2014 ~ Present


Ready to leave your Georgia Tech legacy at the edge of space? We build electronics and software for a high altitude (100,000 ft) balloon platform, which we then launch and recover. We bring together the engineering of circuits, power systems, software, and mechanical structure with physics and data analysis.

We are motivated by sensing of lightning and a few other atmospheric electrical phenomena and to launch these balloons over thunderstorms. We have sensors on board that can be used for this. However, in the process we have built a platform that can accommodate other research instruments, and are transforming into a research service that can be used by others on the GT campus.

We have launched and retrieved several balloons over the years, including one over the top of the 2017 solar eclipse. We tend to launch once per semester, and in between those launches, we have some seriously fun engineering to do, much of it a team effort. We want a platform that is light, cheap, controllable and trackable from the ground with wireless communications. We want increasingly complex instruments and sensors on board. We want hardened launch logistics that will enable us to launch in thunderstorm conditions, at nightime, or even on demand.

Issues Involved or Addressed

Software, cIrcuits, and mechanical design for a robust, low-cost and low-power platform. Detection of electromagnetic fields from lightning. X-ray emissions from thunderstorms. Monitoring of electrical charging of thunderstorms. Prediction of thunderstorm cessation, and onset of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Detection of upper atmospheric discharges related to lightning.

Methods and Technologies

  • Circuits and circuit boards
  • GPS
  • Wireless Communications
  • Ham Radio
  • Lightweight Electric/Magnetic Field Sensors
  • Lightweight Cameras
  • Atmospheric Wind Predictions
  • Aerodynamics
  • Balloons

Academic Majors of Interest

  • ComputingComputer Science
  • EngineeringAerospace Engineering
  • EngineeringComputer Engineering
  • EngineeringElectrical Engineering
  • EngineeringMechanical Engineering
  • SciencesEarth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • SciencesPhysics

Preferred Interests and Preparation

EE, CmpE - Circuits and embedded systems, smartphone app programming, wireless communications, electric field sensors, image storage and processing.

CS - Programming, mobile app development, wireless networks, server development.

ME, AE - Lightweight material platform design and fabrication, aerodynamics.

EAS - Atmospheric electricity, instrumentation, data processing.

Physics - Instrumentation, x-ray sensors

Meeting Schedule & Location

Meeting Location 
Van Leer 465
Meeting Day 

Team Advisors

Dr. Morris Cohen
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering

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