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Helium Experiment

PostPosted: Dec 1, 2014 9:44 pm
by GroundquestMSA
While considering photography drones for checking domes, I figured I should give the helium balloon method a fair chance too.

I got a 9 foot bottle of helium for $21. This was enough to fill a dozen 12" balloons with some gas left, though the pressure was getting low. 12 balloons lifted five ounces, according to my cheap scale. The numbers are close, but I believe a 5oz. camera/light combo can be assembled. The balloons could have been filled a little bit more too, which could have a significant effect on the buoyancy.

Problems: There are many. Packing the gas bottle isn't a huge deal, but it is a small negative. This is essentially a one-shot method. Unless there are multiple domes very near one another, you can't transport a dozen balloons from one site to another. Control would be very limited. In order to get any sort of idea of what may be up there, the camera would need to be rotated or rotatable in some controllable way. I don't know what that way would be. A wide angle shot looking straight down may help eliminate the control problem, but that limits the usefulness of your (necessarily equally wide-angle) light, and I don't know what range of view comes from the ultralight video cameras available. A dozen balloons are bulky and fragile, especially when filled to (or beyond) capacity. Depending on how they are tied together you could have a narrow, 15'-high column of balloons or a 3' or 4' round mass. Since a continuation of passage is likely at the very top of the dome, the whole effort could be a waste of time if the balloons top out and the camera can't see the passage.

In the end, I don't think it's worth trying unless the situation is ideal. I'm certainly not going to throw $25 at every dome that I wish I could see. If I ever have an exceptionally alluring high lead I may revisit this method. Even if I can't climb it myself, maybe some camera-on-a-balloon footage could be used to persuade a bolter to climb it for me.

Re: Helium Experiment

PostPosted: Dec 2, 2014 8:37 am
by caver.adam
Nice information. Next you'll be using balloons to rig a rope. :bananabat:

Re: Helium Experiment

PostPosted: Dec 2, 2014 9:20 am
by graveleye
This was actually done in the Topless Dome in Tumbling Rock Cave. I never got to see the pictures so I am not sure how well it turned out though.

Re: Helium Experiment

PostPosted: Dec 2, 2014 1:32 pm
by BrianFrank
Here is the post by "Realms" Nathan Williams discussing using a balloon. Last post of the page.