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Telemetry from all receivers is sent to a central server that then drives a live map which can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection.The system works extremely well and has been used to track payloads at distances of 800km and more even though the transmitter is limited by UK law to 10m W ERP.Flights only happen once the predicted path is known to be safe (avoiding airports and densely populated areas for example) and permission has been gained from (in the UK) the CAA.Here the tracking system uses the 70cm radio band (around 434MHz) using RTTY to send the telemetry down to a number of ground stations run by other enthusiasts.People often worry about the low temperatures in near space, but when your payload is generating a few watts of power that is not likely to be a problem!I was much more concerned with how hot it was going to get inside the payload, so I added some heatsinks to the Pi: I used special thermal adhesive to glue heatsinks to the USB/ETH chip and to the 3.3V regulator.

The job of the tracker is to read the location from the GPS receiver, possibly also read some sensors, and then format and send a telemetry sentence to the ground over a low power radio link.Energizer Lithium AA cells are the obvious choice since they are specified to work down to -40 degrees C, and are very good at high currents (we need over 500m A for the Pi plus webcam).On the way to 30km the outside will get down to -50C, and even with minimal insulation the batteries will self-heat to stay within their operating range.I tried a few webcams and settled on the Logitech C270 which is reasonable quality, light and cheap (in case the payload goes missing! I tried several webcam imaging programs and found fswebcam to be the best (worked without fiddling, yet had enough options to tailor the picture taking).Remember that the radio system has low bandwidth and with a typical flight lasting 2 hours or so we don’t have time to send large images, so there’s no point using the very best webcam and the highest resolution.

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