Google has teamed up with The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science in an effort to add balloon and kite imagery in Google Earth. The search giant is inviting anyone to capture and upload their own aerial imagery which will supplement traditional satellite and aerial photos collected from existing partners.
As of writing there are more than 40 locations that have been outfitted with balloon or kite imagery. Instead of trying to find the locations on your own, Google has provided a KML file for download that highlights user-submitted imagery for easier viewing. Simply click on the imagery icon in Google Earth and select “Fly to this image” to view.
Those interested in snapping photos of the landscape around them are encouraged to check out the open source balloon mapping toolkit. For around $100 to $200, enthusiasts can construct a balloon rig that includes helium. Full kits are available starting at only $85.00 should you wish to go that route.
Next you will need a housing to secure your camera in. Three different versions are outlined on the Public Laboratory website depending on the type of camera you plan to use. Finally, you will need some software to stitch the photos together. MapKnitter is recommended as an easy to use browser software that is free of charge.
Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to a balloon or a kite. One user uploaded images taken from an RC helicopter. Pretty cool if you ask me; just be aware of potential hazards like power lines and local airports.