Obtaining a Spot Messenger

As usual, it pays to do ones due diligence before purchasing components; and the Spot Messenger is no exception.

The Spot Messenger will provide a means of locating the HAB while it is below 6500 metres. This will allow us to locate the payload…which would be close to impossible with the GPS because LOS issues might stop us from getting radio reception when it is closing in on the surface of Earth. There is however a potential problem with the GEN3 version of Spot Messenger. It has a feature to power down the Spot Messenger if there has been no activity for 1hr. With a flight duration of 2 hours, it is possible that the Spot Messenger might turn off before it is retrieved! Certainly not ideal. So I am considering purchasing the previous version of the Spot Messenger.

4 comments on this post.
  1. Robert Brand:

    I have not had a problem with the Spot GEN3 during balloon flights and I do a lot of them. These flights I just did in Croatia used the GEN 3. Watch the video on these pages. They were completed last month.

    Also you commented on my website about the 6 week delay: unless CASA has a problem with the application, it is a 2 day turn around according to the regulations. They are granting you approval – they are just needing the time to get the NOTAMs out (Notice to Airmen). It would only take longer if there are issues, but if you are issuing your intentions and all is good, they really cannot stop you releasing the balloon. You have as much right to fly as a commercial airline.

    From CASR Part 101E – free balloons

    Unmanned free balloons Subpart 101.E
    Regulation 101.160
    Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 111

    Table 101.155-2 Details of release of small balloons to be given to CASA
    Item Information to be provided
    1 The name, address and telephone number of the person who will release the balloons (or, if several people will
    be involved, the name, address and telephone number of the person who will coordinate the release)
    2 The date and time the release is to begin, and how long it will take
    3 Where it is to be carried out
    4 How many balloons are to be released
    5 The estimated size and mass of any payload
    Note CASA will tell the NOTAM office about the release.
    (4) A person may apply to CASA, in writing, for approval to
    release small balloons.
    Note An application must be in the approved form, include all the
    information required by these Regulations and be accompanied by every
    document required by these Regulations — see regulation 11.030.
    (5) Subject to regulation 11.055, if approval is required under
    subregulation (1) to release small balloons, CASA must grant
    the approval.
    Note 1 Under regulation 201.004, an application may be made to the
    Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of:
    (a) a decision refusing to issue, or cancelling, suspending or varying, an
    approval; or
    (b) a decision imposing a condition on an approval.
    Note 2 CASA will tell the NOTAM office about the release.
    The big problem is that there is almost never a light balloon launch because of an error when they drafted the Australian regulations:
    A light balloon means a free balloon that:
    (a) is no more than 2 metres in diameter at any time during its
    flight; and
    (b) can carry no more than 4 kilograms of payload.
    Okay to lift 4kg, you will need probably more than 2M in diameter and balloons expand to burst point – a 350g balloon will get to, say, 5m when it bursts. Basically this does not work for almost all light balloon flights. CASA have you over a barrel! In NSW region of CASA, they work with Air Services in Melbourne and use the international regulations to define a light balloon.

    None the less I use the Medium balloon regulations and provide a cut down and other requirements to ensure that I get “approval” within 2 days. I sometimes use a radar reflector, but I am usually not required to do much more than have a cut down device if it is close to a medium balloon.

    It sounds like your local CASA office are confused. I take it that you have a copy of the regulations. Let me know if you don’t. email me and I will send you what you need.

    Robert Brand wotzup.com

  2. Robert Brand:

    I suggest that you gimbal the Spot so that it cannot accidentally turn upside down on landing. Spots have a directional antenna and they don’t work too well upside down. The gimbal also needs to be in its own box so a branch does not flip the Spot upside down with the gimbal. Happy to talk and discuss the various problems – both seen and unseen. So far you guys are doing well.

  3. admin:

    Hi Robert,
    Probably partially my confusion as well as the “flaw” in the legislation. I did manage to get the 101 Regulations and it is making some sense. Just takes a bit of time to get my head around it; never stop learning.
    I’ll be submitting my request to CASA next week…will let you know how things go.
    Many Thanks

  4. admin:

    What really good point. I overlooked this. Had me thinking for a while and I think I’ll initially do a few tests to see how it fairs at different orientations. If the box does land on a reasonably horizontal surface, I know that it will at a minimum ’tilt’ one way….that is…if it doesn’t turn over. In-fact…thinking about it… I could try and encourage it to ‘fall’ a given way…so as to give it more of a chance to ‘fall’ into a desirable orientation. Lots of thought to put into it! What a great little Gem. I might get some of my ideas together and do a separate post on it. Thanks Robert!

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