Choten: The Chase

Payload Journey =130 miles.


This post is the final part of a three part series detailing my experiences of building, launching and recovering a payload named Choten. The payload flew on a High Altitude Balloon reaching an altitude of up!

The night before the launch day I installed a car battery I bought from a local scrap yard and hooked up a cheap cigarette lighter and USB adapter which was used to power my LoRa gateway which comprised of a Rasberry pi 3 and a LoRa hat.

Pi LoRa Gatway in the boot of my car.

When researching what a equipment to carry in a chase car there was not much information out there. the only information I could find was a post by Dave in his post High Altitude Ballooning, From The Ground Up (and back again)

The initial prediction

With the ballon flying high and telemetry infomation coming in live on habhub along with the ocational image of the fields of ross on why, we jumped in the car and headed for where our prediction suggested the balloon was going to land.

It was pretty surreal as I was driving my father and mike were relaying flight stats and commenting on images from something that I built. It didn’t take long for the payload to out pace us as the gateway in the boot of my car stopped reporting on habhub, however I was very impressed with the sheer number of gateways around the UK for which I was grateful.

The Payload reach an altitude of 28.5km when the balloon burst. when we calculated the burst we predicted it would reach an altitude of around 25km. The extra altitude meant it pushed our landing prediction way out since the payload would travel further when returning back down to the ground via the parachute

We could tell that the balloon had burst because the altitude reports began to rapidly drop. Habhub has a built in prediction of where the balloon is going to land which my co-pilots kept a close eye on as I drove as a result of the extra altitude the predictions suggested the payload was going to land in the sea!

All was not lost, because they could see with each update from someones gateway report the prediction updated each time a little bit more inland. This is when we realised that the prediction software didn’t know that we had reefed the parachute as suggested by Dave!

cutting it very close!

It was an emotional roller-coaster hearing how fast the altitude was dropping and how much further towards dry land the balloon was predicted to land. The payload got to 100 meters above the ground before we lost contact. the last prediction suggested it was in farmers field meters from a river. There was no knowing if the payload landed safety or if it had landed in the drink… But we were two thirds of the way to the last known position so there was no turning back.

Last known whereabouts as reported by habhub

After driving though countless country lanes we arrived at a farm where the last known position of the payload was received. I pulled up and went to speak to the farmer to ask their permission to have a look around. He gave me a look as if I was totally mad and laughed at me telling me that I was going to get muddy. When I went back to the car to tell the others we had permission to look around we received an image the the SSDV and the latest telemetry information.

Updated telemetry information revealing the payloads actual location

What a relief, we received a image from the payload this meant it was still alive and the picture we received showed it had landed on dry land! PHEW! receiving the image from the payload helped us narrow down the search as there were a number of fields around but we were on the look out for a brown stubbly one.

The Mud. Thankfully not the water!

With the latest up date of telemetry information it appear that we needed to make a visit to a farm across the way so we hopped into the car and drove around the farmland till we got to the next farm. where we bumped into the owner coming back from her daily walk around the marshland.

New updated Location

After explaining what it is we were up to and scouring the fields with the binoculars we spotted a white blob in the field which looked like it could be the payload. with the farmers permission we ventured out into the field to see we were able to retrieve it. However walking up to the white object it turned out to be a milk bottle. I looked at my mobile phone to see where I was in relation to the latest telemetry update and it suggested it was in-font of us so we all spread out and continued to walk forwards.

Found it!

After a few minuets I could see in the distance a luminous green colour that I thought could be the parachute so headed over to it. to my relieve there laid the payload face down in the mud still transmitting telemetry and images. The payload still working after traveling 130 miles across country and traveling almost 1/3rd of the way to space.

What a relief and such an achievement! Both Choten and NM1 safe to fly again another day.

It was quite something to have a hold of the payload once more knowing of its journey and knowing how very close to the wire everything was. If the balloon had burst a couple seconds later or if the parachute was not reefed the outcome of the day would not have been the same. I was very lucky to say the least.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you are looking to collaborate on a project or just want to get in contact, feel free to drop a comment below, send me an email or find me onΒ Twitter.

If you would like to contribute towards future payload builds and launches, please support me by buying me a coffee:

Choten mk1 – Near Space Flight

Payload Flight Images

In the Media:

Melksham News

A special thanks:

I would like to thank my Dad, Dave Akerman (M0RPI) and Mike Childs (M0SOM) for their help and support. Without it this flight would not have been made possible.


  1. That is quite some achievement. I would have liked to have done something similar and I guess there are folks one can talk to or who have written about such adventures. I was wondering if you had to get clearance from the aviation authorities regarding the balloon. I confess I would not know where to start. You certainly set my thoughts turning over and I hope some young people have been inspired to take on investigations of this type. Well don.

    1. Hello Bill thanks for your comment. For this flight I had to get hold of permission from the CAA which Dave helped with πŸ™‚ my advice to anyone who wants to attempt this is to do your research and test thoroughly πŸ™‚

  2. Wow!!!!! This was such an amazing thing you did here! I was excited reading all 3 parts of your blog about this. Thanks for sharing your story about this project it was so exciting !!!

    1. Thanks very much for taking the time to read it. This has been one of my life goals for a while. I plan to launch more in the near future πŸ™‚

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