W9BVX’s Helium Balloon Vertical Antenna

At the young age of 9, Bob W9BVX, visited an ARRL Field Day site with his dad and saw the most amazing thing; an HF antenna lifted into the air by a helium balloon. Ever since that day, his life’s dream was to do the same. Fast forward almost 70 years and that dream has become a reality

Watch now as he ticks another item off his ‘bucket list’.

A little bit about the balloon, the eight foot weather balloon holds 264 cubic feet of helium and fully inflated it has the lifting capability of little over 15lbs. A standard tank of helium contains 250 cubic feet. So the balloon wasn’t fully inflated, but it did have enough lift for the antenna. The antenna was a long-wire style with a length of 203 feet. The other end was terminated at a 6:1 balun. Two 250 ground verticals were laid out a 90 degree angle from the feed point.

jota-2016-p1020798

jota-2016-p1020818

jota-2016-p1020810

Why only 203 feet? FAA regulations require that they be notified of any tethered balloon with an altitude of more than 200 feet.

The balloon was launched on October 15, 2016; as part of the Jamboree on the Air demonstration station at a local Boy Scout Camporee. Band conditions weren’t the best but the balloon antenna provided a strong signal for the brief time it was active.

jota-2016-p1020823

Thinking about launching your own balloon antenna? The ARRL has a few articles in their QST Magazine. Use the keyword ‘balloon antenna’ as a starting point. (ARRL membership required for access to the article archives).

The antenna was a learning experience, and Bob is going back to the drawing board to create a bigger and better balloon lifted vertical antenna.

  • Weather Balloon: $80
  • Wire and Connectors: $60
  • Tank of Helium: $250
  • Experience of realizing a life dream: PRICELESS

w9bvx-balloon-antenna-pin-p1020782