In 2013, a group of friends started a project to make a unique video of the Grand Canyon. Their plan was to attach a GoPro camera to a weather ballon, launch the balloon over the canyon and get some pretty unique aerial footage.
In order to do this successfully, the crew needed a few things — for starters, a quality weather balloon that could reach high altitudes before popping. Secondly, the crew needed a camera that could handle the high altitude chills and fall back to Earth.
Once deciding on a GoPro camera (because of it’s durability and size), the crew needed to design a parachute to help with the descent and a 3D capsule to surround and protect the camera and gear. The crew also needed to be able to track the gear so that they could locate it after the ballon popped and the camera came tumbling back to Earth. To do this, the crew attached a phone with GPS tracking to the camera.
After doing all the necessary planning, gathering of equipment and a few parachute tests, it was go time. The crew launched the GoPro over the Grand Canyon as planned, and after 87 minutes the ballon popped at an altitude of nearly 100,000 feet (30,480 meters), sending the gear tumbling back to Earth.
But when the gear landed, something happened that we can all relate to: the phone landed in a no-service zone, so the crew wasn’t able to find their equipment. According to Bryan Chan, who lead the team…
“We planned our June 2013 launch at a specific time and place such that the phone was projected to land in an area with cell coverage. The problem was that the coverage map we were relying on (looking at you, AT&T) was not accurate, so the phone never got signal as it came back to Earth, and we never heard from it.”
The crew searched the likely landing spots, but had no luck finding the camera. After two years of searching, waiting and losing hope, something very fortunate happened: a woman who happened to be hiking in the area randomly came across the equipment. The woman noticed that the phone attached to the camera was an AT&T device, so she took it to an AT&T store where they identified the SIM card.
The crew was contacted and got back their gear with the precious footage still intact. Recently, the team uploaded their video to YouTube.