Tag Archive for iphone

The importance of finding ‘Yeager’

Sometimes failure is an option. Actually, failure is often not an option but rather a necessary evolutionary step within a project. Learning from failure is how one eventually succeeds.

Allow me to explain….

You may be aware of our HURRB project. The goal of this project is to send a payload, via weather balloon, to the edge of space from inside the eye of a hurricane. The resulting video and GPS data that we could gather will probably be nothing short of extraordinary.

Kerry Mallory, from Houston, assists with the test launch of HURRB back in May

Kerry Mallory, from Houston, assists with the test launch of HURRB back in May

We tested the project in late May near Buffalo, Texas with near perfect results. The payload, made of a $2.36 cooler, had four GoPro HD cameras attached to its outside. On the inside was a collection of tracking equipment, including the first Android phone – the HTC G1. It would send its GPS position over the cellular network as long as it was below a few thousand feet. We also had a SPOT satellite based GPS beacon that would work from the ground to around 59,000 feet. We launched our balloon and it went to at least 94,000 feet and probably higher than that. We do not know for sure since we did not have a GPS tracker that worked above the consumer standard 59,000 feet mark. I estimate 94,000 feet based on the ascent rate and the amount of time the video shows before the balloon burst. In any case, everything went about as well as could be expected considering it was our first attempt at this project.

A look inside of the CNN "Yeager" payload. The orange device is the SPOT locator, the yellow device is the APRS unit and the black device is the G1 cell phone.

A look inside of the CNN "Yeager" payload. The orange device is the SPOT locator, the yellow device is the APRS unit and the black device is the G1 cell phone.

Then, in mid-June, Chris Erickson, a producer from CNN International Newsource, got in touch with me asking for some advice on a similar project he was putting together. He was not wanting to launch a balloon in to a hurricane, but rather was working on a story about how pretty much anyone with a little ingenuity could pull off this growing hobby of launching high-altitude balloons to capture stunning HD video from the edge of space.

I agreed to help out and actually asked if we could test some additional equipment on the CNN payload. We wanted to test out an APRS beacon, used by amateur radio operators to send out data and other messages via the amateur radio band. The GPS chip in the unit that we had purchased would work well above the 59,000 feet altitude mark and this meant we could track it to 100,000 feet or higher – which was Chris’s goal. I also contributed our SPOT satellite tracker and our G1 phone to help make sure we could find the payload once it fell back to Earth.

A look at the balloon as it is filled at Falcon Field in Peachtree City, GA

A look at the balloon as it is filled at Falcon Field in Peachtree City, GA

On June 23, exactly a month after we first tested HURRB in Texas, I met up with CNN, actually several producers and reporters from their International Newsource group, in Peachtree City, Georgia. I was joined by HurricaneTrack.com supporter and HAM radio operator, Kerry Mallory. It was his funding that provided the APRS unit that we would test during the CNN launch. Since every cool science project needs a nick-name, this was one was called “Yeager” after Chuck Yeager who first broke the sound barrier back in 1947.

With the help of the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, about 25 of us gathered to set Yeager loose in to the warm Georgia sky near 8am ET, Saturday, June 23. The balloon and payload, which had three GoPro cams attached, took off almost straight up and stayed nearly above our heads for at least 20 minutes. We tracked it using the APRS website on our iPhones and were all very excited about getting Yeager in to the air. Now it was time for a quick bite to eat before we would set out to retrieve the payload after the balloon burst upon reaching its maximum altitude – hopefully 100,000 feet or higher.

As it turned out, something went wrong. The payload only made it to 66,000 feet before falling back to the ground. There was considerable disappointment and I wondered immediately what had happened.

The SPOT locator told us where to look as it sent out a signal every 10 minutes to a special page on our account with their website. There was no data from the G1 phone and the last APRS reading showed Yeager was at 5100 feet. It is important to note that we had the APRS set to beacon its location every two minutes. So it was entirely possible that the payload was on the ground between updates. And, since this system operates via the amateur radio network, it would be difficult to get a signal out to the Internet via repeaters unless one was very close by to Yeager’s location on the ground. In other words, the higher up the APRS unit is, the more repeaters “hear” its message. When it’s on the ground, it would have to be very close to either a hand held radio receiver or a ground based repeater.

iPhone photo of my laptop and the location of the SPOT locator which is where the burst balloon remnants, the parachute and the wooden dowels were found - the SPOT device was still attached to the dowel

iPhone photo of my laptop and the location of the SPOT locator which is where the burst balloon remnants, the parachute and the wooden dowels were found - the SPOT device was still attached to the dowel

We drove to the location of the SPOT tracker and found something shocking. Only the balloon, which had not completely shattered when it burst, the parachute and the wooden support dowels used to attach the balloon to the payload via thin rope were left. Attached to one of the dowels was the SPOT locator device – but there was no cooler, no payload. We were dumbfounded. Had someone stolen the payload? Anyone who knew where to look on the APRS website could track Yeager but only we knew the coordinates that the SPOT beacon was sending out. What happened? Where was the payload and the GoPro cams?

We looked all over the surrounding wooded area where the remnants of the balloon and parachute were found. No clues, none at all. We went up to the fire station which is along the Flint River and Hwy 16 between Senoia and Griffin. There we talked to local law enforcement and asked if they had heard anything. Who knows? Maybe someone saw what happened. The two deputies were very helpful and curious about the project. They made some calls and rallied up a couple of more deputies to put the word out about the missing payload. We searched a wooded area along the last known trajectory from the SPOT locator and the APRS unit but to no avail. The CNN crew needed to get back to Atlanta, sadly, without a conclusion to their story. At least not the conclusion they were hoping for. Kerry and I remained to keep looking, as did a tree climbing expert who had come along in case Yeager was high up in a tree top.

Then, something beyond all of our imaginations happened.

This is the backyard of the Garrett family in Brooks, GA where the G1 phone landed after falling from at least 66,000 feet

This is the backyard of the Garrett family in Brooks, GA where the G1 phone landed after falling from at least 66,000 feet

One of our support team members in Nevada, Paul Bowman (it was Paul’s G1 that we were using, and he too is an active HAM operator) called and said that the G1 had “phoned home”. This meant that the G1 had been turned on and it sent a message to Paul telling him where it was. We could not believe it. This meant, perhaps, that the payload was there too. Paul said, “It’s in someone’s house over on Lakeview Drive!”. I showed the deputies the coordinates and they said that it was just around the corner from where we were. So away we went to check it out.

Within a few minutes we were all parked in the drive way of Justin Garrett. The two deputies asked him about the phone and whether or not he had seen the payload. I approached and told him it was a black cellphone. He said, “Yes! I found a cell phone in my back yard a little while ago”. I nearly passed out. “Really?!??!” I responded. “Where is it?”

He showed it to me, it was on his work table in his garage, right where Paul said the GPS coordinates indicated it would be. He told me he was mowing the back yard when he looked down and spotted the phone. He picked it up and put it in his pocket, wondering who had been in his yard with an old camera phone. After he completed his chore, he went in to the garage and turned on the phone. This triggered it to send the message to Paul and within 5 minutes, a group of people he had never met before shows up in his drive way. It was incredible.

We told him what we were doing and asked if we could look around his yard. “No problem,” he said. After about 15 minutes of looking all over his large back yard, we we still empty handed. No payload. Only this phone that had somehow landed in his yard. This meant that it had fallen out of the payload and landed there. This also meant that the payload was probably broken in to pieces. We were closer to finding it, I thought, but this was a challenge. Where was the rest of the payload and specifically, the APRS unit. It had to be near by.

As the hot Georgia sun beat down on us, we became increasingly frustrated. Where could this darn thing be? Surely it had to have fallen near the G1 phone. Then it dawned on me. Ask Kerry to turn on his hand held radio to see if the APRS was close by. It just might be still transmitting its location and if so, Kerry’s radio may pick it up. It was worth a shot. My hunch turned out to be correct. Within a few minutes, we picked up the beacon from the APRS unit. It had to be within a mile or less of where we were. Since no other APRS sites could “hear it”, we knew we were close and it was on the ground or in a tree near by.

The Garrett family leading Kerry and me through the woods as we looked for the missing payload

The Garrett family leading Kerry and me through the woods as we looked for the missing payload

This boosted our spirits and we searched in the thick woods to the east of the Garrett’s house. He and his family even gave us a guided tour in to some trails to get deeper in to the woods, eventually reaching the Flint River. Ticks were attacking us like zombies hungry for flesh. It was hot and we were all quite miserable. Still no luck.

Kerry and I looked at his radio and scrolled through the data received from the APRS unit. Sure enough, it gave us the biggest clue yet. We had the GPS coordinates. They read: 33 14.15 by 84 26.03. I ran to the Tahoe where my laptop was connected to the Internet to convert the lat/long pairs in to something that I put in to Google Earth. I did not realize, probably because of the heat and the excitement of the day, that no conversion was needed. Still, I used some website’s conversion tool to convert what I had to decimal degrees. I did not realize that I had already had that info. The resulting output erroneously put the APRS unit, and presumably Yeager, really close to the Flint River but on its east side.

The missing CNN weather balloon payload was somewhere in those woods

The missing CNN weather balloon payload was somewhere in those woods

Kerry and I drove around to the edge of an enormous field. It was bordered to the west by a foreboding line of trees which surrounded the Flint River and its many smaller streams and tributaries. I told Kerry that the APRS location was only 1800 feet in. It was the toughest 1800 feet ever. We had very little with us to cut through the thick brush, briars and bramble that stood between us and the APRS and Yeager. Snakes, ticks and spiders were in ample supply. On we went, pushing deeper in to the woods. We arrived at the coordinates and found nothing. The trees were so thick that it seemed like dusk was falling, yet it was only 4:30 in the afternoon. The heat, even in the shade of the woods, was crushing. Despair set in and we had to give up. Let’s go back to the hotel and regroup was my thought.

We went by the Garrett’s to tell them of the defeat and called it a day. Maybe we can try again some time when we have more time and energy. We really wanted to find the payload if only to see what clues the video would yield. We had found the SPOT locator with some remnant pieces and of course the mysterious location of the G1 phone in the Garrett’s back yard. Yeager was somewhere in between, it had to be.

The lost payload was supposed to be within 30 to 50 feet of the blue dot, which was my position in the woods, along the Flint River

The lost payload was supposed to be within 30 to 50 feet of the blue dot, which was my position in the woods, along the Flint River

A week later we tried again with our search. This time, we had better lat/long info from the APRS unit to work with. Since I discovered from Paul that conversion was not necessary, we realized that we were looking in the wrong place the weekend before. We’re only talking about 300 feet or so, but in those thick woods, 300 feet made all the difference. Paul was sure that the 33 14.15 by 84 26.03 was in fact where the APRS unit was. If we found it, we would probably find the rest of the payload.

So once again, Kerry and I hiked in to the rugged Georgia woods. This time we came armed with tools to cut through the walls of brush that hindered us last time. However, the heat wave that had grown to historic levels was a real problem. We had plenty of water but the heat was overwhelming. We began fairly early in the day with our search. After only about an hour or so, we reached the exact lat/long pair and looked for the wayward APRS unit and payload. Nothing. Not one shred of evidence as to where it could be. We sat down along the banks of the Flint River to get a drink of our water and I remarked that it “should be right here!”. We were standing right where the coordinates said it should be. Anyone who knows Geocaching knows how hard it can be to find a hidden cache whose only clue is usually a lat/long pairing.

We searched for about 3 hours and had to give up yet again due to the dangerous heat that was smothering us. The forest was just too thick. If the payload had in fact landed in a tree, we would never see it. I told Kerry that maybe after the winter sets in and a good freeze comes, that we can come back a third and final time to see if the canopy opens up enough to let us look in the tree tops. We agreed on that plan for sometime in December and left the woods in utter defeat.

Time marched on. The hurricane season heated up and we had a small chance to launch HURRB during Isaac but decided against it due to the eye of Isaac being rather clouded over and parked over the swamps of Louisiana. If the Georgia woods was difficult to recover a payload, I was certainly not taking my chances with large reptiles and other creatures that nightmares are made of.

October ended with the historic landfall of Sandy and I kept busy with that event well in to November. Kerry and then began to plan our last attempt to search for Yeager. We settled on the weekend of December 15th. It could not get here soon enough.

After many hours of pouring over data, maps and talking about a strategy to find the payload, the day finally arrived to put it all to the test. I drove to Newnan, Georgia, not far from where we needed to look, last Saturday. Kerry drove up from Houston. We had a nice dinner and planned out our attack for Sunday.

I had contacted the Garretts to let them know we wanted to look one more time. We thought about coming in from the west along the last known “flight path” to see if we stumbled across the payload between their house and the Flint River. They had no problem with us using their house as a starting point. We hardly slept Saturday night knowing that we had a good chance of finding the lost payload the next day.

Sunday morning was chilly but not too cold. The sky was overcast and I thought that this was of benefit to us. I figured the bright orange tape that covered the bottom of the payload would stand out better if the sun were not bright, washing everything out.

We arrived at the Garrett’s house around 9:30 in the morning. We could immediately see a difference in the woods. The trees were all bare of their leaves. You could literally see through the forest now and up in to the tree tops. This was a good sign.

The yellow line represents the possible landing location of Yeager, not very large but difficult in the deep woods

The yellow line represents the possible landing location of Yeager, not very large but difficult in the deep woods

Kerry and I hiked in from the west and made our way to where we thought the payload may have landed, not far at all from the coordinates that the APRS had given back in June. Unfortunately, its batteries had run out long ago so we had only the recorded data to work with. We searched along a peninsula, part of a feature in the river called an “ox bow” with relative ease. No luck. There was no sign of the payload and we were sure of it. I suggested we go to the east side, right back to the coordinates again, and start fresh from there.

We hiked out within 30 minutes with a very light rain beginning to fall. This time there were no ticks, no snakes and few spiders to battle. It was so much better even though we were still empty handed.

We stopped in to talk with Justin about our plans of searching the east side again and on we went.

After a quick drive over to a dirt road that ran along the woods, we were ready. The rain picked up now to become a little aggravating but nothing we could not handle. It was better than ground temps of 110 back in June!

The third attempt to locate the missing payload was much easier due to the trees being much less covered in foliage

The third attempt to locate the missing payload was much easier due to the trees being much less covered in foliage

The hike up a logging road was incredible. The tall trees lined the road like walls. There was not anyone else out there. We saw no animals, not even many birds. It was still and quiet. Only the chilled rain drops broke the air with their pitter-patter on the decaying leaves that carpeted the logging road.

Then, we reached the point where we had to turn in to the dense woods and head west to the river. Kerry cut through using his machete’ and on we went. Even though the leaves had in fact fallen, the forest was still so dense that it became noticeably darker the further in we trekked. Still, not another soul was heard from or seen, save for the random shot-gun fire we could hear far in the distance.

I used my iPhone for GPS navigation and was trying to get us to the exact coordinates of the APRS unit. We stood there back in June but to no avail. For some reason, maybe the cloud cover, maybe the thick forest, but my phone was not working like it should. My position, a blue dot on the Google Maps, would drift even when I was stopped. This caused us to get somewhat lost. We were about 200 feet from where we needed to be, maybe more than that. The day was getting shorter with each passing second and we needed to get over to the river and plan our search strategy from there.

Both of us stopped and looked at our compasses and GPS devices. Mine finally settled down enough to point me west – towards the river. Kerry made it clear that we had to know precisely where we were before we moved. I paused and checked one more time. “West!” I said. “We need to head west and we’ll hit the river”.

I spotted the orange underside of the cooler about 200 to 300 feet ahead of me - it stood out against the rest of the dormant trees

I spotted the orange underside of the cooler about 200 to 300 feet ahead of me - it stood out against the rest of the dormant trees

I looked ahead and then it happened. As if to almost call out my name, I saw it. Through the woods, probably 200 feet away, I spotted the bright orange against an otherwise dull brown and gray backdrop of dormant trees and thicket. I told Kerry that I think I have found it. I pointed my walking stick like the barrel of a sniper’s rifle towards the object, barely visible but there none the less. He saw it too. We both pushed ahead, Kerry cutting a path through briars, saplings and other brush to make a bee-line to the orange object. I checked the GPS on my iPhone and sure enough we were headed for the exact coordinates of where the APRS reported its position back in June.

“This has to be it!” I yelled out. “What else would be out here that is bright orange and in that location?”

After six almost six months, we finally found the payload almost competely intact

After six almost six months, we finally found the payload almost competely intact

After another ten minutes of hacking our way through the woods, we reached the edge of the Flint River and an active tributary that veered off towards the northeast. At that moment, two grown men acted like little kids on Christmas Day upon realizing that the present of their dreams had been delivered by Santa. We found it. Yeager was about 20 feet up in some nasty, thick trees and vines almost completely intact. We were thrilled beyond belief and relieved at the same time. The APRS unit was almost dead on. Yeager was right where it should have been. In fact, we looked at that very spot in late June but could not see it due to the choking green vines, leaves and other growth that covered it entirely. My logic of waiting until December paid off.

Kerry hopped across the tributary, climbed up the bank on the other side and proceeded to cut Yeager down out of the tree canopy. It took about 30 minutes of some serious hacking away at the grip of the forest but it finally relented and gave Yeager up. He collected all of the parts, some of which came falling down in pieces like a pinata as he poked and prodded the cooler from below. Everything was there. All three GoPro cams, the APRS unit with its steel wire antenna still attached. We had succeeded after nearly six months of waiting.

The walk out of those woods was exhilarating. As if to protest our triumph, Nature threw one last curve-ball our way as the rain picked up to quite steady. We knew the Flint River would rise some after this rain and that had we not found Yeager just then, we may never have been able to reach it. The area has been in near drought conditions for several years and the fairly low river was about to swell, even if only a few feet, with abundant rain then and more to come later.

We reached Kerry’s truck and headed back to the Garrett’s house to tell them of the news. It was an exciting moment for us all. They were fascinated by the whole experience and were visibly happy for our success. I gave their 11 year old son one of the GoPro cams to use as his own. All three were perfectly preserved despite being exposed to the elements for almost 180 days. It was the least I could do for them considering the fact that we would not have known where to begin looking had Justin not found the G1 found and turned it on. Everything happened because of that one piece of insanely good luck.

A look at what the GoPro cam "saw" with the CNN mic and mic flag displayed in front of the payload

A look at what the GoPro cam "saw" with the CNN mic and mic flag displayed in front of the payload

Kerry and I went back to the hotel in Newnan and plugged in my laptop via HDMI cable to the widescreen TV in the room. Each 32 GB chip recorded almost 5 hours of video in stunning high definition. We watched each camera to finally see what happened and why things went so wrong back on launch day at the end of June.

To the best of our knowledge and from what we can gather from the video, the payload began to rock back and forth once it reached 50,000 feet and higher. Perhaps stronger than anticipated upper level winds were pushing on it, causing it to swing like a pendulum. With each successive push from the wind, the payload swung higher, eventually achieving a brief period of being weightless, like a child in a swing that is pushed to its limit. Then, the payload which weighed in excess of six pounds, would fall with gravity’s pull. At the same time, the giant helium-filled balloon is pulling in the opposite direction, trying to ascend. This went on for several minutes until there was so much give in the payload that it may have actually swung end over end at least once. Below is a video clip, slowed down to 12% of normal speed, that shows the rocking and subsequent break up of the payload.

After one swing too many, the payload jerked against the balloon just hard enough to rip loose the wooden support dowels used to attach the balloon to the payload. This is clearly seen on the video. The balloon then takes off, continuing to climb to burst altitude of around 100,000 feet. With the SPOT locator still attached, the balloon, the parachute, the wooden dowels and the SPOT sail away in to the dark sky above.

A frame grab from the GoPro video captured via "Yeager" - it clearly shows the break up of the payload due to the opposing forces of the payload swinging in strong upper level winds

A frame grab from the GoPro video captured via "Yeager" - it clearly shows the break up of the payload due to the opposing forces of the payload swinging in strong upper level winds

After a moment of turmoil, the cooler, mostly intact, begins its free fall from 66,000 feet. This is when something amazing took place. The G1 phone, which was zip-tied to one of the dowels inside the cooler, breaks free now that the dowels are torn away. It escapes the cooler and skips across the thin atmosphere like a stone skimming the surface of a lake. From there, it falls nearly 12 miles where it lands in the Garrett’s back yard….fully functional. The screen was not even cracked. The jolt did manage to turn the phone off and this is why when Justin powered it back on in his garage that it sent a signal to Paul in Nevada. It is hard to believe but the HTC G1 fell from 12 miles with only minor damage but still completely operational. The slide out keyboard was a little twisted but otherwise, the phone was not damaged.

Frame grab from the GoPro video showing the balloon after it tore away from the payload. You can also clearly see the G1 cellphone as it sails out of the cooler

Frame grab from the GoPro video showing the balloon after it tore away from the payload. You can also clearly see the G1 cellphone as it sails out of the cooler

As for the rest of the equipment? The three GoPro cams all survived their plummet as did the APRS unit. This brings me to my conclusion as to why our finding of the payload was so important.

Part of a frame grab from the GoPro cam showing the forest that "Yeager" eventually landed in along with tthe Garrett house

Part of a frame grab from the GoPro cam showing the forest that "Yeager" eventually landed in along with tthe Garrett house

One day, we will launch the HURRB payload in to the eye of a hurricane. It will be equipped with some of the best state-of-the-art video and GPS recording equipment on the planet. We will succeed in getting the payload up in to the eye of a hurricane, even if it takes years for the right one to come along.

Knowing that the equipment can not only handle the disaster that took place but that it can also be reliable in telling us where it landed is of paramount importance to our project. This was more than just about two guys who did not want to give up and needed an excuse to go in to the woods on a chilly, rainy December day. This was about proving that the science and technology work. That when the day comes that HURRB makes it out of the top of the eye of hurricane-X, that we know that when it lands again hours later, we will have a solid chance of finding it. Then we will get to witness something that no human has even seen before, not from these angles. Flying up the inside of the most powerful storm on Earth is a powerful motivator for us to make darn sure we can find the payload when the time comes. The fact that we finally found the CNN Yeager payload gives me hope that our HURRB project will one day make history.

This is why I say that, even in the face of failure, there is opportunity for success. We will learn from what went wrong and will utilize that knowledge as we move forward with the HURRB project. Then perhaps next hurricane season we will set HURRB free to embark on one of the coolest science projects ever attempted. I can’t wait to see how it turns out….

Have a blessed Christmas with your family and friends. Stay safe when traveling and I’ll have more here in the New Year.

Here is a time compressed video showing the launch up until just about when the payload began to break up. Questions about anything you read here? Send me an email: ms@hurricanetrack.com

 

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HurricaneTrack for iPhone and Android: An Overview

HurricaneTrack.com has been up and running since 1999. During that time frame, we have seen technology advance at an incredible pace. Now, the mobile app market is enormous and growing faster than ever. It is time for us to jump in and offer a mobile app for our audience.

HurricaneTrack Splash Screen

HurricaneTrack Splash Screen

During hurricane season, information is a valuable asset. Knowing what to expect is critical to planning and your general understanding of the impacts that a potential hurricane landfall will have on your life. You don’t have time to sift through site after site, searching for a simple, easy to understand explanation of where the hurricane is, where it is forecast to go and what conditions are expected when it gets there.

When a hurricane is forecast to make landfall along the U.S. coast, you want to know what is going on in the landfall region. You want to be kept up to date on the latest conditions with video reports and live weather data. This is the most important part of hurricane tracking: the landfall. This is when it matters the most to have reliable, accurate and up to date information. Who can you turn to? HurricaneTrack for iOS and Android (iPhone,iPod Touch, iPad and most Android phones and tablets) is your answer.

There are plenty of apps available that track hurricanes using maps, model plots, satellite photos, radar and more. We recommend Hurricane and Hurricane HD by KittyCode, LLC (disclaimer: we provide video content to KittyCode for use in their apps). The tools available in their app are remarkable and easy to use. There is a historic track database and a news feature that allows users to get the very latest tracking info on any tropical cyclone activity world-wide.

HurricaneTrack Homepage

HurricaneTrack Homepage

Now enter HurricaneTrack. What will make it stand out? While the app will feature our blog, a daily video blog, Twitter and Facebook feeds, it will become extremely useful when there is a hurricane or tropical storm threatening to make landfall along the U.S. coastline (and perhaps some international locations as well). The app will be the focal point for our field missions and deliver exclusive content that will help you to answer one very important question: what is going on where the hurricane is hitting?

From the moment we leave the drive way until the day we return, we’ll post video blogs to the app. No matter where we are or what we are doing, we can post a video blog within minutes, keeping our audience up to date every step of the way. If we get new recon data while heading down the Interstate, we can post that. If we run to evacuation traffic or get word of important, breaking news, we can post that and you will have immediate access, right in the app. We’re talking dozens and dozens of video posts. More importantly, we’re talking BEFORE, DURING and AFTER. You feel like you’re part of the field mission as post video blogs detailing what we are doing, what the conditions are, interviews with local officials and much more. The video blogs during our field missions will be an incredible way to keep up with not only our work but also the conditions where the hurricane is expected to make landfall. If it’s important to us, we’ll shoot it and post it to the app!

HurricaneTrack Live Weather Data

HurricaneTrack Live Weather Data

Next up is the field data. Only HurricaneTrack will offer LIVE weather data originating from our specially designed 5-meter wind towers. Users will have access to as many as three complete sets of live weather data PLUS a live web cam image from each tower. What’s more, and this is where the video blogs come in handy, we’ll post video showing where we set up each tower and why those locations are important to monitor.

The weather data is made up of wind speed and gust along with pressure. All of the instrumentation is from RM Young who produce some of the finest meteorological equipment in the world. We’re talking top-notch data here that will update every 60 seconds! Compare this to other weather data apps that may only update once per hour or maybe every 10 minutes. Only HurricaneTrack has wind towers specifically designed and set up to measure the hurricane that you are tracking. We choose where to place the towers to provide the best data possible and it will feed in to the app LIVE!

Last, but certainly not least, we’ll provide you with a live in-vehicle web cam image direct from the HurricaneTrack.com Chevy Tahoe. It will update at least once per minute with a shot right from the top of the Tahoe. You’ll see what we see. Add to that our live GPS tracking right in the app and you’ll know right where we are every moment of our field missions. This is important to know because we might be near your neighborhood or some other location that is important to you. So when we upload a video, you’ll know right where it came from. Also, knowing our location, you may wish to interact with us via Twitter or Facebook. Feel free to do so! We may not be able to respond to every interaction, but if you know where we are and want us to check out a certain area or provide info on something specific that might help you, just ask. If we have time and can do it safely, we’ll give it our best effort.

The bottom line is that our app will become an important part of your hurricane news and information tool kit. Whether it be our daily video blogs to keep you posted as to the latest goings on in the tropics or the live weather data and video blogs from the field, no other hurricane tracking app will give you as much useful information as HurricaneTrack. In short, it will be the essence of what we are all about: information.

How much will it cost? The app will be subscription based and available for $1.99 per month or $9.99 per year, unlimited use NO ADS. We have made it very affordable and feel that it will serve the needs of anyone who lives along the U.S. coast or who has interests in the areas that could be affected by hurricanes.

As for future upgrades and enhancements, we do plan to add our own tracking maps and model plots to future editions. For now, we wanted to roll out something that no one else offered and the live weather data, field mission video blogs and the multiple web cams/GPS tracking of our vehicle will be a great start. Just think, no matter where you are, if your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or Android powered device can access the Internet, you’ll be connected to the very best of our information and live data. We are very excited about the app and hope you will be too. As soon as we get approval from Apple and Google, we’ll let you know and officially debut HurricaneTrack. It should only be a matter of a few weeks now, hopefully less.

Any questions or comments? Please feel free to post here or email me.

 

 

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HurricaneTrack App for iPhone and Android coming soon

HurricaneTrack App

HurricaneTrack App

I wanted to post an update on our brand new app for iPhone and Android. Things are moving along nicely and we’re almost ready for submission to the App Store.

The app will be very specific in its features and will focus on being informative, educational and a powerful tool to use during hurricane landfalls. Here is a breakdown of the features:

Blog – it will contain our blog from this page which will be a handy way to keep up with our posts on your iPhone or Android device.

Daily video blog – each week day (when things are slow) I will post a short video blog outlining any potential development areas in the Atlantic or east Pacific. This will be a great way to keep up with the latest in graphical format with an easy to understand explanation. I can utilize this feature to educate our users about different aspects of tropical cyclones, preparedness, impacts of a pending landfall, etc. So when you’re waiting for the plane at DFW or ATL, you can sit back and catch up on the latest in the tropics using our app.

Twitter/Facebook – the app will have live Twitter and Facebook feeds, an important way for us to stay connected in short updates, especially when we’re on the road.

Web cam/GPS tracking from the Chevy Tahoe – this will be a really cool feature where users can track our progress on the road via a live web cam (still image, not live video) which will update at least once per minute. We’ll also have a GPS tracking map for you to know exactly where we are at anytime. This will be great for when we are uploading videos and pics, no guessing or wondering as to where we are.

Live weather data – this is likely to be one of the most popular features of the app and one that we are quite proud of. Users will have access to our live weather data and web cam pics from our three 5-meter wind towers that we will set up in the path of a hurricane. The data will include wind and pressure readings every 60 seconds! Each tower will also have a live camera sending still images to the app every minute as well. For those who really want to know what the wind speeds are, the pressure is and a look at the landscape where it is happening, this will be perfect for you!

Field mission video blogs – once we are out in the field working a landfall, our entire team will be able to post video blogs of anything that we find interesting or informative for you. We will use our iPhones to shoot the video segments and upload them immediately. We’ll do this before, during and especially after a landfall. There is no other app that will offer the amount of videos from the field than ours. You will be able to keep up with conditions in chronological order as we work the mission day by day. I am very excited about this powerful tool that will bring you the very best information right from where it matters the most.

So how much will it cost? We will roll out a subscription based app first followed by a free, ad-supported version. Both will offer the exact same features. Our hope is that our audience will support our work by subscribing to the app which will only be $1.99 per month. As they say, “you can cancel anytime”. But wait, there’s more! The app will be utilized during the off-season as well to provide a weekly weather outlook video as well as other interesting non-hurricane related news and activities. All in all, the app will be an extension of what we offer here and our more robust Client Services site. For those who are members of our subscription site and will also utilize our app, you will have the absolute best that we can possibly offer, covering you at all angles. We are very excited about the release of HurricaneTrack for iPhone and Android. We hope you are too. Any questions at all? Please post in comments or send an email. I’ll keep everyone posted as to when we expect it to be available in the App Store and Google Play.

 

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Android/Smartphone optimized pages coming to Client Services

In our modern world of iPhones, Android powered devices, tablets and portable, long lasting laptops, it is more important than ever for Web content to be available on such devices. As you know by now, we are introducing an iPhone app later this spring. It will contain a specific set of features that will serve the ever-growing iOS market. At the same time, we do not want to ignore the vast numbers of Android and other Smartphone device owners who use our site for news and information. We have a plan….

Beginning April 1, we will roll out a mobile version of our Client Services site, the subscription service that we offer for those wishing to access more features than we can offer on the free site. The cornerstone of our Client Services site is the live video ability. Since 2005, we have offered multiple live video feeds during our hurricane field missions. Since that time, we have added satellite and radar loops, live chat, a daily video blog (live broadcast and then archived) as well as many other features that have made the service the success that it is today.

Read more

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Official teaser trailer for the upcoming HurricaneTrack app

Wanted to a post a link to our official trailer for the upcoming HurricaneTrack app which is in development by our good friends at KittyCode. Enjoy!

 

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