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Citation. Davis, M. A.; Johnson, G. W. 1991. A simple and inexpensive method of obtaining low-altitude photographs of vegetation using a tethered balloon. Prairie Naturalist 23(3):153-164. [1035 LTER]
Abstract. Simple and inexpensive methods of obtaining low-altitude photographs of vegetation (and other biological phenomena) are not widely known. In a study of spatial patterns of vegetation and disturbances in an oak savanna and woodland environment in Minnesota, we have used a camera attached to a tethered balloon to obtain photographs of areas ranging in size from 100 to 1000 m'. The balloon used is an inexpensive off-the-shelf model (1.67 m diameter). The balloon has a net lift of approximately 1500 g when hydrogen is used as the inflation gas. A camera and a radio receiver are mounted on a gimbal suspended beneath the balloon. The shutter is controlled from the ground with a radio controller system used for model cars. Camera height and horizontal position are established by means of a tether line held by an operator on the ground. The system should work well in virtually any vegetation type except closed canopy forests. When combined with other conventional overhead and aerial photography systems, the balloon system can be an important part of an integrated system of aerial reconnaissance and mapping at multiple spatial scales.
Keywords. Aerial photography, balloon photography, remote sensing, oak savanna, oak woodland