Tracking wildfires…and anything else…with micro balloons

Inflating one of their “little” balloons to check for leaks

Urban Sky, a Colorado-based company focused on collecting images and data of the Earth using small stratospheric balloons, says it is officially entering commercial operations after three years of operating partly in stealth and raising funding. The company says it is ready to start serving customers with its balloons, which can be deployed from the back of a pickup truck and ascend into the sky in just minutes.

Specifically, the company offers what it calls “microballoons,” high-altitude balloons that can float to the stratosphere carrying a small payload and maintain a constant position over an area. About the size of a Volkswagen bus at launch, these balloons ultimately inflate to be the size of a small car garage in the air. That’s much smaller than a typical stratospheric balloon, which could engulf an entire football stadium when fully inflated…

Urban Sky envisions its technology being used for things like real-time wildfire monitoring, environmental changes, storm-related property damage, and more at a lower cost than comparable satellite imagery. After conducting roughly 50 flight tests, Urban Sky’s founders say they are ready to start deploying their product regularly, offering imagery with resolution of 10 centimeters per pixel. “We’re at a technology maturity level, where if a customer calls us and says, ‘I want imagery over this area in the Rocky Mountain region,’ we can deploy and go get it…”

They launch these critters from a pickup truck.

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