Giant leap for Pi-powered teddy bear
- 26 August 2013
- From the section Technology
A soft toy controlled by a Raspberry Pi computer has recreated Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking skydive.
Mr Baumgartner made the furthest freefall in October 2012, from a balloon almost 39km (24 miles) high.
A bear called Babbage has now leapt from a similar height after ascending beneath a hydrogen-filled balloon.
The Raspberry Pi low-cost micro-computer inside Babbage transmitted his position and shot stills and video throughout the flight and descent.
The robot Babbage was created by high-altitude ballooning enthusiast Dave Akerman, who has used the Pi as the control centre on other flights.
Babbage the bear is the official mascot of the Raspberry Pi project. The bare-bones computer was created to serve as an introduction to computers for children, but it has become a favourite among hobbyists who use it to control their home-brewed tech projects.
The Babbage flight is one of the more ambitious projects centred on the Pi and shows what the low-cost computer can do.
The launch site was a field near Mr Akerman's home north of Newbury, Berkshire.
Take off was at 12:25 GMT on 26 August. Babbage drifted south-west during his flight and rose to a height of just over 39km - slightly higher than Mr Baumgartner's record of 38,969m.
Mr Akerman made a cradle that Babbage sat on during the flight that was equipped with another camera that shot images similar to those taken over the shoulder of Mr Baumgartner before he jumped.
The Raspberry Pi inside the bear and his cradle switched from stills to video to record the moment when the toy fell off the cradle and started its descent.
On the Babbage flight, the Pi inside the bear's body logged altitude, shot footage and transmitted it back to the ground. It also constantly broadcast the craft's location so the flight could be mapped and the pioneering toy retrieved. Many people followed the flight online via the streaming video feed sent back by Babbage.
Mr Akerman said the whole flight had gone "brilliantly".
"It released on time at just above 39km," he told the BBC, adding that a firing mechanism on the balloon was set to triggered just above that altitude. "Now," he said, "we just need to get all the bits back."
Babbage landed at about 16:00 GMT, in a field a couple of miles south of Shaftesbury.
During his descent, Babbage had been pursued by Mr Akerman and helpers in a chase car, and he was found at about 17:26 GMT.