Well, another year and another competition go by the wayside.
This year was much more successful than last. We made some progress in the fact that we actually got the system deployed to 1200 meters this year first of all.
Second, we had some climbers actually make it to this height and come back safely. Highest speed was around 10 m/s average climb speed. Raw data can be seen here. And official results can be seen here.
This data was taken by a variety of sensors in a 1kg payload that all teams used to help get more accurate data on the climbs.
There were about 15 teams and we had quite a few runs at lower heights, but only 5 made the final 1200m run on the final day.
All in all, other than needing to cut down a bunch of trees to clear some of the field near mount Fuji, everything went pretty smoothly.
There was one fire and one damaged battery, but no injuries other than bug bites that I can recall.
It is always fun to see the students working hard to make their climbers work as they have done each year. But it was good to see the tethered balloon system work as planned since we had some unfortunate mishaps (BOOM!) last year.
Hopefully soon there will be a video available to see some live footage as well.
There was some media coverage in one of the national magazines here and also by some local papers. We continue to garner support of all who are interested in seeing this project move forward.
Of course as you do, you learn, and we find that to be the case again this year. And we wait to see what height (2000-3000m?) and what lessons will be learned in the next. I find myself contemplating more and more use-cases for tethered balloon systems, and welcome any ideas/comments to that effect. I have yet to come up with anything that would immediately be economically feasible, but believe they do exist.
In the end though, the biggest bottleneck in any balloon system I believe is the maintenance and running costs that would be needed.
I think if we could make a self-sustaining hot-air balloon (at least during the day), this would be a large step toward changing existing balloon systems and the potential applications of them. Of course there would be degradation of the system, but just getting any significant progress on a self-sustaining hot-air balloon would be a huge accomplishment.