back to article Mighty trash-bag balloon cluster soars above Nevada

It's a tip of the hat this morning to Las Vegas high school student Manuja Gunaratne, who for just $50 managed to launch a helium balloon mission and return some impressive snaps of Nevada. The basic "T.B.A.C" (Trash Bag AirCraft) payload set-up was familiar enough: second-hand Canon digital camera, running a CHDK …


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  1. Colin Miller

    Any relation

    to Lawchair Larry?

    1. hplasm Silver badge

      Lawchair Larry-

      Friend and confidante of Judge Judy?

      1. Colin Miller

        I realised

        that I had made insufficient recent sacrifices to Tpyos shortly after pressing "Submit".

        'Tis always the way.

  2. The BigYin

    This... how we should be teaching our children.

  3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Now that is cool

    I'll doff my hat

    (the Tilley today, the Barmah is too hot in this weather)

    Later today, I will no doubt raise a glass as well

    1. ChrisC

      The secondary school I went to encouraged us all to do extra activities in the free periods between A-level lessons. One such activity was doing stuff just like this - we blagged a load of plastic clothes wrap from a dry cleaners, built a small camera platform to carry a compact 35mm and electromechanical shutter release (geared-down electric motor turning a cam which pushed down on the shutter every 10s or so, IIRC), filled the wrap with helium and flew it tethered to a reel of fishing line over the school grounds. We also built and flew model rockets, and learned how to make simple explosives... I guess turning the nanny state/security theatre/compensation culture clock back 20 years might be required before the kids of today get the chance to do stuff like this again :-(

  4. Sam Green
    Thumb Up

    That's pretty awesome. Are you supposed to inform air traffic control or anything if doing this in the UK?

  5. Sweep

    Trash bags, I want some trash bags! traaash baaaags, I want some traaash baaags!

  6. Remy Redert

    re: Any relation

    Seems unlikely. He didn't try to get himself killed with those helium balloons after all.

    1. Valerion


      Why would anyone downvote an A-Team quote?!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Downvoter: you are an ass

      To the foo' who downvoted the parent: The post you downvoted was a reference to an episode of "The A Team" in which Howlin' Mad Murdock uses a collection of trash bags to make a hot air balloon.

      (as noted in some later posts).

      You have my pity.

      1. Miek

        I guess they are just A-Team hating A-Holes.

    3. miknik


      If its going to be airbourne the CAA will want to know about it, and given the large amount of controlled airspace (especially in the south east) I can imagine they might not be too amenable to your idea

      1. Dr. Flenser

        Of course, in the US there are similar, if probably slightly less restrictive FAA restrictions. If you're a stickler for regulations, you can view the controlled airspace the balloon drifted through at (The launch site was near the Bank of America waypoint marked about 6 nautical miles northwest of McCarran Airport, the main Las Vegas airport.) One of the Reg article's photos is of "3 Fingers Lake" which is also a marked waypoint on the chart. The areas to the north are major jet fighter training ranges, which abut the nuclear test site and the famous Area 51. There's a SPOT-generated map of the balloon's path on the project's site so you can count the number of airspaces violated :-) There is a lot of wide-open space in Nevada, but this isn't it :-( On the positive side, the airspace is busy enough there that pilots usually have their eyes open for stealth aircraft of all sorts.

    4. Miek

      I believe that you will need a license to take aerial photographs from an air-bourne craft (over a certain altitude - 300 ft I think) as it is considered a form of surveillance. Though, you may wish to check this with the relevant authority rather than taking my word for it.

      1. miknik

        aerial photography

        No restrictions on taking photos from UK registered aircraft unless its for remuneration. If your balloon weighs more than 7kg and you are taking photos from it for money you will need written permission for that from the CAA.

  7. ElbowNi


    Good job he didn't try that in Wales, each of the bags would have cost him 5p it would have killed his budget!

  8. Tom 13

    So Mad Dog Murdock wasn't as completely

    of his rocker as BA thought when he did the trash bag thing. Still, the tv episode would probably make a great Mythbusters episode.

  9. Graham Bartlett

    Photo of city

    Grid patterns... I can never get over how US cities all look like Sim City!

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Not just the cities, the entire country is pretty much in grid pattern. Scary.

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

        But give him credit

        He scored a great photo of a textbook alluvial fan.

        Sorry it's the geologist in me...

      2. Mediocrates Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Grid Pattern

        That's just a manifestation of our Hive Mind (tm).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Words Fail Me...

    This is what science is all about, well done, I salute you Sir; People like you are the future!

  11. Fred Goldstein

    Area 51 UFO?

    The locals seeing this fly by must have wondered if yet another UFO was in the Nevada skies, in the neighborhood of Area 51. Unidentified flying what?

  12. J. Cook Silver badge

    Oh, wow...

    That's just awesome.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Any rumours of black bag operations is pure rubbish! Just trash talk.

  13. Jacob Lipman
    Thumb Up


    Oh yeah, flying weird looking shit in Nevada without radio comms can get you in trouble. Surprised he didn't get a surprise helicopter escort, following a surprise fighter escort that kept getting past him before they could see what the hell he was. Awesome idea, hope he doesn't have the feds crawling up his ass for encroaching on restricted airspace! This is the kind of creativity seen through to completion that we need to see more of!

  14. Wombling_Free
    Black Helicopters

    Are you certain this ain't terrorism?

    How do you avoid getting summonsed by the FAA / FBI on hazard-to-aircraft terrorism charges?

    I'm just saying...

  15. Displacement Activity
    Thumb Down


    So Nevada looks like a crappy desert. Big deal. I hate to be a party pooper, but I've found 30 helium balloons on an otherwise pristine sandbank off the North Norfolk coast since March this year. And a completely indestructible sealed plastic bottle with a message in it. On the plus side, though, at least I'll have something to put the crap in when binbags start falling out of the sky.

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