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The WINDSOCK by Custom Craft Electronic Pibal System.

immage of Windsock Pibal Tacking System

The Windsock Electronic Pilot Balloon system is currently in production and  development is continuing.  It is one of the most affordable and easy to use systems available today.  The Windsock electronic pilot balloon tracking and data processing system is designed principally for use by Hot Air Balloonists to determine upper air wind direction and velocity.   Oddly enough the need to supply manned balloonists with upper air measurements was the reason for developing pibal techniques over 100 years ago!   

The Windsock system includes two major elements:   "Windsock" itself which consists of the Windsock software and an HP 48G+ programmable calculator (with the software pre-installed)  and the "Windsock Electronic Theodolite" (WET) - an electronic altitude azimuth sensor and a serial cable to connect the WET to the Windsock (the HP 48G+ with the software).   The two elements are available separately.  HP is replacing the 48G+ and 48GX calculators with the 48GII calculator.  Windsock will soon be available on this platform with even faster performance.

image of widsock electronic theodolite mounted on pistol grip with rifle scopeimage of HP Infrared Printer
Photo courtesy of Custom Craft

Optional equipment includes a wireless (infrared) printer, a pistol grip for the WET and a scope for the pistol grip, which aid in keeping the theodolite aimed at the balloon.  Note that the WED is offset from the vertical axis of the scope by 45 degrees.  The WET is optimized for this orientation.  

The Electronic Theodolite runs on a single 9 Volt Battery, the HP 48G+ runs on three AAA batteries, the optional printer which uses 4 AA batteries or an AC adapter.    

Features of the "Windsock" system (Software and HP 48G+):

Customizable Pibal Timer including variable periods, provides beeping prompts.
Ascent rate prediction (using balloon weight and free lift).
HP 48G+ retains all of its power native programmable scientific calculator functions.
Pibal Ascent Data Entry and Processing:
Flexible parameters such as units (metric, statute etc.). 
Customizable Ascent rates including variable rates.
Many other customizable feature such as declination, altitude etc.
Data output:
Display (and print) table for vertical wind profile with Height, Direction, Speed.
Display (and print) pibal's ground track.
Information can be saved for later recall from the calculators memory.

Futures of the Windsock Electronic Theodolite (WET):

Three Axis Compass (azimuth readings are not degraded by tilting).
Electronic inclinometer (measures elevation).
Use of solid state parts and microprocessor eliminates mechanical gimbals and universal joints.
Standard Serial port with DB9 connector.

Features of linked Windsock and Windsock Electronic Theodolite:

Calibration of the WET.
Automatic data logging of WET positioning (the azimuth and elevation of the WET).
User need only start the timer release the balloon and keep WET pointed at the balloon through the ascent.  
The system will do the rest leading to a complete wind profile (and print out with optional printer).
Wind profiles can be saved for later recall.

For users wishing to use conventional pilot balloon theodolites, (or compass, clinometers, sextants... etc.) to make balloon observations,  the Windsock programs and HP 48G+ can be purchased without the Windsock Electronic Theodolite for $ 345.00.  The Winsock will function as a sophisticated pibal timer, then allow manual entry of observations from which it will produce a complete wind profile and graph.  

The Winsock Electronic Theodolite is available separately  to add on to an existing Windsock (or for use with other data acquisition and processing systems) for $ 1,295.00. 

For more information contact:
Bob Summersett
Custom Craft Inc.
4204 Hidden Canyon Cove
Austin,TX 78746 U.S.A.
Tel: 512-306-7218, Fax: 512-306-7219
Email: info@customcraftcorp.com
Website: www.customcraftcorp.com

image James Long with Windsock on Theodolite
image of James Long reading windsock and theodolite
Windsock Electronic Theodolite Mounting system for Warren-Knight Theodolite Concept by Martin Brenner, Engineered by James A. Long - pictured above

Here are two views of the Windsock and Windsock Electronic Theodolite added to a conventional Pilot Balloon Theodolite.  This system above was used with great success at the 2003 World Aerobatic Championships in Lakeland Florida.  

Additional Links for Windsock (Note that the contact and price information in these links is outdated)

Balloon Life Product Announcement  
Balloon Life Article by Bob Summersett 
Balloon Life Review of Windsock by Glen Moyer