Firmly tethered, the SkyWatch A300 Aerostat floated happily in the blue skies over Balmoral Show 2014 while tens of thousands of visitors enjoyed three days of agricultural displays and shopping.
Combined with over-flights by SkyWatch pilots in the Foxbat fixed wing aircraft, the aerostat, donated by local company Search Systems, provided a live feed of traffic updates around the site, making it easier for organisers and ground staff to manage queues, blockages and gates. Feeding video directly back to the control room or at longer range to ground crew with a radio relay, the aerial feedback trial proved both successful for the Balmoral Show and SkyWatch NI.
With flights covering a wide area in the morning during rush hour and the aerostat providing local imagery of the car parking and inroads, SkyWatch was able to provide invaluable feedback throughout the three day show.
The balloon also proved popular with families and children, attracting a lot of attention and debate regarding it’s purpose. Most discussion centred around having a camera or being a weather balloon.
Other ideas put forward were having someone inside the balloon, which would be a lot of fun, but a balloon of this size (3.6 cubic metres) is only capable of lifting 1.5kgs.
An unexpected but very welcome use for the balloon also arose on the last day when people were finding it difficult to locate their cars. By photographing the car park and zooming into the images we could locate the occasional, distinctly coloured vehicle. Ultimately that job still remained most effective with the folks from EventSec on the ground who provided site security and parking management.