how are hot-air balloons navigated?

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how are hot-air balloons navigated?

In: Engineering
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Aviators weather reports will provide anticipated wind speed and direction at different altitudes, so to some extent you can control which prevailing wind you are in by changing altitude. In general though, you are entirely at the mercy of the wind, so ballon journeys are hops in a single direction planned in advance in accordance with the wind direction.

You need a good knowledge of meteorology so you can make observations and predict the way the winds travel at different altitudes. A lot of times wind might go around mountains and other terrain features or you might have different air layers with different winds so the air can move in different directions at different altitudes. An experienced balloon pilot will be able to predict these different winds or just experiment though them and find the right altitude where the winds take him where he needs to go. But if you are under the impression that a hot air balloon can travel in any direction the pilot wants you are mistaken. The level of control is enough to land it safely but in order to get where you are going you need to pay attention to the weather forecast beforehand and pick a take off spot carefully so that the wind actually take you there. But this is perfectly fine for sight seeing tours and such.

They aren’t, they go wherever the wind blows.

They can control their altitude but they cannot control their direction.

Hot air balloons will often have a chase car that follows them wherever they go to be ready to pick the balloonists and their balloon up when it lands.

There really isn’t much navigating they can do, other than up and down to catch the wind. Generally they choose a launch site based on the direction of the wind to make sure they will go in a direction with a known safe landing area.

The pilots have to feel the wind. Many balloons go up in groups and the lead balloon will direct others to various altitudes, because wind speeds vary by altitude, so the group can navigate more effectively.