In the past, I usually carry both my iPhone and iPad on chases. The iPhone offers navigation and tethering whilst the iPad offers a longer battery life than the laptop – useful for checking on the location of the balloon mid-flight. However, the spacenear.us tracker doesn’t run at all well on touch screen devices and this has somewhat prohibited using iDevices to track flights.

Coupled with this fact, I have always wanted to write an iOS app. I looked into app development just over a year ago but backed away after seeing how complex the code looked – certainly different from the C code I was learning. In the past year though, I have done rather a lot of programming. Initially learning the concepts of Object Oriented programming via a Java module in first year at University and then taking another more advanced Java module the beginning of this year (only to come out with 98%!). Having looked a quite a few languages over the past months, Objective C certainly didn’t seem as daunting as it once did. I was ready to give it another go.

I decided to create, as my first app, a high altitude balloon tracking app – rather ambitious! Just a few weeks after diving into Objective C and Cocoa I had my first prototype, and it worked rather well. I had turned my iOS devices into useful chase tools. Subsequently bundling in a ‘payload locator’ feature and chase car tracking (uploading position of chase car to spacenear.us tracker) it was now a HAB hub for iOS.

HABHUB iOS App

HABHUB iOS App

Feeling rather pleased having used knowledge of Java and OO concepts to quickly learn Objective C and then creating something that was of real use, I was keen to share it with the high altitude community. Given the community mostly comprises of Android users (I have had many a lecture about how Androids are far superior) I was sceptical as to how many people it would actually benefit – I thought, at most, 10 people would benefit. Turns out I was wrong – as of today over 35 people have downloaded the app! It’s available on the App Store under ‘HABHUB’ for both iPhone and iPad.

Having seen Dave Akerman’s chase car setup and, from past experience, finding it hard to track the balloon in-flight without an experienced HABist sitting in the passenger seat feeding locating and predicted landing updates, I wanted to put the HABHUB app I built to good use. Consulting Dave as to the best tablet in car mounting option, he recommended Brodit tablet mounts. After speaking to the great people over at Clove Technology they loved the project and sent me a free iPad mount – a big thanks to Clove!

I was eager to install it so this morning I set about the very fast and easy installation (Brodit make mounts unique to each car make to ensure a secure fit). Within minutes I had it secured onto the mini’s somewhat small dashboard.

Brodit iPad Mount

Brodit iPad Mount Fitted

Chase Car Setup

iPad running HABHUB app

After popping the iPad in and booting up the HABHUB app it quickly became apparent that it was going to be extremely useful during a balloon chase. Sitting at the right height and orientation to quickly see location information and plan the chase! Now I just need to get around to launching a balloon.

Hopefully not too long a wait as I have a couple of launches coming up soon, including the long-awaited HABE Lab flight. Stay tuned..