This was the very first launch of the pico tracker. It was an overall success as the tracker functioned perfectly until the battery was fully discharged.

It was a joint launch with SUSF and CUSF from EMF Camp on 31st August 2014.

The Board

During the first revision board bring-up we found that the DFLL inside the Atmel SAM D20 was hilariously unsuitable for generating the HF clock. To be quite fair to Atmel it is made clear that the DFLL was not at all designed for this.

To work around this a 16MHz crystal was soldered - dead bug style - onto the radio’s crystal driver. This wasn’t ideal, but at least the clock jitter was vaguely reasonable!

The pico tracker before launch

The pico tracker before launch. A small piece of cardboard has been placed on the battery so that tracker can be kept de-activated.


With all three payloads active and attached to a 100g balloon, the flight was ready to go.

The balloon about to be released

Phil Crump from SUSF about to release the balloon.




  • Total distance traveled: 306.4km
  • Great circle distance: 298.9km
  • Maximum altitude: 23.7km
  • Countries passed through: gb fr

The assent rate was much lower that planned: It averaged about 1.1ms-1 for most of the flight.

Lessons learnt

  • Batteries do not give their full capacity in flight. An attempt at power saving is required!
  • Measuring temperature in flight is useful. We didn’t have time to add this before launch.


Thank you to all listeners who tracked this flight!

Callsign Telemetry Lines Received Longest Path
G0WXI gb 633 309.2km
G8KNN gb 517 305.3km
G8FJG gb 499 165.7km
G6SUQ gb 366 121.4km
M0ZBU gb 330 87.2km
F1OIL fr 309 190.6km
G0TDJ gb 273 130.1km
G8IMN gb 238 225.9km
G0HDI 198 130.1km
G6GZH-M gb 186 86.5km
G8NWC gb 148 250.2km
F4FWT fr 134 164.8km
G8DHE gb 129 101.6km
PD3T nl 128 365.1km
F4FWT-1 fr 50 181.8km
SWL014 fr 39 261.9km
maxmed gb 30 37.0km
F5APQ fr 13 207.1km
JP404 gb 11 17.3km
m6dnu 10
PE1CME nl 5 464.1km
G4YHE gb 1 21.8km
G8ZBJ gb 1 161.1km