Review Article

Active Heading Control Platform for Instruments Flown on High Altitude Balloons

  • Andrew Kruger (Wilbur Wright College)
  • Robert Maksimowicz (Wilbur Wright College)
  • Mehrunisa Zaheer (Wilbur Wright College)
  • Alfredo Almaraz-Vega (Wilbur Wright College)
  • Jesus Urquiza (Wilbur Wright College)


Experiments flown on high-altitude balloons are typically free to spin without any control or information collected on the payload orientation during flight, limiting the scope of experiments that can be performed. Projects that include targeting (i.e. imaging the 2017 solar eclipse) have at best a random chance of succeeding, while video footage is often hard to watch due to high payload rotation rates. While passive stabilization reduces the rotation rate, active pointing control is necessary for continuous target acquisition. Here we discuss a project built by students at Wright College called the Controlled Heading Automation Device (CHAD) that actively controls the heading of other instruments (i.e. cameras) and has been proven to work in flight. This project is open-source, 3D printable, made from cheap DIY electronics, and has been made available online ( so the high-altitude ballooning community can create, use, and adapt it to their own projects. We show how to create an attitude and heading reference system (AHRS) that can be used to continuously record payload orientation, which can supplement experiments where pointing information is needed. We then show how to have CHAD use the AHRS to automatically control the heading of other instruments in real-time without any other inputs.

How to Cite:

Kruger, A., Maksimowicz, R., Zaheer, M., Almaraz-Vega, A. & Urquiza, J., (2021) “Active Heading Control Platform for Instruments Flown on High Altitude Balloons”, Journal of High Altitude Ballooning 1(1). doi:



Published on
09 Aug 2021
Peer Reviewed