At the International Microwave Symposium 2014, National Instruments used a wireless signal to control the flight of a balloon.
If you've ever been to an engineering trade show, then you've probably seen mechanical equipment or robots in motion under software control. You may have even seen wireless-controlled robots flying around the exhibit hall. If you happened to be at IMS2014, then you may have seen a Mylar balloon, controlled by a wireless link, floating around.
That's what engineers at National Instruments designed to demonstrate its NI USRP-2920, a 50-MHz to 2.2-GHz software radio. The radio is primarily an educational tool that gives students experience designing and prototyping software radios with LabVIEW. This particular unit was using 904 MHz.
The black base station in the photo below contained controls for the radio to send to the balloon's controller and it also charged the controller receiver's battery.
The video below shows the balloon in flight.
—Martin Rowe, Senior Technical Editor