Pi Powered Teddy Skydives
August 27, 2013

Pi-Powered Teddy Makes Record-Breaking Skydive

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

In October 2012, Felix Baumgartner jumped from a record-breaking 127,852 feet above the Earth's surface, and although this feat hasn't yet been matched by another man, it was by a teddy bear.

"Bionic Babbage" leapt from an estimated 127,953 feet above the Earth's surface on Saturday. The bear is a modified version of the Raspberry Pi mascot, equipped with a bionic eye and GPS. Raspberry Pi is an inexpensive, bare-bones computer that has been used by engineers and schools to create their own special tech projects.

Dave Akerman, a high altitude balloon enthusiast, spent just $460 to launch the bear nearly 24 miles above the Earth's surface. In order to send Babbage to space, his team had to add a GPS / radio tracker so the bear could be recovered, as well as take out one of the eyes and replace it with a Pi camera.

"This part of the operation was easier said than done – those eyes are very well fixed in so kiddies don’t pull them out and choke on them – and I had to use some decidedly non-surgical implements to complete the task," Akerman wrote in a Raspberry Pi blog.

After equipping the eye, Akerman said he installed a Model A Raspberry Pi, a GPS receiver, batteries and a radio transmitter. He placed the GPS receiver in Babbage's left ear and the two batteries down each leg. The teddy-bear engineer then added a camera to Babbage's capsule in order to replicate the shot Felix Baumgartner had as he leapt off the platform back towards Earth.

"He also needed a step to rest on, carefully sized so that once he is released (by cutting a supporting nylon cord) he wall-falls forward. The rest of the design was basically to join those items up with a box section to hold the tracker and batteries," Akerman wrote.

Bionic Babbage and his modifications helped to take some fantastic photographs that featured the curvature of the Earth. However, they still don't quite compare to the incredible footage that the Red Bull Stratos team was able to capture with Felix Baumgartner last year when he became the first man to ever break the sound barrier in free fall.

Data showed that Baumgartner spent four minutes and 20 seconds in free fall before opening up his shoot at about 5,000 feet above sea level. Felix had a bit of a scare during the free fall when he looked as though he was spinning out of control. However, he recovered from this roll and was able to stabilize himself as he moved towards the surface of Earth at a speed of 843.6 miles per hour, or Mach 1.25.