Stephen Dechert's weather balloon captures great high-altitude photos of South Florida

Photos taken high above South Florida

LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. - Wellington resident Stephen Dechert, with some help from a friend and his family members, launched a weather balloon from a park in Loxahatchee, Florida on Saturday.

Dechert did some research on the internet and purchased a weather balloon and a military pilot parachute from internet websites Amazon and eBay.

He says he was careful to follow FAA regulations during the flight.

Dechert purchased a mobile phone specifically for the balloon's journey and installed tracking software on it.

He bundled the phone with a GoPro Hero 3 camera, that was set to snap a photo every 10 seconds, in a medical cooler attached to the balloon.

Dechert glued everything inside the cooler down to keep it from moving and attached an external battery to the phone to keep it running longer.

He entered a few calculations into a trajectory program the night before, attempting to predict where the balloon might land.

PHOTOS: Camera flies REALLY high over South Florida (

Once he noticed that the balloon was descending, Dechert and his friends drove to the spot where it should land, but soon noticed that the balloon was blowing out over the Atlantic ocean.

"We ran home and as fast as we could packed up everything and loaded up my waverunner and I went out to find it while my wife, Dad, and friend were back at the dock texting me the coordinates to my phone (which was in a Ziplock baggie) so I could update my tracking app and go right to it. When I got to where it said it should be I looked around and it was about 50 yards floating to my right. I sent a blurry pic of the container in my lap as I headed back trying to get out of the storm and they said they were cheering at the dock," Dechert said.

Dechert describes his inspiration for the project, "I saw pictures of this type of project before from a whole group of students for MIT do it and said if they can do it I can do it with no problem. I really wanted to hang a picture like that up in my house but I wanted to be the one to take it. So when people ask I can tell them I took that not I got that offline."

He hopes to have a career in the field of aerospace technology, saying, "I want to work for a local company in this field but don't know how to even get started. I absolutely love everything dealing with meteorology, space, and aviation. I graduated from Wellington High in 2005 with a certificate of completion of 4 years of aerospace technology."


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