First Balloon Used For Observation - History

First Balloon Used For Observation - History

During the war between France and Austria, French forces successfully used a balloon for aerial observation for the first time. The balloon, called "L'Entreprenant" was piloted by Captain Charles Coutelle and carried General Morlot inside as an observor. In the battle at Fleuras, the French balloon was used to observe the movements of the Austrian forces. The observation gave the French a battlefield advantage, that led to their victory.

First Balloon Used For Observation - History

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History of Balloons in Warfare

The use of airborne devices to fight wars is much older than many people realise. Prior to balloons the humble kite was modified and redesigned many times by various nationalities notably the Chinese. Ancient Chinese tales talk about large kites that could lift a man and give him an aerial view of the battleground. Other kites were launched with strings that vibrated and the the intention was to make sounds that would frighten the enemy. Kites were used by the Chinese for signalling and even to drop a primitive form of propaganda leaflet on the enemy.

The first time an aerial device was used in sea borne warfare with absolute certainty was that of the British 32 gun Frigate Pallas commanded by Thomas Lord Cochrane in the Bay of Biscay in 1806.

This ship towed kites from the ship and flew them over the French Coast, they contained a series of printed documents addressed to the French people and were clearly propaganda. They were released over French soil by use of a match to burn through the string and release the documents into the sky.

Russian claims that a manned hot air balloon flight took place on 17th November 1731 exist. The claim is that a Mr Kriakoutny flew a balloon made of ox hides from Ryazan town square and landed in the church bell tower. He was beaten by superstitious peasants for his efforts.

The balloon was introduced in Europe in the late 18th Century. Montgolfier held his first demonstration at 18 Rue Saint-Etienne. Avignon,of a hot air balloon and model on 25th November 1782 with a silk cube and a paper fire to generate the heat.

Experimentation with balloons was a feature of the work of the brothers Etienne Jaques and Joseph Mitchel de Montgolfier, the concept that heated air could lift things had been around for centuries. On 4th June 1873 the brothers gave the first public demonstration of a balloon, although they had been experimenting for the past year. Andre Giroud de Vilette who ascended with Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozierand thus became one of the first three men to go up in a balloon on the 17th October 1783, wrote to Le Journal de Paris, stating that man-lifting balloons could be "valuable for observing the movement of armies."

The Montgolfier balloon had been inflated with hot air but between the June demonstration and the manned ascent in October the first hydrogen inflated balloon had flown only eleven days later. This was due to the efforts of Jaques Alexander Cesar Charles.

Some consider him to be the true father of the balloon. As an observation platform it was clear that the balloon could be used to see far distances and Montgolfier spoke of how an observer could see "the course of vessels 25 or even 30 leagues distant".

It was a decade later that a balloon was to become used for the first time as a military tool. On April 2 1794 a decree of the Revolutionary France's Committee of Public Safety created the worlds very first "air force". The fledgling unit was called the "Compagnie d'Aerostiers"

The force numbered between 20-30 men with very distinctive uniforms were able to launch a balloon for the first time in the history of warfare when having a border fight with the Austrians on 2nd June 1794, at the siege of Maubeuge. On the 23rd June the balloon was used at Siege of Charleroi and also on the 26th June 1794 the balloon was used at a major battle at Fleurus.

Jaques Alexander Cesar Charles worked on the engineering principles in balloon aviation, he developed the standard ideas of using ballast, valving of gas, and using a net to enclose the flotation envelope. He worked together with Antoine Lavoisier and Guyton Morveau to develop portable hydrogen generators that could be used in the field. Due to a shortage of sulphur in France as it was required for gunpowder manufacture, they could not use Sulphuric Acid and Zinc and it was Lavoisier who devised a system to generate hydrogen by passing steam over red hot iron.

This system was improved by Jean Marie Joseph Coutelle a colleague of Lavoisire who later went on to command the Compagnie d'Aerostiers.This improvement was vital in the decision to take balloons into warfare in the field. Although in WWI the use of Zinc and Sulphuric acid became the standard generating system.

In June 1794 a second company of Compagnie d'Aerostiers was formed and in October 19794 the first school of military aeronautics was established. Thus the balloon and warfare now had a definite future and their destinies would be entwined for several centuries.

Hot Air Ballooning

An Englishman, Henry Cavendish, using a combination of sulphuric acid and iron, discovers hydrogen.

Jacques Charles launches The Globe an unmanned hydrogen balloon, which traveled 15 miles and reached an altitude of 3000 feet. The balloon landed in Gonesse where the locals attacked the balloon with pitchforks, destroying it.

September 19th, 1783

A sheep, a duck and a rooster become the first passengers in a hot air balloon. The Montgolfier brothers, Jacques Etienne and Joseph Michel, launched a balloon made of paper and cloth after Louis XVI had decreed that the first flight should be flown with animals. The balloon rose to about 6000 feet, and landed safely.

November 21st, 1783

The first recorded manned flight in a hot air balloon took place in Paris. Built from paper and silk by the Montgolfier brothers, this balloon was piloted on a 22 minute flight by Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis Fran?ois-Laurent d'Arlandes. From the center of Paris they ascended 500 feet above the roof tops before eventually landing about 6 miles away in the vineyards. Local farmers were very suspicious of this fiery dragon descending from the sky. The pilots offered champagne to placate them and to celebrate the flight, a tradition carried on by balloonists to this day.

December 1st, 1783

The first manned gas balloon is launched by Jacques Alexander Charles and Nicholas Louis Robert. Starting in Paris, the flight lasted 2 1/2 hours and covered a distance of 25 miles. Upon landing, Robert stepped out of the basket, which caused the balloon to rise again, this time to about 9000 feet. Charles later landed safely. Today, in France, gas balloons are known as Charliers and hot air balloons are known as Montgolfiers.

January 19th, 1784

In Lyon, France, the only recorded flight by Joseph Montgolfier is made in a balloon that had a cubic capacity of over 700,000 cubic feet. This would equate to a passenger capacity of around 30 people! It was one of the largest balloons ever made. The flight only lasted 20 minutes due to a rip in the fabric.

September 15th, 1784

An Italian, Vincenzo Lunardi, makes the first balloon flight in England. The 18,000 cubic foot balloon flew from the Artillery grounds at Moorfields and landed in Long Mead, near Ware. His passengers included a dog, a cat and a pigeon (in a cage).

November 30th, 1784

Launching their balloon from Rhedarium Garden, London, another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Blanchard and an American, John Jeffries, make their first flight. On January 7th, 1785 the same team of Blanchard and Jeffries became the first to fly across the English Channel.

June 15th, 1785

The first casualties from ballooning occur when a hybrid gas/hot-air balloon piloted by Jean-Fran?ois Pil?tre de Rozier and his passenger, one M. Romaine catches fire and explodes while attempting an English Channel crossing. Today, hybrid balloons (using a combination of gas and hot air lift) are known as "Roziers"

January 9th, 1793

The first flight of a balloon in America occurs in Philadelphia from the Walnut Street Prison Yard and is piloted by Jean Pierre Blanchard. Blanchard had also flown the first ascents in Germany, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland.

Early 1800's

American aeronauts, including Charles Durant, Thaddeus Lowe, John La Mountain, Rufus Wells and John Wise continue to design, construct and fly both gas and hot air balloons.

Jacques Garnerin celebrates Napoleon's coronation by launching an unmanned balloon, ablaze with lights from the city of Paris. Unfortunately, it crashed into a statue of Nero outside of Rome, which was considered a personal insult by Napoleon. During this same timeframe, Joseph Gay-Lussac flew to about 20,000 feet and recorded scientific observations of the atmosphere.

Tethered gas balloons are used by both sides during the American Civil War for observation of troop movements. Balloons had been used for this purpose as early as 1794 in France.


Balloons are used to carry refugees and mail out of Paris during the siege of that city by Prusso-German forces. 100 people escape, along with over 2 million letters.

July, 1897

Swedish aeronaut Salomon Andree makes an attempt to reach the North Pole in a balloon named Eagle. A message sent by carrier pigeon on the third day was the only news. 33 years later, the remains of the crew were discovered by Norwegian explorers.

James Gordon Bennett, a New York newspaper owner, sponsors a silver trophy for a long distance international balloon race. The first race started in Paris, and was won by an American, Frank Lahm, who landed after 22 hours in Yorkshire, England. By the terms of the race, the winner's country was the host for the next year's race, which was held in St. Louis in 1907. 26 races were held between 1906 and 1938, in 6 different nations. The race was revived in 1979 and continues today as the premier gas balloon race in the world.

Auguste Piccard invents the airtight cabin, based on the bathysphere, enabling him and an assistant to ascend to 51,775 feet. In 1932 he flew to 53,152 feet to study cosmic rays.

October 3, 1934

Jeannette Piccard, pilots a balloon with her husband Jean (Auguste's twin brother) aboard to 57,579 feet for cosmic ray studies and lands safely.

November 11, 1935

A. W. Stephens and O. A. Anderson reach a height of over 74,000 feet in a huge (3.7 million cubic feet) helium balloon Explorer II. They launch from the "stratobowl" in South Dakota, later to be the scene of the first successful modern hot air balloon flight. For the first time in history, it is proven that humans can travel and survive in a pressurized chamber at extremely high altitudes. This flight sets a milestone for aviation and paves the way for future space travel and the concept of manned flight in space. The highly publicized flight is also able to carry live radio broadcasts from the balloon.

Don Piccard, son of Jean and Jeannette Piccard, used a military surplus Japanese gas balloon for what was probably the first post-war free balloon flight, ushering in the modern era of ballooning. Mr. Piccard made his first balloon flight in 1933.

Commander Malcolm Ross and Lieutenant Commander Victor A. Prather of the U.S. Navy ascend to 113,739.9 feet in 'Lee Lewis Memorial' a polyethylene balloon. They land in the Gulf of Mexico where, with his pressure suit filling with water, and unable to stay afloat, Prather drowns.

Double Eagle II, a helium balloon carrying Ben Abruzzo, Maxie Anderson, and Larry Newman, becomes the first balloon to cross the Atlantic. A new duration record is set with a flight time of 137 hours.

First Balloon to Cross the Pacific: 13-storey high Double Eagle V, piloted by Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman, Ron Clark and Rocky Aoki of Japan, launches from Nagashimi, Japan on November 10 and and lands 84 hours, 31 minutes later in Mendocino National Forest in California. A new distance record is set at 5,768 miles.

First Solo Transatlantic Balloon Flight: Joe Kittinger flies 3,535 miles from Caribou, Maine to Savona, Italy in his helium-filled balloon 'Rosie O'Grady's Balloon of Peace.'

First Hot Air Balloon to Cross the Atlantic: Per Lindstrand and Richard Branson fly a distance of 2,900 miles in 33 hours and set a new record for hot air ballooning. The balloon, at the time, is the largest ever flown at 2.3 million cubic feet of capacity.

Hot Air High Altitude Record: Per Lindstrand sets a solo world record of 65,000 feet for the greatest height ever reached by a hot air balloon.

First Hot Air Balloon to Cross the Pacific: Per Lindstrand and Richard Branson become the first to traverse the Pacific by hot air balloon, reaching speeds in the jet stream of up to 245 mph, in their 'Otsuka Flyer,' which travels 6,700 miles in 46 hours. They fly from Japan to Arctic Canada and break the world distance record.

Duration Record Set: Richard Abruzzo, son of previous record-breaker Ben Abruzzo, and Troy Bradley, now currently making his own around-the-world bid with his 'Odyssey' project, fly 144 hours, 16 minutes from Bangor, Maine to Morocco in a De Rozier balloon.

First Solo Transpacific Balloon Flight: February 14-17, Steve Fossett, another around-the-world contender with his Solo Challenger project, launches from Seoul,? Korea and flies 4 long days to Mendham, Saskatchawan, Canada.

First Balloon Used For Observation - History

Taking the ultimate high ground in trench warfare

A balloon apron is suspended to defend London from air attacks.

Image: Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Hot air balloons and dirigibles were first used for military reconnaissance in the French Revolutionary Wars, and were deployed in numerous conflicts of the 19th century.

Observation balloons were critical assets to both sides in World War I. Newly developed oblong dirigibles were more maneuverable and hardy than traditional hot air balloons, and were a constant sight above the trenches of the Western Front.

An observation balloon would typically be floated to a great height behind the front lines, where an observer could locate distant enemy targets and relay their positions to artillery on the ground.

These balloons were tempting targets for fighter planes, and so were heavily defended by ground-based anti-aircraft emplacements. If a balloon came under attack, its occupant would bail out, with a parachute automatically deploying upon leaving the basket.

Balloons were also used in a defensive capacity. Barrage balloons were deployed above planes' operational ceilings to defend important sites. Heavy metal cables would be strung below the balloons, forcing enemy aircraft to avoid colliding with them. London was defended with a formidable array of metal nets which frustrated many bombing attempts.

French soldiers with cylinders of hydrogen used to inflate observation balloons.

Image: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

German soldiers generate power to inflate an observation balloon.

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

German soldiers inflate an observation balloon.

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

An Australian Royal Flying Corps balloon on the western front in Belgium.

Image: Australian War Memorial

A row of barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets in Brindisi, Italy.

Image: Australian War Memorial

Australian soldiers watch an observation balloon ascend over Ypres, Belgium.

Image: Australian War Memorial

Hydrogen is pumped into an observation balloon to inflate it.

Image: Jacques Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

A German observation balloon fitted with a long-distance camera.

Image: Australian War Memorial

An observation balloon is inflated near Ypres, Belgium.

Image: Australian War Memorial

An observation balloon is launched near Ypres, Belgium to spot enemy artillery.

Image: Australian War Memorial

An observation balloon above the ruins of Ypres, Belgium.

Image: Australian War Memorial

An observation balloon is prepared for ascent in Ypres, Belgium.

Image: Australian War Memorial

An officer prepares to ascend in an observation balloon near the ruins of Ypres, Belgium.

Image: Australian War Memorial

A German observation balloon in flight.

Image: Jacques Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

An observation balloon ascends on the French front.

Image: Neurdein/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

German soldiers help a high-altitude observer remove his heavy clothes.

Image: Jacques Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

A balloon burns on the ground after a German aerial attack.

Image: Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty images

A German observer leaps from his balloon with a parachute.

Image: Australian War Memorial

An observer is disentangled from a tree after parachuting from his balloon.

The 1960's through the 1980's

To ease the workloads required for taking a rawinsonde sounding, development of computerized reduction of rawinsonde data began during the late 1960's and early 1970's. By the 1980's, technological advances in telemetry and computers made rawinsonde observations almost fully automated. This significantly reduced manual involvement in taking rawinsonde observations. In the mid-1980's the NWS made significant progress in automation. Through the use of a Personal Computer (PC) and interfaces to automatically acquire, process, and disseminate flight data, upper-air observations could be performed with minimal human intervention. The rawinsonde observation had become a one-person operation, with the time required for processing data reduced to less than 1 staff hour and with improved data quality.

In parallel with the advances in computerized data processing came new techniques for determining winds aloft. Rawinsonde systems were developed that took advantage of radio-navigation aids (NAVAID) such as LORAN and Omega (note: Omega was discontinued in October 1997). NAVAID radiosondes contain electronics that receive radio signals from fixed, ground-based transmitter stations. The radiosonde then either retransmits the received signal to the ground subsystem or processes the received signals into velocity or position information and then transmits these data. Winds aloft are contained in or derived from this information.

The History Of Hot Air Balloons

The history of hot air balloons begins over 200 years ago when a French scientist famously sent up a balloon carrying a rather confused duck, sheep and cockerel.

Balloons have come a long way since then.

(You’ll be pleased to hear we don’t burn old boots or meat as fuel anymore, or expect you to share a basket with animals!)

And today ballooning is popular all over the world.

Pilots like Sir Richard Branson have achieved incredible feats in a quest to fly further, higher and for longer.

1783 - First Hot Air Balloon Flight

French scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier famously launched the first hot air balloon carrying a duck, a sheep and a cockerel.
The balloon is given lift by hot air but also has a compartment of ‘lighter- than-air’ gas – like helium or hydrogen – in the top of the balloon.
The flight lasts for 15 minutes.


Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes fly from Paris in a genuine ‘hot air’ balloon created out of paper-lined cloth by wealthy brothers and papermakers Jacques Étienne and Joseph Michel Montgolfier.


Scottish aviator James Tytler becomes the first Briton to fly a hot air balloon making a flight over Edinburgh.
However, he is overshadowed soon after by Italian diplomat and ‘dare devil’ Vincenzo Lunardi, who completes the first balloon flight in England.
Launching his hydrogen gas balloon in front of 200,000 spectators at London’s Artillery Ground, he flies with a dog, a cat and a caged pigeon for 24 miles into Hertfordshire.
He becomes famous and helps build the romance of ballooning still present today.


French aeronaut Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries successfully fly across the Channel.
They carry and deliver a letter – now that’s what you call ‘Air Mail’!


Jean-Pierre Blanchard completes the first balloon flight in North America, flying from Philadelphia to Gloucester County, New Jersey.


The Great Balloon of Nassau (85,000 cubic ft in size) is flown by UK balloon enthusiast Charles Green 800 km (500 mi) from London to Weilburg in Germany in 18 hours.
More than 160 years later, Virgin Balloon Flights flew his great, great nephew in our big red balloon over the Cotswolds.


Another first in the history of hot air balloons when they are used for military observation during Franco-Prussian War and a French Minister makes a dramatic James Bond-style escape from a besieged Paris by balloon.


Interest in ballooning as a sport grows thanks to the annual Gordon Bennett Balloon Trophy Races.
Founded by American journalist James Gordon Bennett when a group of hydrogen gas balloons fly from Paris, it first took place in 1906, pausing only for World War I I and continues today.


The Berliner hot air balloon flies 3,052 km (1,897) flies from Bitterfield in Germany to Perm in Russia.


Both sides use balloons for military observation during the war from 1914 to 1918.


Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard flies to the Stratosphere at 15,781 m (51,793 ft) in a metal cabin carried by a hydrogen gas balloon.
The next year he reached 16,507 m (54,156 ft)


Edward Yost invents a propane burner that changes ballooning from gas power to hot air.
A hot air balloon using the burner successfully flies in Nebraska, USA.


After several successful attempts to better Auguste Piccard’s record by others, Malcolm Ross and Victor Prather achieve an incredible 34,679m (113,775 ft).


The 1970s and 80s see the development of new synthetic materials and lighter burners, allowing ballooning to become a popular modern sport and marking another new age in the history of hot air balloons.


The first ballooning world championships are held in the United States.


American businessmen Ben Abruzzo, Max L. Anderson and Larry Newman fly a record 5,000 km (3,108 mi) from Maine, USA, to Miserey, France, in 137 hours and 6 minutes.


Sir Richard Branson and Per Linstrand successfully fly the Virgin Atlantic Flyer – the largest balloon ever at 2.3 million cubic feet – across the Atlantic.
The balloon travels 2,900 miles in a record breaking time of 33 hours and reaches speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour (209 k/ph).


Sir Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand cross the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Arctic Canada at the furthest distance of 6,700 miles.
Again, this breaks all existing records.
The balloon measures 2.6 million cubic feet and hits speeds of up to 245 miles per hour


Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones fly a helium/hot air balloon, the Breitling Orbiter 3, around the globe setting the longest ever flight covering 46,759 km (29,055 mi) in 19 days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes.


American millionaire Steve Fossett flies around the world in a helium/hot air balloon, Spirit of Freedom, on his sixth attempt.
He flies for 13 days, 34,000 km (22,100 mi).
It is the longest ever solo balloon flight.


Virgin Balloon Flights pilot Lindsay Muir – the UKs top female flyer – attempts to take her balloon to 34,000 ft, in Cuneo, Italy, to beat the record of 33,669 ft.
High winds and turbulence cause the attempt to fail but it receives major national coverage for Virgin and ballooning in general.


Vijaypat Singhania, an Indian businessman and Aviator, set the record by flying up to 21,290 m (69,852 ft) in a massive 160ft tall balloon with a pressurized cabin


Virgin Balloon Flights team up with rock band the Girls (including special guests such as Andrew ‘Mushroom’ Vowles form Massive Attack) and Future Music magazine to set the new Guinness World Records in a Virgin balloon piloted by Mark Simmons.
The song ‘What I did Today’ was performed and recorded 1,848 m (6,063 ft) above Wiltshire.


Virgin Balloon Flights team up with Virgin Radio and Sony BMG to host a gig by singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner in a balloon above the Swiss Alps.
The event is believed to be first ever show by a hit artist to be recorded in a hot air balloon for national radio and it receives widespread coverage


Virgin Balloon Flights pilot Mark Shemilt breaks a world record for endurance flying by keeping a special lightweight hopper balloon (AX-02 category) above the French Alps for seven hours and 32 minutes, beating previous best by more than half an hour.


Pilot Mark Shemilt does it again in February 2010 breaking the distance record in the same AX-02 category balloon flying 120 miles from Leicestershire to the Suffolk coast


A total of 329 balloons line up to launch at the Lorraine Mondial balloon fiesta in France setting the world record for the largest mass ascent of hot air balloons.
Meanwhile, Virgin Balloon Flights’ Chief Pilot and Director Kenneth Karlstrom beats 120 other top pilots to win the prestigious event’s target flying competition.


Russain adventurer (and priest!) Fedor Konyukhov broke the record for solo balloon flight around the world, completing his 33,000km journey in just under 11 days.

Late 19th century [ edit | edit source ]

The use of manned air-war mechanisms would not be seen for nearly 30 years after the Civil War when the airship (a dirigible, blimp, or Zeppelin) would come into existence with their motorized propulsion and mechanical means of steering. Up to this point, the idea of dropping ordnance on the enemy was not seriously considered, although there were mechanical drawings made up depicting bomb dropping devices that could be floated aloft by balloons. These depictions were paper theory at best designed by mechanical wizzes with no idea about aviation, in particular, balloons, and all that it takes to successfully launch gas-filled aerostats.

There weren't really any practical types of grenades or bombs to use during the Civil War. Weight was a great factor in determining the size of balloons to be used and the amount of gas they needed to ascend. Carrying heavy ordnance and ungainly mechanisms in balloons would have been out of the question. (And if Prof. Lowe thought that he would have to drop bombs on enemy positions, he would have never offered his services.) With the newer, larger and more manageable aerostats, and smaller munitions, the use of bombs would make aerial warfare much more appealing in later days.

Although there is no record of it ever having been deployed, during the 1900 Boxer Uprising in China, the French forces did bring a balloon with them.

The First Air Forces – A Century of Balloons at War

The great, great grand nephew of a U.S. Civil War-era military ballooning pioneer was on hand this week in Buffalo, New York to view a local museum’s working replica of his famous ancestor’s creation.

According to the Buffalo News, Terry Lowe, a descendent of Thaddeus Lowe, founder of the U.S. Army’s balloon corps, travelled from Nebraska to witness the unveiling of the $400,000 reproduction of the vintage 1862 airship.

The Union army used a fleet of seven tethered gas-filled balloons during the Civil War to observe enemy troop movements, plot maps and later when fitted with telegraph systems to direct artillery fire. They were used at Seven Pines, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and a series of other battles.

While Confederate soldiers would do their best to bring down these pesky aerial intruders, the balloons typically would float beyond the range of the enemy guns — 500 feet or higher.

Prof. Lowe, who was preparing for the first ever trans Atlantic balloon voyage at the outbreak of the war, personally demonstrated the military potential of ballooning to President Abraham Lincoln at the White House. Recognizing the benefits balloons would offer his armies, Lincoln directed Lowe to organize a ballooning corps.

While military ballooning may have seemed revolutionary to the armies in the Civil War, the use of them over battlefields was nothing new. In fact, the French army had first employed balloons more than 60 years earlier.

The first successful manned balloon flight in history was made by the Montgolfier brothers in France in 1783. Their balloon was an egg-shaped, silk-sheathed wooden frame. The bottom of their contraption, known as an aerostat, was open and was positioned on a launch pad over of a bonfire. When the interior of the structure filled with heated air, the balloon would lurch skyward and remain airborne until the air inside cooled.

By the 1790s, the French military had adapted lighter-than-air aerostats for battlefield observation. It even established a special balloon unit led by a chemist named Jean-Marie-Joseph Coutelle. The French Aerostatic Corps made its combat debut at the Battle of Fleurus in 1794 with a tethered airship named L’Entreprenant (which means “Enterprising”). The balloon stayed aloft for nine hours, with observers on board reporting Austrian troop movements. After recording the position of enemy units, the crew tossed their written communiqués into the hands of officers on the ground. They could also communicate with their team below using semaphore. When necessary, the balloon was repositioned by a team of French soldiers who held onto the tether and walked it around the battlefield. The ship was used again at the Siege of Mainz.

The entire corps, along with its new balloon L’Intrepide, was captured by the Austrians at the Battle of Würzburg in 1796. The airship is still on exhibit in the HeeresgeschichtlichesMuseum in Vienna. France’s second balloon corps was equally unlucky.

While attached to the army on campaign in Egypt, their equipment and aerostat were lost when the vessel transporting them was destroyed in the Battle of the Nile in 1799.

In the aftermath of these setbacks, French generals grew impatient with battlefield ballooning. Skeptics even doubted if the intelligence provided was all that valuable. The balloon corps was disbanded that same year.

The BBAC springs into life in 1965 to provide a home for lighter-than-air enthusiasts in the UK.

BBAC President Don Cameron was part of a team that built the first modern hot air balloon in Western Europe, Bristol Belle, launching from Weston-on-the-Green in Oxfordshire in 1967.

Don Cameron poses with Bristol Belle on the occasion of her 50th anniversary in 2017.

There is now a global community of thousands of pilots, with the UK one of the leading figures in the industry with close to 1,000 pilots, two of the leading balloon manufacturers in the world and dozens of hot air balloon festivals.

The UK also has a thriving passenger rides industry, with thousands of people each year now taking pleasure flights, often accompanied by champagne.

There is also a thriving competition ballooning market, with the UK producing some of the best competition pilots in recent years.

We invite you to join our wonderful global community.

Hot air balloons: one of the oldest type of balloons and the earliest flying machines that carried humans into the air safely. They appeared for the first time in the 18th century and are still popular. They are launched into the air by the heated air which is lighter than cool air, and it lifts the balloon because of that. Their ancestors are flying lanterns appeared for the first time in 3rd century China.

Gas balloons: appeared at the same time as the hot air balloons. It is filled with a gas that is lighter than air, usually hydrogen or helium. Hydrogen is cheaper and easier to obtain but dangerous because it can explode when mixed with oxygen from the air. Helium is more expensive but safer because it is inert.

Toy balloons: small balloons made of rubber, latex or aluminized plastic and mostly used for child play, party decoration, and advertising. Before this material and Michael Faraday, who made the first rubber balloon, balloons were made from pig bladders.

Weather balloons: large balloons made of highly flexible latex to carry instruments which measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and other characteristics of weather. One of the first to use weather balloons was Léon Teisserenc de Bort, the French meteorologist in 1896.

Solar balloon: a balloon that lifts in the air when the air inside of it is heated by the sun's radiation. The first solar balloon was invented by Dominic Michaelis, a British architect and the inventor in 1972.

Cluster balloons: a type of balloon where a harness attaches a balloonist to a cluster of helium-inflated rubber balloons. The first cluster balloon appeared in 1982, and other followed although some of the people that tried this kind of ballooning were never seen again.

Balloon mail: a type of mail that carries mail using an unguided hydrogen or helium filled the balloon. Used for the first time in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-72 because Paris was under siege.

Hopper balloon: smaller variant of a hot air balloon that can carry only one person in a seat or a harness. The first one appeared in 1924 and were a tool for inspecting and repairing of large airships and stratospheric balloons.

Airship or dirigible: is a type of a balloon that is propelled through the air by engine power. The first ideas of propelled airships appeared in the 17th century, but it was not until 19th that the first one appeared.

Blimps: airships without an internal structural framework or a keel which relies entirely on internal gas pressure to retain its shape during flight.

Observation balloons: are any balloons that are used as aerial platforms for intelligence gathering and artillery spotting during the war. They were used for the first time during the French Revolutionary Wars when the French used a tethered hydrogen balloon to observe the Austrian army during the Battle of Fleurus in 1794.

Water balloons: toy balloons filled with water and used in play fights. While the rubber balloon was invented by Michael Faraday in 1824, the first water balloon was produced by Edgar Ellington in 1950 who tried to invent a waterproof sock as a method of prevention of a trench foot disease.

Modeling balloons: long and narrow toy balloons filled with air and used for modeling into different shapes, for amusement. It is not known when they appeared for the first time, but the first balloon artist is mentioned in a book from 1975 as "Herman Bonnert from Pennsylvania at a magician's convention in 1939".

You can find more detailed information about each type of balloons in our categories.

Watch the video: Hot Air Balloon Mass Ascent. Balloon Festival Barnstorf 2019 (December 2021).

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