Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a pig-shaped balloon plus payload ... off course and hurtling towards a field in Norfolk.
This was the case for science students of Beverley Grammar School, in Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire.
It was very exciting, it was like a treasure huntSarah Martin
They set out to prove pigs can fly and launched the payload in the shape of a pig made of black and yellow gaffer tape, attached to a high-altitude weather balloon and a 24-inch red parachute and carrying a Raspberry Pi computer.
The last transmission from the balloon came from between 300 and 500 metres up, near South Lopham – but then the signal was lost.
Lead computer science teacher Tanya Woolston had been inspired by training in Cambridgshire in 2016, involving the launch of a Raspberry Pi computer on a helium balloon.
She told the Diss Express: “The students were all really enthusiastic to launch the balloon and payload. We had a team of seven made up of Year Eight and Nine pupils and it was launched on October 8 at Worksop College. It was a learning curve for all of us to be honest, but the students took the lead on the pig-themed design.” The mini aircraft was set to take pictures along the way.
But after the launch, the school lost contact with the payload’s tracking device.
“It turned into a guessing game,” said Mrs Woolston. “Staff and students followed the payload by car, but because of traffic and lack of light, we were unable to find it on the ground.”
After several visits to the area Mrs Woolston contacted Lopham Parish Council who put out a call for villagers in South Lopham to help and the Martin family –Sarah, Nigel, James and Helen, and children Henry and Katie – set off in search of the missing payload.
Sarah said: “It was very exciting, it was like a treasure hunt. We found it on December 29 and we are pleased for the school to have it back. It’s lovely it has come full circle.”