As Badger reports, the $95 DIY balloon mapping kit sold by the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, has several advantages over the typical aerial image found on Google Maps or Google Earth. For one, you can capture images at higher resolution. "At this distance," says Badger, "you can get down to the centimeter, enough to capture the dotted lines on a road, or the tiles on a roof." You can also update images as necessary to document changing conditions.
"The whole idea is an ingenious mix of high and low tech, of rubber bands and helium and open-source software (Public Labs also has a platform called MapKnitter that will help you stitch the images together into one big mosaic). But aside from its basic techie appeal, this tool is trying to take map-making – for centuries the province of people who are in charge – and give the rest of us that power, too."