Purdue balloon expert can explain Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade hazards

November 27, 2013  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Purdue University Association of Mechanical and Electrical Technologists project manager responsible for launching large scientific balloons can describe the challenges and hazards of controlling large balloons in frigid, windy environments such as expected in New York City on Thursday (Nov. 28) during the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Dahlon Lyles, an undergraduate researcher, made news this week for launching high-altitude weather balloons just in advance of powerful, tornado-producing storms that ripped through the Midwest on Nov. 17. As a balloon launch engineer, Lyles is responsible for making and remaking the calculations of how cold and wind affect balloons, especially in the most unpredictable environment close to the ground.

Lyles can detail the human effort it takes to restrain the iconic Macy's balloons such as Snoopy or Sponge Bob on a calm day, and in the high sustained winds and gusts predicted on Thanksgiving. He can detail the specific effects the wind has on these "inflated sails" including unexpected and unnerving upward thrusts. He can also describe how the cold makes the balloons more brittle and subject to tear and adversely affects the helium's lift capacity.

Lyles' most recent launch came to a conclusion when an Ohio farmer who found the balloon tracked Lyles' team down by downloading video from the balloon's onboard camera. An inadvertent "selfie" of the student mounting the camera included a brief glimpse of his Purdue hat. Video clips can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa40x3b-Ozx-MkMk_8oPUjA  

Writer: Jim Schenke, 765-237-7296, jschenke

Source: Dahlon Lyles, dlyles@purdue.edu  

Related Web site:

Purdue University College of Technology 

Note to Journalists: HD video of Purdue balloon launches and flight are available. Experts are available via an HD studio with Vyvx connection and satellite uplink. Dahlon Lyles is also available to travel. For more information contact Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, 765-237-7296 or jschenke@purdue.edu 

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