Press Archive

6km Altitude Launch a Success!

The HiDRON in-situ earth observation platform


Stratodynamics Aviation Inc has carried out the company’s inaugural test launch the HiDRON, a stratospheric aircraft for collecting high-altitude atmospheric data. The first flight lasted 1.5 hours and reached an altitude of 6000 m. The HiDRON’s vertical speed averaged 2 m/s down during the return flight, much slower than typical payload parachutes at 4 m/s or higher. The test program included; proving the stability of the communication commands of the primary radio link and the backup Iridium satellite system; stabilization and controllability of the aircraft after the balloon was released; testing of the balloon release systems; and monitoring the influence of icing conditions on the UAV controls.

During the flight, and with real-time monitoring of the telemetry data, the autopilot parameters were adjusted to ensure the safe execution of various flight modes. The development team designed two balloon release systems to ensure redundancy. The release system provides a controlled release of the HiDRON from the balloon at the targeted altitude, and can also be deployed to mitigate icing risk, for example when passing through cloud layers at low altitudes.

The HiDRON has a wing span of 3.4 m. The current maximum take-off weight is 4.5 kg with an integrated payload of 1 kg. Further development plans to increase the payload weight and integration with target vertical speeds of 3 – 4 m/s on the ascent and 3 m/s or lower on the descent, depending on the altitude.

The HiDRON returning home autonomously in a controlled descent

Gary Pundsack, CEO Stratodynamics Aviation Inc.:
“The HiDRON is a unique balloon-launched unmanned glider for collecting in-situ high-altitude atmospheric data, and capable of autonomous and soaring flight modes. We are pleased with the flight test results and the HiDRON’s agility to return home from 12 km away and a 6 km altitude. The HiDRON provides a new dynamic method for measuring and evaluating atmospheric phenomena at various altitudes in a variety of geographical locations. Stratodynamics offers an alternative to current lift-and-drift single-use meteorological balloon campaigns which, traditionally, pose a high probability of losing equipment, as well as limitations in quality and quantity of the observed data.”

Special thanks to Inspired Graphics & Design Centre, Guelph, Ontario

Stratodynamics Prepares to Launch the HiDRON


Stratodynamics is finalizing preparations for the launch of their stratospheric aircraft, the HiDRON.  The HiDRON is a unique balloon-launched unmanned glider capable of autonomous and soaring flight modes, and designed for collecting high-altitude atmospheric data. It will take flight this November with the help of their UAV component supplier, UAVOS Inc.

The key objective of the HiDRON is to provide a new, dynamic method for measuring and evaluating atmospheric phenomena at various altitudes in a variety of geographical locations. The November 5th campaign plan targets a 25 km altitude (82,000 feet) and carries an atmospheric sensor system developed by Dr. Marcelo I. Guzman and T.J. Schuyler from the University of Kentucky. Their study aims to demonstrate how to perform accurate measurements of ozone chemical and physical properties using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The stratospheric ozone layer plays a key role in protecting the Earth surface from damaging UV radiation.

The HiDRON fills a gap in current balloon-based lift and drift earth observation methods.

The HiDRON is launched to the stratosphere via a helium-filled balloon. Once launched, the autopilot and integrated atmospheric measurement system transmit data in real-time to a ground station. After reaching the desired altitude (or as directed by an operator on the ground) the HiDRON is released from the balloon and glides back to a pre-specified landing site. Unique autopilot flight algorithms can process in-situ data such as thermal or wave conditions, to increase flight duration or focus the flight path to specific areas.

Landing the HiDRON is fully automatic. The autopilot selects one of the pre-specified landing sites as the HiDRON communication to the ground station is maintained via the telemetry system and backup satellite link.  In addition, emergency flight modes ensure flight safety.

Currently, atmospheric measurement equipment is also lifted to high altitudes by balloons. However, once the balloon bursts the equipment descends quickly by parachute and drifts uncontrolled. Often the equipment is lost or damaged and has high retrieval costs. The HiDRON extends the data collection period on the descent and brings the equipment back.

Gary Pundsack, CEO Stratodynamics Aviation Inc.:

“Stratodynamics is very excited to explore this frontier with the UAVOS team. The HiDRON provides a new dynamic platform for upper air observations and in-situ sampling at a fraction of the cost of typical high-altitude platforms.  We look forward to further developing the aircraft and avionics to harness naturally occurring phenomena that create lift and extend flight duration, reduce costs, power requirements, and weight. We’re excited to be collaborating with the University of Kentucky and contributing to the understanding of climate change and its causes.”

Vadim Tarasov, UAVOS investor and Board member:

“Experience in stratospheric flights and professional UAVOS autopilot technology allow our partners to implement sufficiently elaborate automation algorithms for meteorological research. The essence of this project is to develop a fully controlled process – from the moment of take-off, execution of the mission, and the landing of a reusable atmospheric sensor system. The HiDRON will be able to perform longer missions with a wide range of research tasks without the risk of losing expensive equipment. The fully controlled HiDRON will allow the adjustment of the mission and interaction with the ground air traffic control services from the lift-off to landing, which is very important taking into account the increased air traffic in all echelons.”

Stratodynamics Find Strategic Collaborator in Canadian Space Agency

Canadian Space Agency (CSA) systems engineer, Sebastien Lafrance and Stratodynamics CEO, Gary Pundsack with the ‘Species’ campaign in the background
PRESS RELEASE – September 18, 2018

STRATODYNAMICS was recently invited on a tour of the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) balloon launch facility in Timmins, Ontario. The facility has been shortlisted as a North American launch location for the company’s re-deployable glider sensor platform called the HiDRON.

In the hours between 1 and 4am on August the 16th, CEO, Gary Pundsack and client liaison, Nick Craine witnessed the collaborative launch between the Canadian Space Agency and the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES).

As the early morning mist began crawling across the tarmac, the 800 kg payload was successfully lifted by a zero pressure high-altitude helium filled balloon. Climbing at a rate of 6 metres per second, the balloon and its scientific payload rose more than 27,000 feet before the sun came over the horizon.

The STRATODYNAMICS team is evaluating several balloon launch sites for campaigns beginning in 2019. Other launch sites of interest include USA, Europe and South America.


Stratodynamics Exhibits at ISARRA

HiDRON Announce merged

Press release – August 12, 2018

This past July, Stratodynamics sponsored the 2018 ISARRA conference
hosted by the University of Colorado. ISARRA is the International Society for Atmospheric Research using Remotely Piloted Aircraft. It’s goal: to support knowledge exchange within the science community on the use of RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) for atmospheric and environmental research through meetings, web site and mutual support.

At the Stratodynamics exhibit, CEO Gary Pundsack introduced the HiDRON platform for atmospheric research to key members of the science community ranging from Taiwan to Norway. The company received fantastic feedback on applications for the HiDRON platform.

The company is now in talks with 2 American research teams to launch their atmospheric sensor payloads using the HiDRON retrievable balloon launched platform. 

Stratodynamics Receives Seed Funding from Innovation Guelph

Guelph Liberal Member of Parliament, Lloyd Longfield and Stratodynamics CEO, Gary Pundsack

Press Release – MAY, 2018

The Innovation Guelph Fuel Injection Seed Funding Program has awarded funding to Stratodynamics Aviation Inc. to assist in the next phase of the company’s growth.

CEO Gary Pundsack is excited to break new ground in upper atmospheric exploration with the help of the Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

The HiDRON, a semi-autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) featuring NASA-developed lightweight sensing and control systems for high-altitude weather monitoring and other types of environmental data collection.

The HiDRON glider is designed to operate in the stratosphere providing greater real-time data for more accurate weather forecasts at a lower cost and with 80% less environmental waste than current weather monitoring practices.

Innovation Guelph builds prosperity for community well-being by providing mentorship and business support programs and services. Their business acceleration programs are in southern Ontario. For more information on Innovation Guelph see:

Stratodynamics Winner in Global NASA Space Race Competition



STRATODYNAMICS AVIATION INC CEO, Gary Pundsack is proud to announce that the STRATODYNAMICS team are finalists in the NASA Space Race Competition with two separate National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) inventions.

In October, 2015, The White House announced its NASA Initiative to encourage the use of federally funded technologies by start-up companies. NASA in collaboration with Bethesda, Maryland based, Center for Advancing Innovation announced the finalists of the Space Race Challenge today.


Building on CEO, Gary Pundsack’s 15+ years of experience in the renewable energy sector, STRATODYNAMICS will introduce SKYFISH: a compact wind energy kite system for producing electricity designed for the off-grid markets such as South Africa.

The second invention to be licensed to the group is NASA’s sensing and control technology for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s). The technology will be utilized in HiDRON, an unmanned glider capable of high-altitude climate and atmospheric monitoring. The lightweight glider is a tool for climate change mitigation and daily weather monitoring that significantly lessens environmental impacts of current practices. STRATODYNAMICS was not only a finalist in the UAV category, they were named the over-all winner.

(L to R) Stratodynamics Client Liaison, Nick Craine; NASA scientist, Qamar A Shams; Stratodynamics CEO, Gary Pundsack and Branch Head, Ray Rhew at NASA Langley Research Center this past March. The team toured the facility and were given demonstrations of the HiDRON technologies in various prototype stages. photo by Jesse Midgett

Today’s announcement is the culmination of 6 months of research, collaboration and marketing development performing within the rigorous CAI accelerator protocols. STRATODYNAMICS will spend the next few months completing commercial agreements and seeking funding. Commercialization of the lead project is targeted within two years.

For more information on the Space Race Challenge please visit:

Bringing Space Technology Down to Earth

From the April 2017 issue of the University of Guelph alumni publication, PORTICO

Gary Pundsack thinks flying a kite is more than child’s play. It could help provide power to those living in developing countries.

His company, Stratodynamics Aviation Inc., developed two new inventions that harness National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) technology as part of a global Space Race start-up challenge. The U.S. Center for Advancing Innovation held the contest in partnership with NASA to create space technology spinoffs using NASA patents or inventions.

Pundsack’s team was the only Canadian team among the 15 finalists announced last November.

One of the team’s inventions, called Skyfish, is a parafoil kite attached to a generator on the ground that produces energy for off-the-grid markets. More than one billion people worldwide, mostly in developing countries, live without a regular source of power.

“There is a growing market of micro-grid developers who are providing power in places where there is no infrastructure,” says Pundsack, MBA ’12. He also sees potential applications for Skyfish in rural areas.

Skyfish produces 2,000 watts of energy — enough to power about 30 homes. The kite automatically flies in a figure-eight pattern in high-wind areas, pulling on two lines that turn the generator as the lines are extended. Once the kite is fully extended, it is navigated to a low-wind area and the lines are reeled in until the cycle can repeat. A NASA-developed control system steers the kite, and a battery bank stores the energy for immediate or future use.

Another innovation is an unmanned glider called HiDRON that provides weather-monitoring data. Traditional weather balloons are launched twice a day from 900 sites worldwide. In the U.S. alone, that’s about 75,000 weather balloons launched annually. “Once the balloon bursts, the equipment (called a radiosonde) parachutes back uncontrolled and about 80 per cent of this equipment is lost,” says Pundsack. If no one finds the equipment, it becomes waste.

Weighing only 500 grams, HiDRON hitches a ride on a weather balloon and glides back to Earth, carrying the weather monitoring equipment so it can be reused. GPS technology allows the glider to be tracked, and also monitors wind speed and direction. “The glider will be able to fly itself back, but maybe over time stay aloft longer by using natural currents that are available,” says Pundsack.

Most weather data such as temperature, barometric pressure and relative humidity is collected by weather balloons with radiosondes as they float up to the stratosphere, as high as 18,000 metres above the Earth. “All of the data collected goes into building our weather forecasts,” he says. “That process hasn’t really changed since the 1930s.”

Pundsack says the technology could be used by national weather agencies and research institutions to monitor the atmosphere and the effects of climate change.

Stratodynamics plans to commercialize both inventions within the next two to three years. “My MBA has been critical for evaluating the commercialization process,” he says. “The technology is fascinating and interesting, but so much of the success is based on developing a viable business model for a market that has growth potential.” –SUSAN BUBAK