We've been flying our own gear since 2001, and have a fair amount of experience with both Helium and Hydrogen.
Thanks to Paul Verhage, KD4STH, a bug was caught by a small group of ham operators in Hutchinson, KS. We set about building a high altitude balloon tracking and recovery system (literally) from the ground up. From day one, the majority of our trackers and tracking systems have been custom designed and built from scratch.
After a whopping three launches under our belt, flight #4 had about 1/3 of a grade school watching our every move. We were able to provide tracking to the students in the classroom, including live ATV footage. Later in 2002, our first GPSL launch was attended near Manhattan.
Testing began on a balloon cut-away system.
We did a lot of flying in the first half of 2004. Preparations were being made for GPSL which we hosted in Hutchinson, and we wound up doing an impromptu flight a couple of days after GPSL because of a surplus tank of gas that couldn't be refunded.
In 2005, we tested a variety of new configurations and systems. Ultimately the cost of these new systems proved pretty high after we accidentally cut away a balloon mere minutes into a flight, later followed by a lost tracking system due to system temperatures dropping out of tolerance.
After five long years without flying, 2010 brought a whole new set of payloads, controllers, and talent. We switched to using the Canon CHDK scripts for camera control, and the primary flight computers are Arduino-based controllers.
There hasn't been a lot of flying recently, so 2011's flights were GPSL in Colorado, and a quick test flight in May to prepare for the GPSL. We switched to Hydrogen in 2011.
The 2013 flight season consists mostly of standardizing our flight gear, and simplifying the operation. This year included many upgrades to stability and usability of the Balloon Finder software.
The 2014 flights will include a new set of tracking boards, as well as GPSL that is being hosted in Kansas.
For 2015, the focus is shaping up to center around shedding excess weight and bulk from the ArduinoTrack flight tracking system. Look for smaller trackers, lighter batteries, and high-resolution imaging.
2016 consisted of just a single launch, out of Texas in conjuction with the Great Plains Super Launch.
In preparation for a new revision of the ArduinoTrack flight controller, a series of launches were conducted to test out the new hardware.