In brief: NIWA flies high

Among the colour and spectacle of March’s Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta, a small but crucial flying contraption stood out from the crowd.

Known as a helikite and operated by NIWA scientists, the helikite provided vital weather information to balloon pilots before they took off.

Meteorologist Tony Bromley describes the helikite as a cross between a balloon and a kite that uses helium to achieve lift. It has a range of instruments attached to measure temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction and pressure, and the data are constantly transmitted to the ground.

Raised and lowered using a winch, the helikite can be deployed up to a kilometre high in order to provide real-time information for the balloon pilots. It was constantly raised and lowered throughout the fiesta, taking measurements every two to three metres.

Mr Bromley said NIWA provided regular general and more localised weather forecasts for pilots to help them determine the best balloon flying times.

Despite predictions that Cyclone Lusi would disrupt the fiesta, the balloons flew over three mornings and only the Night Glow was postponed.

NIWA’s helikite was on hand at the Wairarapa Balloon Fiesta providing up-to-the-minuteweather information for balloon pilots. [Tony Bromley]