# How high to go without tracking?

### Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

#### Cabernut

##### Well-Known Member
I have a 2.6" rocket weighing about 29oz with a 38mm motor mount that I'll be bringing to NYPOWER in a couple weeks. I would like to take advantage of the large field and really put it up there, but I don't have any kind of tracking device currently other than a pair of binoculars...

It will be motor eject only with a Chute Release. I would love to lob it up to 4.7K ft on an I350 but I doubt I'll see it that high.

How high should I / would you go before it gets too hard to track visually?

#### EXPjawa

##### Well-Known Member
I fly there and over in Potter (at an even larger field). My personal feeling is the cut off is around 2500', depending on cloud cover and wind. But I've had plenty of flights that tickled 2000', and even with the CR, it was starting to get difficult to locate. Especially if the MARStians insist on putting the flight line right next to the bean field, even when the wind is in that direction. At that site, is quite possible to drop the rocket within a few hundred feet of your camp and still not find it... So, I've held off on putting up anything that was expected to breach 2500' until I've got tracker of some sort. I'd love to punch a mile, and have a few rockets that would do it if asked, but things can still drift a ways from that height when the chute is still reefed.

#### ActingLikeAKid

##### Well-Known Member
My specs are similar to yours. Having an I in it is why I got an Eggfinder

If you're really keen on doing that height without tracking, some things to mitigate the risk:
-While you watch with binoculars, have a friend with a smartphone (if they do see it on the descent) get a bearing on it with their compass app as it comes down. Then at least you know that you need to head at bearing X, instead of "I think towards that old tree that looks half-dead?"
-Mylar streamer. It's amazing what a bit of flashy plastic does for visibility.
-Buy a security "screamer" alarm and either activate it right before launch or rig it up so the separation makes the screamer open. It's not perfect, but you'll hear it within 200 feet or so.

Good luck!

#### Nick@JET

##### Well-Known Member
Yea, I had the same plan at Potter at LDRS...New York still has my rocket. I even asked for announcer to ask for all eyes since no tracker, but not really their responsibility. I have floaters in my eyes so thought I saw it but followed the floater and never saw the rocket again

Risky plan. Ask someone to borrow an RF tracker.

I agree with above altitude or if your really hell bent on it, screamer, polished rocket, shiny streamers etc

#### mpitfield

##### Moderator
Staff member
Global Mod
Hey Chris,

I just built three Eggfinder Minis and the Eggfinder LCD, you are more than welcome to borrow what you need. I am brutal at visually tracking so I plan to try to put a tracker in anything, it will fit into, that is expected to go over 1,500'. If you want to borrow the gear then we should meet up so I can hand it off to you as you will need to figure out how to integrate it. Nosecone would be ideal if you can do a quick retrofit.

#### Cabernut

##### Well-Known Member
I do have an 8" wide mylar "Happy Birthday" banner... maybe I'll attach that to it as well. If weather isn't all that great I might have to settle for a baby H. However if conditions are good, I know I'm going to get Go Fever.

#### Cabernut

##### Well-Known Member
Hey Chris,

I just built three Eggfinder Minis and the Eggfinder LCD, you are more than welcome to borrow what you need. I am brutal at visually tracking so I plan to try to put a tracker in anything, it will fit into, that is expected to go over 1,500'. If you want to borrow the gear then we should meet up so I can hand it off to you as you will need to figure out how to integrate it. Nosecone would be ideal if you can do a quick retrofit.
Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. I've been looking into getting an Eggfinder but my soldering skills are about caveman level. I'll have to search around for how others have integrated them into nose cones and see if I can swing it.

#### Bat-mite

##### Rocketeer in MD
Besides altitude, it also matters what the surrounding territory is like. Could it come down in a cornfield, wheat field, pond, trees? Sometimes a tracker is the only thing that can get you there even if it lands close by. And remember this important rule: it is already farther away than you thought it was when you saw it come down.

#### ksaves2

Listen to Rick, 2000' to 2500' is a good reference. Does depend upon how large the rocket is. The bigger the rocket, the easier it is to see at altitude. The gist of the matter is one wants to avoid a lengthy "out of sight" time as believe me, the upper
air winds can play havoc with where a rocket finally ends up. I've tracked a lot via APRS on a live map and have seen rockets out of sight and at altitude go in directions 180 degrees to prevailing ground winds. Many a time, I've tracked mine and other
APRS equipped rockets and have yelled at those scanning the skies to turn their eyes 90 to 180 degrees from where they are looking for the expected point in the sky where the main deployment is going to occur. Also nice to be able to see on a map
that the rocket has landed on the field or on the other side of a road whathave you . The other thing is with a fiberglass rocket, if the chute release doesn't deploy the chute properly, the rocket can land pretty close to you and it can remain sight unseen. Without an APRS or NMEA tracker (AKA an EggFinder or Missileworks NMEA trackers) one won't know where to go without a position recorded to go to. Had that happen a few times with glass rockets that totally survived the hard landing in soft dirt and were completely flyable again without any work other than re-prepping. They would have been likely lost without a position to go to.
Yes RDF can give one a bearing and be workable but GPS can give one an edge. Especially if the recovery is ballistic. Since it's high speed, get one or two positions on descent and you'll likely run into the fincan sticking out of the ground or the
splattered remains when you go out there. Again if it's a fiberglass rocket might just have to replace the nosecone and the electronics and good to go again. (Been there and done that too.)

Choose your motor wisely for a visual recovery until you can afford a tracker. Also an audible alarm or as I call them "screamers" can help. Sometimes if the rocket is coming in under drogue or drogueless, you can hear where to turn your eyes to get a visual.

Kurt

Last edited:

#### thomas

##### Well-Known Member
If you have GSM/GPRS reception at the field you can buy a GPS tracker for less than 10 Dollar on ebay.

#### amarillo_rocket

##### Well-Known Member
If the area is fairly quiet use a 4"-6" wide, 5-6ft streamer. They make a fair amount of noise flapping in the wind while descending. Roll the streamer part way and add a good amount of Johnsons Baby Powder to get a visual reference at apogee. Johnsons does not have corn starch like a lot of baby powder so it doesn't burn. The risk is if the rocket does not head into the prevailing wind and everyone is looking in the wrong direction. I have seen this happen many times.An audible alarm would also help. The obvious best solution is to use a tracker.

#### EXPjawa

##### Well-Known Member
Listen to Rick...

Kurt
Can I quote you on that? Wait, I just did! Sorry, I need to go get lunch...

When I first got the Chute Release, my naive expectation was that I'd never have to worry about tracking stuff again, within reason. But I learned real quick what folks flying traditional DD already knew - that upper altitude winds can push even a drogueless rocket pretty far, and not necessarily in the direction I'd expect. So, getting the rocket to drop (dramatically, with Chute Release popping a few hundred feet up) back into the pad area is a game of judging winds and rod angle. Same as DD, in that regard. And the higher you go, the farther off your judge will probably be. I've watched the couple of flights I've done into the mid-2000' range go pretty far down range on the CR, so that was the basis of my self-imposed cap. I was able to find them each time, but that's as much luck as not, especially as crops grow over the season...

With that in mind, I did wrap bands of aluminum foil tape on my MAC Scorpion to make it more reflective, and I have a roll of holograohic mylar streamer in my tool box with the same intent (though haven't tried it). Reflective streamers only help when the sun is bright, though we fly under overcast skies a lot. And I'm still not certain about combining a chute on CR and a streamer at the same time...

#### blackjack2564

##### Crazy Jim's Gone Banana's
TRF Supporter
True short story expounding the reason to always use a tracker...................

Wanna drag race that? [Gizmo]

"Sure" what motor?"

"OK you wanna borrow one of my trackers?"

Nah they're only going 1500-1800 ft.

"Better to have one & not need it...rather than need it & not have it"

I'll be fine.

3....2....1...launch OOPS looks like one of the Gizmo's rainbowed!

His rocket had the rear button hang on rail, after leaving the rail, rocket does a left turn, flies like a cruise missile in shallow arch and land in trees almost 1/2 mile away. 5hrs that day...3hrs the next it was located.

The end.

PS there are always things that can go wrong, you never think about, when suddenly one will rear it's ugly head & happen. Tracker will find your rocket.

#### boatgeek

##### Well-Known Member
I launched a 2.6" FG rocket to about 5000' on a baby J with a CR earlier this year on a crystal clear day. It was out of sight for a short while but we picked it up again from flashes off the body tube. It turned out I didn't need the tracker that was in it, but took a little more time finding it by walking (snowshoeing) around than was ideal. Funny thing, it was a little further away than I thought.

My general rule of thumb is 2500' for 54mm rockets and 5500' for 4" rockets is reasonably reliably visible as long as there aren't clouds in the way. It helps to have access to some younguns with sharp eyes.

#### dhbarr

##### Amateur Professional
I launched a 2.6" FG rocket to about 5000' on a baby J with a CR earlier this year on a crystal clear day. It was out of sight for a short while but we picked it up again from flashes off the body tube. It turned out I didn't need the tracker that was in it, but took a little more time finding it by walking (snowshoeing) around than was ideal. Funny thing, it was a little further away than I thought.

My general rule of thumb is 2500' for 54mm rockets and 5500' for 4" rockets is reasonably reliably visible as long as there aren't clouds in the way. It helps to have access to some younguns with sharp eyes.
A quarter mile per inch diameter? Seems like a decent rule of thumb.

#### jnelson

##### Well-Known Member
At Black Rock a couple years ago I flew a 54mm x 5ft rocket on a couple research I's, to 3400 ft, I don't recall having issues seeing it. Last year I flew the same rocket on a J420 to about 5000 ft and lost sight of it. So I think my personal limit for that size of rocket is 3500 ft. FWIW

#### Nick@JET

##### Well-Known Member
Hey Chris,

I just built three Eggfinder Minis and the Eggfinder LCD, you are more than welcome to borrow what you need. I am brutal at visually tracking so I plan to try to put a tracker in anything, it will fit into, that is expected to go over 1,500'. If you want to borrow the gear then we should meet up so I can hand it off to you as you will need to figure out how to integrate it. Nosecone would be ideal if you can do a quick retrofit.
And Michael steps up! Gotta love the rocket community.
I hear you about go fever, at a launch I the guy jumping up and down, clapping "press the button, press the button!"

As a backup to CJ, At LDRS 34, they had some issues with equipment after Friday night rain and launched a few rockets on accident and those people weren't even watching. I found a big 6" rocket while I was searching for mine and that guys was still trying to log on to his computer to track. 6" and they never saw it

#### ActingLikeAKid

##### Well-Known Member
Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. I've been looking into getting an Eggfinder but my soldering skills are about caveman level. I'll have to search around for how others have integrated them into nose cones and see if I can swing it.
I built one over the winter and it wasn't bad. My soldering experience before was building something that didn't work. So before the Eggfinder, I ordered a few kits from Amazon to practice on. Two things that helped a lot:
-An illuminated magnifying visor (like $8 from Amazon) -A cheap LED desk light. Depending on what you're flying, you can get a nosecone with a removable electronics sled. They aren't super expensive and would do exactly what you want. #### Oberon ##### Well-Known Member I flew an Estes Partizon to 3600 ft with motor eject and chute release and had no issues seeing it without binoculars the whole way, but the LCO and one other guy spotting lost it. So depends on your eyes. I probably would have lost it another 1000ft up, but if you could get the binoculars on it... Then again, I only felt comfortable launching it because a) it was a nearly dead calm day b) I had seen other rockets that day fly to nearly the same altitude, and had a good idea what to expect and where to look in the sky if I temporarily lost sight, and c) I did have a tracker, though I ended up not needing it at all as the rocket landed about 50 yards away. One thing I did do, and recommend, is use a large, bright streamer for visibility prior to Chute Release activation. It also depends a lot on the field conditions for actually finding the rocket once down. At our desert scrub field, you can usually spot a rocket from a significant distance away. But dense grass or crops or big trees to block your view would make a big difference - really the question is, "how close do I need to get to the rocket to find it?" At one extreme, something like a dry lake bed you just need a general bearing, easily obtained visually. A corn field you need GPS or RDF even if its 200 yards away. #### Banzai88 ##### Lvl 1,Wallet....Destroyed TRF Supporter I think that it all depends on the field, the potential landing areas, the size of the rocket, the type of rocket recovery, and the weather conditions. I fly mostly at Bayboro, which is square miles of crop stubble or beans, slightly interrupted by ditches, and ringed by Mordor (trees). For anything that's single deploy, or single deploy with JLCR, I try to go no higher than 2500 ft. Dual deploy without tracker is about 3K, 4 inch I can see pretty reliably up to about 3500. Anything minimum diameter gets a tracker, always. I've seen quite a few high flights go into the trees, and never return. People get into their cars, drive around the field to the trees, and attempt to walk into Mordor. No tracker often means a sacrifice to the rockets gods has been performed. #### mccordmw ##### Well-Known Member If you think you can get within 100-200 yards of where it will land, and are willing to take the risk with no tracking, how about investing a small amount in a sonic beeper? I toss these into my rockets to help find them when they land in tall grasses. Sure, my Eggfinder will get me almost right on top of my rocket, but the cheap added insurance is worth it. These come in a 2-pack for$15. Pull-pin activation; perfect for chutes. Loud as HELL. About a 2" diameter by 1/3" thick disc.

Last edited by a moderator:

#### blackbrandt

##### That Darn College Student
I think that it all depends on the field, the potential landing areas, the size of the rocket, the type of rocket recovery, and the weather conditions. I fly mostly at Bayboro, which is square miles of crop stubble or beans, slightly interrupted by ditches, and ringed by Mordor (trees).

For anything that's single deploy, or single deploy with JLCR, I try to go no higher than 2500 ft. Dual deploy without tracker is about 3K, 4 inch I can see pretty reliably up to about 3500. Anything minimum diameter gets a tracker, always.

I've seen quite a few high flights go into the trees, and never return. People get into their cars, drive around the field to the trees, and attempt to walk into Mordor. No tracker often means a sacrifice to the rockets gods has been performed.
I've flown an accidental single deploy at Bayboro to 6300, and man was I glad I had a tracker in there. Even though you have a line on the rocket, with the amount of side-stepping you have to do to get across the ditches, it's almost impossible to trace a line like that at Bayboro. With a tracker, it's easy peezy.

My opinion on tracking: If you have a tracker, put it in there (and put the biggest battery you can fit in there with it). I will NOT be flying again without a tracker in any of my flights. I look at it as insurance. Of course, if I'm flying below about 1500 feet, I might be lazy and go without a tracker. But if I don't have a tracker in the rocket, you can bet that there is marking chalk, a bright red streamer, and a pull-pin alarm in the rocket.

#### Barkley

##### Well-Known Member
I have a 2.6" rocket weighing about 29oz with a 38mm motor mount that I'll be bringing to NYPOWER in a couple weeks. I would like to take advantage of the large field and really put it up there, but I don't have any kind of tracking device currently other than a pair of binoculars...

It will be motor eject only with a Chute Release. I would love to lob it up to 4.7K ft on an I350 but I doubt I'll see it that high.

How high should I / would you go before it gets too hard to track visually?
My L2 bird is almost 8 feet and 3 inches in diameter, and at 4200 it passed through the only cloud in the sky, a microscopic thing. The only reason why I found it was another rocket had tipped over the same way about 2 hours earlier, and I was told where that one was found. Otherwise I literally never would have found it. My bird is much bigger than yours, and had two big ejection charges to listen to.

Bought a BigRedBee, and now I'm much happier. My advice to you: Borrow Michael's tracker. Please.

#### grouch

##### Well-Known Member
Funny, the first time I flew my tracker in anger was at NYPOWER. It's a great field but the year I went the ground was really soft and the grass was high. I mean like waist high to the left of the flight line due to all the recent rains. I was certainly glad I was tracking each flight.

#### Steve Shannon

##### Well-Known Member
TRF Supporter
As others have said, the size and color of the rocket, the terrain, and the clarity of the sky determine whether you need a tracker. We routinely launch rockets over a mile in altitude without trackers and are able to view them the entire flight. Then we walk our line and recover them.
We've also lost sight of rockets that didn't fly that high and wished we had a tracker.
If I were flying that high at a place where I was unfamiliar with the terrain and didn't have a feel for where things land I'd probably want some kind of help, either spotters or a tracker.

Steve Shannon

#### rharshberger

##### Well-Known Member
I launched a 2.6" FG rocket to about 5000' on a baby J with a CR earlier this year on a crystal clear day. It was out of sight for a short while but we picked it up again from flashes off the body tube. It turned out I didn't need the tracker that was in it, but took a little more time finding it by walking (snowshoeing) around than was ideal. Funny thing, it was a little further away than I thought.

My general rule of thumb is 2500' for 54mm rockets and 5500' for 4" rockets is reasonably reliably visible as long as there aren't clouds in the way. It helps to have access to some younguns with sharp eyes.
At that same site I launched my L3 to 7400' , it drifted over a hill, thank goodness for my Eggtimer TRS and John with his binocs between the two we pretty much walked up to it. The rocket was in sight from apogee till it disappeared over the low hills due north of the racetrack. Now I use trackers on every flight they can fit in.

#### DavidMcCann

##### Well-Known Member
Track everything. It'll land in sight and 30 yards away

#### tomsteve

##### Well-Known Member
How high to go without tracking?
i can get about 14,200' and recover easily-with an A8 launchin at the summit of pikes peak.

#### Q-Aero

##### Well-Known Member
Find someone who go to NYPOWER with a Comm-Spec system, then you can just purchase the transmiter and if you lost the rocket the member just select your frequency and he will find your rocket. \$ 50 and you run from 3 to 6 week on a battery depending if you get a 1 mile or 3 mile range . No need to charge LiPo battery betwen flight. Later you can purchase the Receiver, everything integrated, no hassle

http://www.com-spec.com/rcplane/index.html

#### mrwalsh85

##### Well-Known Member
Surprised no one from MARS has chimed in... MARS should have trackers available for loan (I think for club members, anyway)... Just make sure you get it back in one piece! I would contact one of the BOG members to coordinate with them on that regard.

mike