Tracking smoke

Forums Knowledge Base Recovery Help Tracking smoke

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    Greg Mackey

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to do tracking smoke that is not in the motor, I know you guys are doing it but can’t find anyone’s discussion on it. Or, am I just missing it???? I have some of my own hair brained ideas, but why reinvent the wheel….
    Can some of the gurus on here help me out. Thanks!!!

    Ken Plattner

    QuickBurst used to sell tracking smoke canisters that were ignited via ematch. I have a few but have not used them so I really don’t know how well they work. I’ve been meaning to test one, but just havn’t got around to it.


    Greg Mackey

    Sorry, I didn’t explain what I was looking for very well. I have a few formulas and all the chemicals, plus a pyro formula that pumps out heavy black smoke….

    I’m looking for how people are mounting the tubes, igniting them and keeping stuff from getting burned or messed up…..

    Are people using separate firing controls from their deployments, using two e-matches off one altimeter to fire drogue and tracking smoke or what? Where are you guys mounting them and is there anything needed to protect shock cords?

    Clear as mud now? 😳


    If you put in a big lump of black powder, you would know where it was last! 😉

    Greg Mackey

    Geeee, thanks Scott, you are just soooo helpful 😛 You know, I think if you get yourself a rocket off our office roofing job, you need to get one for me too…. A Giant Leap Talon 4 kit would be nice…. I’m sure there is some place in the bid sheet for dynawind tubing and odd parts that just happens to come from Kansas. Get some rest dude, your running yourself ragged.

    For some reason I got the feeling more people used tracking smoke than it now appears. Interesting…..

    Who was testing the tracking smoke grain on Friday morning at Octoberfest? The smoking pumpkin….

    John A. Wilke

    There have been some who have suggested or tried lighting a smoke canister with a timer LONG after landing, to facilitate finding a lost rocket. That sounds like a great way to burn up several hundred thousand acres of grass 😯

    Given the currently viable options of transmitters and GPS vs. possibly starting a fire a mile (or more) away from the flight line, I hope we exercise extreme caution with smoke…

    Greg, I think your interests are mainly around lighting the smoke canister in the air? Whatever we do, we must be genuinely careful – especially given the abundance of fuel this year.

    Greg Mackey

    That is a good point.

    I think Dale, Joe and Art can clarify this since they have been around it longer than I have. I believe some of the smoke canisters/tubes used in pyrotechnics/special effects do not emit flames. At least the ones I saw didn’t. So, in making one, I would test this before use. The other thing is color. A nice red, orange or blue smoke would be nice. Which, I/anyone else can buy/use the stuff legally from Shylighter.

    I was trying to figure out if anyone was using them at or after apogee in the club and if so, how were they doing it.

    Small smoke tubes that go for around 3 minutes seem like a good idea. I have spoken to a reasonable amount of people that have lost rockets and it seems tracking smoke could have helped in these cases. Assuming they weren’t using them. And part of that group was using tracking, so it is not a 100% problem solving solution….

    It sounds to me like either nobody is using it or has given it much thought. I can’t believe I am the only one that has looked into or thought about using it…… Or, is there just such a small part of the club on line that the ones here aren’t the ones doing it?


    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone light tracking smoke on a rocket. I did see something once someone was doing where they were going to mount in the back of the rocket like a motor and light it on the ground.

    I agree with John Wilke that with our conditions and the grass, any fire that starts is serious and one that starts away from the range is probably disastrous. Given that a Garmin DC-20 can fit in a 2.5″ coupler and I’ve heard the DC-30 can fit in a 54mm tube those are well worth the cost, and they tell you where the rocket is. Now, if you have a smaller rocket you can go with an Adept radio beacon, or a falconry transmitter. Both are small, lightweight and non-sparking:

    I’ve lost one rocket since I’ve been flying and I don’t know if smoke would have helped. It was a 54mm MD at Harstel on a J something. At about 4,000′ it disappeared and I don’t know if I was looking in the right direction, or would have known where to look had there been smoke.

    I’ve always meant to throw in a big handful of carpenters chalk on a rocket someday to see how bright a cloud I can get in the sky – that might give some indication of effectiveness.


    Jeffrey Joe Hinton

    Carpenter’s chalk or tempra paint makes for a splash spot in the sky at deployment of the dust, but it also makes for a really messy cleanup of the rocket and shock cords and parachutes. I’ve tried to confine the powder in wadding sheets and/or kevlar burritos and I still get a mess to clean up and don’t always get to see the puff. Works okay for the smaller diameter rockets – less to clean.

    Greg Mackey

    This all started with an “I wonder if it would work” thought one day after talking to Bdale back on the Friday of O-fest. Man, I need to quit talking to people. 😆 The whole idea of a main coming out at apogee woke me up, especially when I found out both of my RRC2-minis were on the recall list. 😯

    I want you guys to know this before I go any further…. I don’t think On the ground ignition should be done. I myself would be very upset with someone that was trying to do it, it’s irresponsible to say the least and outright dangerous IMO…. If an arial smoker burned long enough to land (in a primary chute failure situation) then I think it’s burning too long.

    Chalk seems like something to research. IF it could be used outside of the airframe! Seems to me that if one of those CO2 deployment systems could be set into a tube you could make a really nice cloud of dust. I’m building my rockets zipperless now, so some kind of small unit could be mounted to the “I” bolt on the motor’s forward closure. I have some HA45s that are small enough to mount into a 24mm BT and fire using an A123 battery. So, even an e-match/charge setup would work and be pretty light weight.
    What do you think of that one?

    Edward, Look at this and tell me if it wouldn’t be easy to spot a big red spot in the sky…. That’s what I’m trying to figure out, what will be seen and what can be used easily and safely…. I find creating and learning stuff much more fun that using someone else’s creations. 😀

    Um, I’m talking about the red smoke bomb setting in the dry grass, not the fire bomb. 😛

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