Cameras float into space to capture 360 view of skies above Chicago

CHICAGO — A local company is floating cameras out of this world to give an unprecedented look at the skies above Chicago.

Chicago-based tech company Panoskin attached a bundle of GoPro cameras to a weather balloon before launching it into the stratosphere early this week. From its starting point near the Adler Planetarium, the balloon  traveled 16 miles up — the height of nearly 50 Willis Towers stacked on top of each other — while cameras captured a 360-degree view of the world around it along the way.

"We had to talk to FAA, coordinate with air traffic control, and do a lot of paperwork to get this done," Panoskin CTO & Co-Founder Tom Chomiak said.

While Panoskin specializes in virtual tours of buildings and other things on the ground, the company is working with Google to develop a way for people to explore the skies above the Adler using Street View.

"Anyone who goes to the Adler on Maps can navigate up and see what the stratosphere looks like," Chomiak said.

After reaching about 86,000 feet in the air, the balloon popped, and the cameras parachuted back down to earth. Luckily it landed in a field in Michigan, although the team was prepared for a water landing, Chomiak said.

Photos and videos will be available on Google Maps, Chomiak said. Panoskin also plans to release a platform later this year that will allow anyone to capture similar videos and publish them on Google Maps.