In June 2013, a few Stanford University students teamed up to launch a weather balloon carrying a GoPro Hero3 camera, a Sony Camcorder, and Samsung Galaxy Note II phone a few miles from Tuba City, Arizona.
Bryan Chan, Ved Chirayath, Ashish Goel, Tyler Reid, and Paul Tarantino spent two years thinking their project was a failure with no devices retrieved and no footage to be viewed, the team was in for a surprise. The footage was just recently recovered by an Arizona hiker, who happened to be an AT&T employee. When she brought it to the store, she was able to identify the SIM card. The students got the data and images a few weeks later.
According to a Reddit post by a group member detailing the project and recovery:
We planned our June 2013 launch at a specific time and place such that the phone was projected to land in an area with cell coverage. The problem was that the cell service coverage maps we were relying on were not accurate, so the phone never got signal as it came back to Earth, and we never heard from it. We didn’t know this was the problem at the time – we thought our trajectory model was far off and it landed in a signal dead zone (turns out the model was actually quite accurate). The phone landed ~50 miles away from the launch point, from what I recall. It’s a really far distance considering there’s hardly any roads over there!
Max altitude: 98,664 ft (30.1 km)
Time of flight: 1 hour, 38 minutes