ORLEANS, Mass. — In the Nauset Beach parking lot, Joseph Ciampa and Thomas Davis filled a creamy white weather balloon with hydrogen from a tank in the trunk of Ciampa’s car.

Winds from an approaching storm slapped the balloon around like a punching bag.

In the end, the wind won out. The azure sky beckoned, but the drag created by the balloon and its payload, a high-definition camera, kept it from soaring very far.

The problem, said Ciampa – the vice president for operations for the Miami-based Altametry SmartBalloon company – was resolved in the latest versions, with a more rigid PVC balloon equipped with spoilers to deflect the wind.

But it’s not the whipping winds of winter these balloons would be expected to endure. Cape Cod towns, particularly those along the Atlantic side, need eyes in the summer sky to look for great white sharks, which return by the hundreds each summer to hunt gray seals numbering in the tens of thousands.

New technology, streaming HD video and thermal imagery, wedded to one of the oldest uses for balloons, harkening back to 18th-century battlefield reconnaissance: Surveillance. With sharks hunting seals close to shore and swimmers, beach managers have been looking for effective methods of detection. Officials have long believed that a visual detection system would work best, but the Cape doesn’t have high hills or cliffs to use as vantage points.

The spotter plane used for shark tagging is expensive and only flies over a beach for a short period of time, while drones have limited battery life, can be noisy, and need almost perfect weather conditions to fly. At one point, Orleans officials brought a fire engine to the beach and extended a ladder skyward to see how high they’d have to build a lifeguard tower to get a good look into the water.

“I think it has great potential and I’m excited to be trying it,” state shark researcher Gregory Skomal said about the balloon.

Skomal is working to fund a pilot project this summer on Shark Cove, the area south of Chatham where sharks are known to congregate to feed on a massive seal colony.

The company was founded three years ago by Ciampa’s uncle, John Ciampa, who also co-founded Pictometry International, a highly successful three-dimensional aerial mapping firm. Altametry equipment has been tried in various case studies, including marine research with endangered sea turtles.

“I’m a huge fan of Shark Week and I was watching an older program and I said, maybe this would work,” Ciampa said.

Altametry balloons and cameras can operate effectively in wind speeds a little over 17 mph, he said. Given that wind speeds drop dramatically from June through to October, when the average wind speed is around 8 mph, it would be relatively easy to send the balloons aloft to scan the water, Ciampa said. Battery life in the camera currently allows for five to six hours of operation, but Ciampa said his company has nearly developed a tether wire that could provide power to the cameras directly from the ground.

Equipped with specialized lens filters, the cameras have proven capable of peering 130 feet down into the crystal clear water of South Florida, but have also been able to spot manatees around 8 feet below the surface in murky coastal water. Image resolution is roughly four times that of a conventional high-definition television camera.

“I believe in the white sandy bottom of Shark Cove in Chatham where Greg (Skomal) would like to utilize the platform will enable us to see animals deeper below the surface because of the differences in contrast,” Ciampa said.

A thermal imaging camera could detect sharks and seals, which are both warmer than the surrounding water temperature. The basic package for beaches, including the balloon, high resolution imaging camera, HD streaming video, filters and polarized lenses, as well as a battery with three to six hours of power, would run about $3,000, Ciampa said.

“I’ve talked with the engineers and they have all kinds of options with camera optics,” Skomal said. “Testing needs to happen. Let’s look at them and give them a try and see what’s optimal for Cape Cod.”

Ciampa said one balloon could cover all of the protected area at Nauset Beach, and yet still zoom in on a target with finger control on a tablet screen. Or, the target can be marked with GPS coordinates and a drone can fly out to get a better look. Technicians are now working on shape-recognition software that may be able to discern the torpedo shape of a shark on the video feed and send out an alert, he said.

“I’m sure, on the right day (weather-wise), it’s great, but I need to see it do it for a season,” Orleans Natural Resources Manager Nathan Sears said. “If it is a useful tool on regular basis, then it needs to be looked at.”