A BOLTON-based software company that has created a virtual balloon race programme is ready to “take off” in markets in Australia and the United States.

Rentaballoonrace Ltd, based in Edgworth, allows people to take part in virtual balloon races across the world — without the environmental dangers that real balloon races can entail.

Instead of releasing hundreds of real helium-filled balloons, participants launch virtual balloons and then track their course online using real weather data that aims to accurately model a real launch.

The company has just landed its first contract for a virtual race in Western Australia and is also set to expand its sales operations over to North America.

The group is also celebrating being selected onto the prestigious Angels Den Crowdfunding platform in a bid to raise the £300,000 equity required to fund their significant sales opportunity.

Crowdfunding is a relatively new financial system that allows both small and large investors to buy shares in a growing business and receive HMRC approved tax breaks in parallel.

Mike Phillips, managing director said, “The USA is rated as the world’s number one charity giving country by CAF, the global Charities Aid Foundation, so it has to be a major market for our virtual race system”.

In Australia, the Albany Primary School and Autism Support Network have signed up to rentaballoonrace.com to help them fundraise money for school projects as well as World Autism Week, which starts on March 27.

Rentaballoonrace.com markets itself as a 100 per cent eco-friendly virtual race system that does not kill birds or other animals, as can often be the case with races involving real latex balloons.

In November, the company ran one of its 100 per cent eco-friendly races for the Cheshire Scouts, which grossed nearly £30,000.

This recent success now means fundraising for scouts and guides in North America is seen as a priority sub-sector for Rentaballoonrace.com especially with two more scout races contracted in the last few weeks.

Mr Phillips added: “Besides the fun elements of the system like decorating your balloon and tracking it as it flies on Google maps, there are major educational outputs available in addition.

"These include teaching real life aspects of environmental issues, geography, geology and meteorology. Importantly too, the race system is not considered gambling."

With new innovations planned for this year, the company is predicting that its 2015 race will more than triple the previous amount.

Over the last three years the platform has raised over £3m for good causes

The group’s increasing success comes as environmental pressure groups such as the Marine Conservation Society and their "Don’t Let Go" campaign are putting significant pressure on the UK government to outlaw all real balloon races in the future.