Kite Aerial Photography (KAP)

Note: this is an old web page. I updated the kite plan links in 2021 but have not done any kite flying for a long time. Maybe it is time to try again.

I liked to fly kites when I was about 15.  I could buy a kite kit at Woolworth's for a quarter?  Once I got free kites for some Chex box tops.  These were "classic" diamond-shaped kites made of a thin paper and flexible strips of wood.   

Much of my kite flying experience was similar to Charlie Brown's.  I particularly remember trying to fly a plastic Instamatic camera, my introduction to kite aerial photography.  The wind was strong.  When I pulled hard at one frustrating moment to keep the kite in the air, both kite sticks broke simultaneously.  The ball of paper, wood and camera fell to the ground, smoldering, as I used a burning punk as part of a "timed" shutter release mechanism..


wpe1D.jpg (17158 bytes)I have advanced to other kite designs.  Here are some kite plans on the internet.

Kite plans.

Pictured on the left is my slightly tattered delta conyne.  Here is a plan for a delta conyne from the kite plan site:


I used 1/4" dowel for the vertical pieces and 5/16" dowel for the outer sides of the delta wings.  The rear brace is also 5/16" dowel.   It is about 6' wide at the base.  The fabric is parachute nylon.

I made a nice Rokakku that had so much pull that it broke its string (fishing line) and went off to live in a nearby woods.  I made a bigger one, about 6' X 6', pictured below right. 

Both kites fly well in a steady 15 mph wind.  I use braided nylon cord to fly these.  Don't use monofilament fishing line to fly a big kite.  That's how I lost little Rokakku.

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Some Early Shutter Release Mechanisms

In a prelude to my latest attempts at KAP, I made a mechanical shutter release device to periodically snap pictures using a disposable camera.  The blue numbers in the photo to the right are as follows.  1.  a plastic case holding a motor andwpe1A.jpg (11036 bytes) batteries.   2. The geared cam which pulls on rod 3, thus pulling bar 4 which pushes the shutter release.  What's number 5?  I forget.  This was bulky and inconvenient, since it had a manual film advance.  I wanted instant gratification and useful feedback; I flew this, but never took pictures with it.

A wind-up mechanism, pictured below left, has a slowly turning wooden wheel with protrusions that push the shutter release of cheap plastic camera with auto-advance.   The camera and mechanism were mounted on a light wooden triangular platform, pictured further below.  This wind-up device was not reliable, not powerful enough to do the job.

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A Platform

A flying kite dips and turns, flutters, and does not fly well with a camera attached to it.  I attach the camera to a light platform that is secured to the kite cord several feet below the kite.  I use a triangle shape for stability.  In the figure below left, the green box is a camera, the black triangle is the platform, the blue line is the kite cord, and the red lines are fishing line to tie the platform to the kite cord.wpe1A.jpg (7230 bytes)





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Here is a picture of the platform I have been using.  I must make a better one that will allow me to point the camera in any direction using some kind of turet mount.   Besides, our dog broke this one...




The Flying Camcorder

My next goal was to fly our old 8mm camcorder. This is not a tiny mini-DV camcorder and probably weighs over 2 pounds.  I used the wooden platform shown above, flew the camcorder in a strong wind.  It got dragged on the ground a little, and was buffeted by the wind, not being areodynamically designed.  Here are some pictures.

The backyard:

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The chicken coop:

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Though these pictures are not very sharp, it was exhilarating to watch the flying camcorder, exciting to have captured these photos.  A flying movie camera records continuously.  When the camera was relatively still, the results were as shown.   For most of the flight, the bouncing, swinging camera recorded blurry images.

Digital Camera

I put this hobby aside for a time, then found a $35 1.3 megapixel digital camera with self-timer and movie mode.  Coincidentally, I found this camera in early March, with late Winter winds blowing.  The movie mode records very tiny movies, not nearly as satisfying as those produced by the camcorder.  In my first attempts with this camera, I used the 10-second self-timer.  Holding the kite cord, I pushed the self-timer button, then let the camera out as fast as it would go.  The camera could not climb very high this way:

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After some reflection, I tried tethering the kite with the camera up quite high.   Then I walked along the cord, pulling the camera down. I pushed the self-timer and let the camera climb back up into the sky.  It got much higher in 10 seconds:

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I made some modifications to the platform today.  Now I need a windy day to try it out.

Here is my modified kite platform, with added bits of mahogany:

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The center piece rotates on a piece of dowel.  A 1/4-20 screw holds the camera, the machine screw on the right provides friction so the camera can be moved to any position.

With a good breeze, I caught these shots:


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Points west (could that be the curvature of the Earth???  NO.):

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April 2003.

The tattered kite has gone to nest in a tall tree in the woods.  This project is on hold.

May 2003.