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Kite aerial photography

Postby montagdude » Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:40 pm

This is a new hobby I've gotten into recently. The pictures were taken from a local park. The kite and camera rig were custom made by me. I used an app called Open Camera on an old cellphone to take pictures on an interval and fix the focus to infinity, but I think I will be replacing that soon with a used Canon Elph that should give better quality. Maybe KAP is not so practical nowadays with the advent of drones, but it's fun and there are fewer regulations.

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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby tikibar » Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:57 pm

Drones are neat gadgets and all, but this is utterly cool. I'm inspired to start gathering parts immediately. Do those pegs on the sides allow you to adjust the camera pitch angle?

Thank you for sharing this with us!
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby montagdude » Mon Aug 03, 2020 9:09 pm

tikibar wrote in Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:57 pm:Drones are neat gadgets and all, but this is utterly cool. I'm inspired to start gathering parts immediately. Do those pegs on the sides allow you to adjust the camera pitch angle?

Thank you for sharing this with us!

Yup, you've got it. I can adjust it from 0 (straight ahead) to -90 degrees (straight down) in 22.5 degree increments. I can also adjust the angle about the vertical axis in 45 degree increments. Of course, with this design you have to choose the angles beforehand. Some of the fancy (and much heavier) setups use radio control to change the camera angle in flight.
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby Johan G » Tue Aug 04, 2020 3:00 pm

That looks really nice. :D 8)

My brothers tried to get up an camera in either a tethered hot air balloon or a parafoil kite back in late 1990's or early 00's. They could not get enough buoyancy so they went with a parafoil kite, looking a lot like Domina Jalbert's seminal 1964 patent and about 2 m (6 ft) long and 1.5 m (4.5 ft) wide. The material used was the kind of plastic film painters often use when painting indoors. Unfortunately they could not figure out how to get a stable enough platform to get non-blurry pictures. :( Also digital cameras was a slight bit more expensive back then.

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Parafoil kite by Johan, on Flickr
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby montagdude » Tue Aug 04, 2020 5:32 pm

Nice! I've heard that parafoil type kites are good in high winds. I've never had one before. My kite is called a "dopero" (double Pearson roller). It is 65 inches wide and 65 inches tall, made from ripstop nylon and Skyshark carbon fiber tubes. I scaled it up from these plans and adapted it somewhat for the materials I was using:

Dopero kite

By the way, that site has a lot of really good designs to make out of cheap materials like wooden dowels and plastic drop cloths. I made a few of them before I attempted the ripstop and carbon fiber version.

The camera rig is supported using a picavet suspension, which helps the camera angle stay constant even when it's swinging around.
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby Johan G » Wed Aug 05, 2020 1:09 pm

montagdude wrote in Tue Aug 04, 2020 5:32 pm:I've heard that parafoil type kites are good in high winds.

I understood from a phone conversation with one of my brothers yesterday that, while it was good while there was wind, it would drop like a stone as soon as there was even the shortest break in the wind. My brothers also made one in a thinner and lighter plastic material that also dropped quickly, just not that fast.

montagdude wrote in Tue Aug 04, 2020 5:32 pm:My kite is called a "dopero" (double Pearson roller). It is 65 inches wide and 65 inches tall, made from ripstop nylon and Skyshark carbon fiber tubes. I scaled it up from these plans and adapted it somewhat [...]

It looks like it would be quite stable. Also, ripstop fabric is a much better choice of material (though the material they used was quicker to source). :)

montagdude wrote in Tue Aug 04, 2020 5:32 pm:The camera rig is supported using a picavet suspension, which helps the camera angle stay constant even when it's swinging around.

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Picavet cross by Patrick Fulton.Beechhouse at en.wikipedia / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Wikipedia wrote:A Picavet suspension [...] consists of a rigid cross suspended below the kite line from two points. A single line is threaded several times between the points of the cross and the points of attachment to the kite line and the rig is attached to the cross. The Picavet line runs through eye hooks or small pulleys so that the weight of the rig causes it to settle naturally into a level position.

Ooh, that seems very useful. :D
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby Thorsten » Thu Aug 06, 2020 5:34 pm

That's a pretty cool project. I'm using the drone as a tool to get a certain cinematic motion - for which it works rather well - but the kite project has STYLE!
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby montagdude » Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:44 pm

Thanks for the compliment, Thorsten. I have a "drone" too, actually a small R/C plane that I designed for FPV, but it only has a small standard definition video camera on it. Part of my motivation for the kite project was to be able to haul up a heavier camera with higher resolution. Of course, this is also easily possible with a large enough drone, but I wanted to do a kite instead.

Here's my attempt to match the photo in FlightGear. This is with my custom scenery for Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. It's not half bad - it's got the roads, buildings and parking lots mostly in the right place. Next we've gotta get kites in the sim. :)

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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby montagdude » Mon Aug 10, 2020 1:13 pm

I took the kite out again yesterday to the same park, equipped with a new camera (Canon Elph 160, lighter and higher resolution than the phone) and 200 extra feet of string. I tried pointing the camera level, since last time a lot of the pictures ended up pointing farther downward than I wanted. Unfortunately I didn't really get anything that turned out too well. I think I attached the rig too close to the kite, because it seemed to be swinging around more than last time. Most of the pictures had some motion blur. I'll switch back to 22.5 degrees down next time too, because there was too much sky in most of the shots. I did find (after the fact) a different custom firmware for this camera that seems like it will work better for keeping the shutter speed to a fast minimum value that I can set.

The "landing" was a bit eventful. As I was trying to bring the kite down, it must have gotten caught in a thermal, because it wanted to go directly overhead. This situation was a bit scary because if it "overflies" (goes upwind of me) the line can go slack, and then who knows where it might end up. Having the rig so close to the kite also seems to make it more unstable when the tension drops - the rig pulls the nose down and the kite starts gliding instead of pulling against the string. I'll need to adjust that and play with the bridle point next time. Luckily I had plenty of space in this park, so I dropped the winder and ran the line down to make sure the kite didn't get stuck in a tree or crash into a car. It ended up crashing nose first in the grass, closer than I would have liked to the parking lot. I'll need to re-glue the base of the camera rig, but other than that there was no damage. I'll post one shot, even though it's not that great. Hopefully I'll get better results next time.

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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby wlbragg » Tue Aug 11, 2020 1:21 am

That's pretty cool!
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby montagdude » Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:47 pm

Same park, looking north this time. I didn't get as much altitude this time due to a marginal wind and probably suboptimal bridle point. Also, I attached the rig to the line after the kite was already flying this time, so it was about 100 ft below the kite. Still, it's always kind of surprising how much can be seen if you can just get a little bit above the treetops. The pictures turned out better this time. Most of them were actually sharp. That's partly because the camera swings around less when it's farther below the kite, but also because I found a way to ensure a faster shutter speed. (I'm now using CHDK now with a dedicated aerial photography intervalometer and exposure control script someone wrote. All the shots had a shutter speed of 1/1000 sec or faster.)

Next time maybe I'll try to find a new, possibly more interesting location.

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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby Johan G » Tue Aug 25, 2020 12:29 am

montagdude wrote in Mon Aug 24, 2020 5:47 pm:The pictures turned out better this time. Most of them were actually sharp.

If I did not know better I would think it was taken from a tower.
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby montagdude » Tue Aug 25, 2020 12:52 am

Thanks for the compliment! Though I must admit I did have to rotate it 5 degrees in Gimp.

I found out there is a lighthouse in the area that I haven't ever visited. I'm going to see about maybe using that as my next subject.
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby montagdude » Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:28 am

New location, not terribly scenic, but I did get some good shots.

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KAP selfie :)

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Hundreds of feet above the park

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Stadium lights

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Looking a different direction
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Re: Kite aerial photography

Postby montagdude » Wed Sep 23, 2020 4:19 am

Figured I'd add a few more recent ones taken nearby a local college.

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I decided to start making a new kite for aerial photography in very light winds. It will be very large - about 88 inches tall and 97.5 inches wide at the widest part. It will be a bit simpler design than the other one. This was prompted by a few attempts where the winds were just too light to get the Dopero kite in the air, and a couple other where it did get in the air but wasn't able to lift the rig very high. I'll post some pictures of the new kite when it's done. Probably won't be for another month at least.
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