KAP: Kite Aerial Photography

Julie of the RAJ Mahal here. This is my first blog entry, ever. But I am excited to spend Saturday night flogging.

I’m also very excited to be involved in the KAP project this summer. As Stuart has noted, “aerial photography from
kites is one of the oldest forms of remote sensing of the earth’s surface.”

Stuart constructed the rig:
Brooxes Basic KAP Kit purchased from

We attached the camera, a Canon Powershot S70, and sent it up on a test run on our Flow Form 16 x 4ft, which is suitable for winds of 8-25 mph, but (as we found) becomes increasingly difficult past 15mph.

Our other kite is a G-Kites Dopero, good for 5-12mph winds. It’s a bit smaller (6ft by 10ft).

Everything went fairly smoothly until we returned and were frustratingly foiled by technology. We shot the images in RAW format (necessary for the fine scale images we hope to produce) which are supposed to be accompanied by a JPEG thumbnail. Turns out we don’t have the software to open and work with these RAW files and we couldn’t find the JPEG files anywhere! We have a couple promising leads on programs to manipulate the RAW files – hopefully Josh, our resident techie (would you prefer tech guru? I just don’t like to encourage technology. We don’t mix, technology and I), will help us overcome this obstacle.

So, as of yet, we don’t *really* know how our test run went. The lens had retracted back into the body of the camera both times we sent it up, but based on the number of files we uploaded, it does not appear that it stopped shooting images. Don’t know what’s up with that. I find it a little troublesome. I don’t like when gadgets do mysterious things that defy control.

Important notes:
*Wear gloves
*Stay away from trees
*Electrical tape is great for affixing the LED over the camera’s remote sensor – it’s opaque, which is good because the system doesn’t work as well in direct sunlight. And it’s easy to remove and re-attach.
*Make sure to use the fuzzy tail – increases stability
*Pin the rig on as close to the kite body as feasible/practical (not *too* close)
*When bringing down the kite, hold the wheel vertical as you roll in the line. If you hold it horizontally, the line twists as you roll is, which is bad for storage
*When bringing the kite down, it works for one person (in gloves!) to pull the line down, hand over hand. The other person should stand behind with the wheel to roll in the line. Try to keep up so that the line doesn’t get dirty (which, as climbers know, severely shortens the lifespan of a rope)
*A second person is necessary for assisting in bringing the kite/rig down, especially in high winds
*A second (and ideally third) person is necessary for determining exactly where the rig is flying. It’s hard to tell where it is (what it is taking pictures of) without people on either side (say, 50m away) for rough triangulation.
*Holding the kite can be tiresome, especially in high winds. Don’t be shy about taking turns.

Build a kite-flying contraption. I am imagining something with handles like a rolling pin (so that you can roll and unroll smoothly, without twisting the line) and some sort of a clamp to hold the line in place once the kite has reached cruising altitude. I don’t think it should be something that affixes to the ground because you need to be able to walk around (in an attempt to coax the kite into a transect). I don’t fish – how do fishing poles work? I presume they have some sort of locking mechanism – perhaps something we could mimic on a larger/cruder scale?

Here are some links (from Stuart):
lots of info and links to good Q&As and safety stuff
great resource
looks good
looks good
good links here!


looks good
old discussion


Abers at Emporia State U


comprehensive, but old
info on rigs


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