Fun with Kites
I’ve been wanting to take aerial photos for a while now. Suspending a camera from a kite seemed like the best way of doing this.
I picked up an inexpensive camera on craigslist. I modified it with custom firmware from http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK , which allowed me to trigger the shutter at pre-programmed intervals. I picked up a kite that was recommended for this sort of task, a “Sutton Flow Form”, which has a parachute-like design and has 16 square feet of surface area for plenty of lift. Finally, I cobbled together a mounting bracket with some screws and random stationary supplies from Staples.
We spent our Canada Day weekend in Guelph with our friends Craig and Jan, whom have a farm just north of the city, which seemed like a great opportunity to fly a kite.
I am really, really glad I attempted to do this in a wide open space first for my first attempt - there were a few times I was concerned the rig was going to smash into the ground, and there’s a much greater probability of this hitting someone in my neighbourhood. Together with Craig and his son Ben, we managed to get some great photos.
My kite, in stock form, is a little unstable in gusty winds (the instructions recommend adding tails to address this), and did not provide great photos on our first attempt. This was addressed on our 2nd attempt with the addition of another kite. Craig happened to have a super-stable delta-style kite with a 6 ft wingspan. We launched my kite into the air about 30 ft, and then tied the rope to his delta kite, launched the delta kite, and then once it was 20 ft in the air, suspended the camera rig to the line.
The amount of lift was incredible. We had to wear gloves to prevent rope burn. The camera periodically took photos for about 10 minutes. We stopped for lunch.
We tried again after lunch. I only had 300 ft of kite line, but Craig had a huge bag of hay bale twine - an essentially unlimited supply of rope. We programmed the camera to take photos every 20 seconds for 30 minutes. We took a photo from the ground early on, and an airplane passed by.
We continued to let the line out for about half an hour. The kites and camera rig were impossibly high - it was unbelievable.
It came time to reel the kites back in. It was impossible. It took incredible strength to pull the kites in. After about 10 minutes of pulling, the line snapped, and we watched the kites drift away. Jan and I hopped into my car to chase them down. Fortunately, the crops were still only about a foot high, and we actually saw the kites land in a neighbouring field about 3 km away. We recovered the kites and camera, intact.
Unfortunately, my craigslist-special camera didn’t capture any photos of this round.
The kites, and cameras, were subsequently re-launched. However, they ended up caught in a very tall tree. We are all anxiously awaiting a strong wind to pull them down…
Great times were had by all -