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Build Your Own KiteCam

michael posted about 10 years ago | from the sacrifices-necessary-in-the-cause-of-Science dept.

Toys 168

wally writes "Paul Mutton successfully managed to kill an expensive digital camera taking aerial photos using a kite, parcel tape and some bubble wrap. The geek explains the ups and downs (excuse the pun) of his attempt to take some aerial photographs with a friend using a Casio EX-Z3 digital camera attached to a kite in good ol' Blue Peter style bubble wrap and parcel tape. Paul did however manage to take 2 or 3 pretty photos of Kent University before his precious camera speed to the ground at a speed with enough force to render it quite unusable. Out of bits left intact was the flash card and a 30 second clip leading up to the crash. Remember children: Don't try this at home!"

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Well... (2)

XeRXeS-TCN (788834) | about 10 years ago | (#9537466)

Just fit the camera with a parachute, and you're sorted ;) Not using a really expensive camera would also probably be top of the list :P

Re:Well... (2, Interesting)

azadam (250783) | about 10 years ago | (#9537692)

Seems like the drag of the parachute might manifest a crash of its own. ;)

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537724)

ObWKRP "I swear to god, I thought cameras could fly!"

But But.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537467)

Will it beat my honda hybrid

"30 second clip leading upto the crash" (4, Funny)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | about 10 years ago | (#9537473)

Wait, did you mean the kite or the server?

camera fund (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537478)

I hate to be a dick, but I'm not going to donate money to this guy's "camera fund". If it had been stolen or something, that might generate some sympathy - but the dude damaged his own camera in an idiotic "Tim the Tool-Man Taylor" sort of way... Next time... well... don't do that.

beggar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537507)

its amazing how many beggars, tramps and poor people line the streets on the Internet

Re:beggar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537592)

its amazing how many beggars, tramps and poor people line the streets on the Internet

Does that mean universal Internet access is finally here? Where are the drug pushers, pimps, prostitutes, insane asymlum throwouts, people pushing shopping carts on the sidewalk, gangsters, drive by shooters, drunks, potheads, cokeheads, and other general scum? Come to think of it, I'd rather not know.

Re:beggar (2, Funny)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | about 10 years ago | (#9537765)

Pushers: Spammers
Pimps: Porn sites
Prostitutes: Camwhores
Insane Asylum Throwouts: IRC
People Pushing Shopping Carts:
Gangsters and Drive by Shooters:
Drunks and Potheads: IRC again
Cokeheads and other General Scum: Working for Microsoft

Re:beggar (2, Funny)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 10 years ago | (#9537773)


Re:camera fund (1)

Zorilla (791636) | about 10 years ago | (#9537575)

Seems after the article got posted, his server needs MORE POWER!

Re:camera fund (4, Insightful)

GoRK (10018) | about 10 years ago | (#9537595)

Not to mention that he's trying to raise the money to replace the camera. The last time I dropped an $800 digital camera from a kite, it only cost $100 to have repaired and it was equally as trashed as this dude's.

Re:camera fund (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537636)

I do mean to be a dick.... lets stop posting the kite cams for the sake of my sanity..... who hasnt made one, flown one, or read a stupid article on the subject or other subjects like hobby rockets with cameras, or the dragonfly remote helicopter.....
JUST SHUT UP and get back to NOVEL projects

Re:camera fund (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537731)

I do mean to be a dick

You succeeded. Remember that feeling, it won't happen often.

Re:camera fund (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537757)

be / have...

same, same :P

Re:camera fund (2, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | about 10 years ago | (#9537783)

See, that's odd. I am MORE willing to donate to this guy's fund than if it was stolen. He did something interesting and a little bit humorous. I could see myself giving the guy a pound or a dollar or two.

On the other hand, if it was stollen, I get a whole "poor me someone help me" feeling from it, and I wouldn't donate.

He damanged it doing something cool. I won't give him 150 pounds, but I could give him one or two.

PS: No, I won't actually be donating because I'm broke and cheap.

Re:camera fund (3, Insightful)

stienman (51024) | about 10 years ago | (#9537963)

I could give him one or two.

PS: No, I won't actually be donating because I'm broke and cheap.

Typical response - "I'm more likely to donate to X than Y but I'm not donating to either because of Z"

You could be infinitely more likely to donate to one than the other and still have the same result if you didn't plan on donating to either in the first place.

It's always easier said than done, isn't it?

Not to pick on you personally, but it is disheartening to see this lack of action that is so common on message boards such as slashdot.


there's MUCH better work out there. (5, Informative)

Matey-O (518004) | about 10 years ago | (#9537481)

(and I won't grouse about my week old rejected submission either.)

Go look up Kite Aerial Photography on google, and check out this guy's 3-d panoramas:

Re:there's MUCH better work out there. (4, Funny)

snookerdoodle (123851) | about 10 years ago | (#9537531)

Yea, but where's HIS 30 second crash clip? ;-)


Re:there's MUCH better work out there. (2, Interesting)

blamblamblam (610567) | about 10 years ago | (#9537769)

I agree--these guys are relative lightweights. Several years ago, a friend of mine used RC car parts along with a cage-like assembly to suspend a normal film camera along the line of a kite. With this setup he could angle the camera up and down, as well as let it travel up and down the line, and take pictures when he wanted to. The 10-second delay tactic the guys in the post used is pretty lame by comparison.

Re:there's MUCH better work out there. (2, Insightful)

Burstwave (520213) | about 10 years ago | (#9537781)

Haefer's work is superb and contains a wonderfully crafted tutorial on the professional methods used to craft these impressive images.

idea long back (1)

earthstar (748263) | about 10 years ago | (#9537490)

I had the same idea few years back,but dismissed it ,coz ididnt know how the kite could sustain the weight of the camera.
Am glad someone atleast got 3 pics.
Perhaps, a hobby aeroplane would be better suited for this purpose of aerial photography-bu then it is expensive.:-(

Blue Peter Style ? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537493)

Blue Peter [] style is stickyback plastic and sellotape, not bubblewrap,
perhaps they should teach more observation skills

Re:Blue Peter Style ? (2, Funny)

Basehart (633304) | about 10 years ago | (#9537643)

Actually, for projects requiring a layer of padding they always suggested using a wig to put between the stickyback plastic and the object, after asking a parent or grandparent for permission first of course.

Oh, how we would laugh when granny would go off to the shops wearing our latest project on her head because she couldn't get the stickyback plastic off.

Re:Blue Peter Style ? (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 10 years ago | (#9537879)

Oi! Stickybacked plastic *is* sellotape! Sellotape, as all good trademark respecting peoples know, a trademark, and therefore should be referred to in the generic as sticky tape or sticky backed plastic. So there.

And besides, you left out loo roll tubes. They are more important even than sticky backed plastic.

Re:Blue Peter Style ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537938)

And, surely, most important of all was the washing-up liquid bottle, (which had to be Fairy Liquid).
Unfortunately Procter and Gamble have done the dirty on today's children and moved away from their rocket shaped bottles :(

Re:Blue Peter Style ? (1)

surprise_audit (575743) | about 10 years ago | (#9537941)

Blue Peter style is stickyback plastic and sellotape

IIRC stickyback-plastic==Cellotape. They called it stickbacked-plastic because using its brand name would be advertising, and that wasn't allowed.

Why.. (0, Offtopic)

0x54524F4C4C (712971) | about 10 years ago | (#9537498)

Have he used a $5 disposable film-based camera and donated $300 to aid the poor of Africa have some food?

Re:Why.. (1)

bestguruever (666273) | about 10 years ago | (#9537997)

When you add in the $5000 for the jet pack he would need to get up there and snap the picture, the disposable film-based camera would be a net loss

You're a good man... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537509)

I haven't seen the video yet, but judging by the summary, I half expect to catch a glimpse of Charlie Brown on the other end of that string...

Re:You're a good man... (2, Funny)

platypussrex (594064) | about 10 years ago | (#9537537)

No Charlie Brown visible, but if you do watch the video, and observe this fellow's kite flying "skills", you will quickly see why it crashed.

Also... (5, Interesting)

Machitis (597087) | about 10 years ago | (#9537511)

My brother had strapped a cheap digital camera to a remote control airplane and took some pictures. Simply incredible what he did with that. He also got some great crash footage that was priceless. :)

Re:Also... (1)

msim (220489) | about 10 years ago | (#9537740)

mate, don't just tell us, upload it somewhere and get that site slashdotted too. oh yeah, tell me before you get it slashdotted so i can actually get it too please. ;-)

Did it myself... (4, Interesting)

GoRK (10018) | about 10 years ago | (#9537520)

I crashed my kite rig [] once too. I think it's kind of a rite of passage in the hobby. Lots of things can go wrong. This crash cost about $1 per foot fallen for the camera repair luckily. The camera was a Canon Powershot G2.

This has been a really fun hobby. I got into it after seeing a very old /. article about it. Unfortunately, I haven't had a lot of time to get out and do it for about a year, but I'm not done by far :)

BTW to the person who submitted about the 360deg aerials, I have made one [] as well. They are pretty difficult to get right, but they are singlehandedly the most awesome photos I have ever been able to take on a fairly shoestring photography budget.

More of my KAP stuff here [] for those curious.

Re:Did it myself... (4, Interesting)

GoRK (10018) | about 10 years ago | (#9537566)

On second thought this guy really had it coming. His rig was not adequate for the task he was trying to do. Most people in this type of shoestring setup of taping the camera to the kiteline opt for very cheap ($10) film cameras or disposables with small mechanical shutter releases. Hopefully, this setback won't discourage him from further attempts to do some kite photography, but hopefully at least next time he will use a proper rig with a proper suspension if he wants to send up a couple hundred bucks worth of camera equipment.

BTW any KAP'ers who happen to be on Orkut, there is a group called Kite Aerial Photography I am trying to start up over there.

Re:Did it myself... (1)

ktulu1115 (567549) | about 10 years ago | (#9537651)

The camera was a Canon Powershot G2.
Ouch, I'm sorry. That's a nice camera to get smashed, even though it is a slightly older model. For my recent purchase, I was looking at a G5 actually but ended up settling for the A80.

Just curious.... How much was it to get repaired?

Re:Did it myself... (2, Interesting)

GoRK (10018) | about 10 years ago | (#9537699)

The total bill with shipping came to about $150. For a drop of as many feet, it was a good deal. BTW this was back before the G3 was even out. The G2 was still selling for >$800, and so we had dropped basically a top of the line camera! Canon's support and repair services were absolutely excellent, and I have encouraged the purchase of very little but Canon since.

Canon's new S1 IS is an awesome little camera. My dad just got one. It's not even a 4 megapixel camera, but buying a point and shoot on this ridiculous statistic alone is like buying a computer based on the processor's raw clock speed alone. This is an excellent camera so far at a very good price.

kittycam? (5, Funny)

mr.scoot (745046) | about 10 years ago | (#9537521)

On first look, I read that as "Build your own kittycam". I began to wonder what kind of monster image stabilization system you would need to couteract a pissed off bundle of fur and claws spinning at 120rpm.

Re:kittycam? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537703)

what kind of monster image stabilization system you would need

Do a search on Steadycat.

Interesting choice for a camera... (4, Informative)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 10 years ago | (#9537526)

Just 2 comments (at +2) and the server is already dead. A new record? Anyway....

Why use such an expensive camera? There's loads of R/C airplane pilots taking aerial pictures, now that the price for a decent digital camera has dropped. These days, a nice 2-3 megapixel cheapo camera will cost less than the radio gear in a typical plane. Use that rather than one that costs 300 pounds.

So... I won't be contributing to his fund for a new camera. As any aeromodeller will confirm, crashing is part of the hobby.

Re:Interesting choice for a camera... (1)

surprise_audit (575743) | about 10 years ago | (#9537984)

The Dakota cameras from Ritz/Wolf Cameras are still pretty cheap, and it wouldn't take a lot to hook up the shutter release to a servo. It's just a couple of brass contacts with a sprung plastic button... A sliding metal plate on a servo arm ought to do it.

If only Ben Franklin would have had this ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537530)

He would have been too busy looking down ladies' bossoms to even care about electricity

Better headline (0, Redundant)

cheetah (9485) | about 10 years ago | (#9537539)

Shouldn't this story be titled "How to crash your home built KiteCam" or at least "how to use slashdot to crash your webserver in 3 easy steps".

Full Article Here (5, Informative)

bugmenot (788326) | about 10 years ago | (#9537547)

Here is the full article from their page before it gets /.'ed.

The Day I Broke My Camera
One sunny day, a friend of mine had this crazy idea of sending a camera up on my kite to take some aerial photos. He was unwilling to use his camera, so I foolishly used my own. The end result was that I broke my digital camera worth over 300. If you're thinking of trying something similar, this story may make you think about planning it a bit better than we did.

The Kite
The kite we used was a Flexifoil Super 10. This has a parachute-like appearance and has a span of 10ft. It would have no trouble lifting most cameras, although if it gets too windy, it pulls very hard and it's difficult to stand still.

The Camera
My camera is (was?) a Casio EX-Z3. This is a very small and light digital camera that seemed suitable for airborne photography. It is capable of taking a sequence of three photos after a ten second delay, which gives plenty of time for the kite to get into its highest position from a standing launch. Andy was kindly responsible for pressing the shutter button and launching the kite while I held the control lines. It was also his idea to do this in the first place. Perhaps I shouldn't have listened to him!

Protecting the Camera
Obviously, my main concern was that I'd paid over 300 for the camera and I didn't want to break it. I put on my Blue Peter hat and cunningly crafted a fine blend of bubblewrap, toilet roll and parcel tape. The idea was that even if the camera fell from a great height, the camera would be safe. Maybe I should have used more bubblewrap...

Testing the Camera Protection
I slotted the camera into its impromptu bubblewrap casing and it looked like it felt at home. Elastic bands and some string kept it from falling out. I tested it out by throwing it around the room while it counted down from ten and took some photos. The lens was able to get a good, unobscured view courtesy of my patented Toilet Roll/Bubblewrap Hybrid Lens Protection System (TM). (That's a joke, by the way, in case someone else has already patented it...)

Weather Conditions
We were getting excited, because the wind looked a lot better than it had the day before. There seemed to be enough, but not too much. It was a very hot day! Towards the end of the aerial photography session, the wind died down a bit and it became increasingly difficult to fly.

The First Flight!
The first flight was quite successful, but in the bright sun it was difficult to see how well the photos had come out. The only way of attaching the camera to the Flexifoil was to suspend it on a 10ft piece of string between each end of the carbon fibre leading edge spar, so I was a bit worried about how "steady" the camera would be during flight. It did seem to wobble about quite a bit (particularly when I performed a few loops) but it was a lovely bright day, so the exposure time was pretty short.

Taking More Photos
The bubblewrap casing seemed to be doing a good job of protecting the camera. None of the landings had been particularly heavy so far, so we sent the kite up a few more times to take some more photos. The next photo shows Eliot College at the University of Kent. The pointy building in the distance is the Electronics lab. You can also see The Venue, Keynes College and Beckett Court in this photo.

Taking Even More Photos
It was a bit of a gamble taking the photos. Some of them were just bits of grass and most were taken at weird angles. But we carried on taking a few more before moving on to taking some short video clips.

Pushing the Envelope
While we were trying to take the video clips, the wind had died down to a level that made it almost impossible to control the kite. However, every now and then, a gust of wind would come along that made it possible to launch the kite and camera combo. During one particularly gusty session, the wind seemed to totally disappear and the kite ended up facing towards the ground. With no tension in the control lines, it headed towards the ground at a growing pace...

Surveying the Damage
The Flexifoil hit the ground hard. The camera hit the ground even harder. Really hard. I suspected that the impact was perhaps a little too much for the bubblewrap casing to withstand. The first observation was that the lens system was damaged, as the dust cover was half open. Closer inspection revealed that the lens casing had cracked. It had clearly taken some impact! To remove the camera from the bubblewrap casing, it needed to be turned off to make the lens retract. This did not happen. "Uh-oh," I thought to myself.

The Final Flight Revisited

Not everything was lost. The memory card on the camera survived the impact and all of the photos and video clips remained intact. These are quite possibly the most expensive photos I've ever taken. Here's an AVI video of the very last flight my camera made. Unfortunately, it was limited to 30 seconds in duration, so you don't get to see the actual impact. I did a number of loops, so be prepared to get dizzy :)

Please Help Me Buy a New Camera :)
I am currently without a working camera. I miss being able to take photos. I hope you enjoyed seeing the last photos I ever took. Please donate to my camera fund at the top of this page and I will be eternally grateful! I promise not to do anything stupid like this again. Thank you.

A Flexifoil??? (4, Informative)

droopus (33472) | about 10 years ago | (#9537744)

He used a Flexifoil? Then the guy is simply an idiot.

I've been flying multi line kits for almost twenty years. A Flexi [] is a fast moving kite two-line with tons of pull. I have three ten footers, and even in a light wind ONE is enough to work my arms out. In 15 mph + it will drag me down the beach.

Flexifoils are commonly used in buggying [] and speed and pull are the reason they are used.

In light winds I've stacked the three ten footers and they literally lifted my 175 pounds right off the ground like a bug.

Kite cams are nothing new...we were doing kite photography in the 80's. But we would NEVER have used a Flexi for that, Kite cams are best on single line kites, perhaps a large delta.

I don't donate to people who use the wrong equipment for something that was done much better 15 years ago.

Seems a little loose for a /. story. Must be a light news day.

Visit Steve Winwood's site [] for free music and video!

What Guts! (1)

earthstar (748263) | about 10 years ago | (#9537554)

Please Help Me Buy a New Camera :) I am currently without a working camera. I miss being able to take photos. I hope you enjoyed seeing the last photos I ever took. Please donate to my camera fund at the top of this page and I will be eternally grateful! I promise not to do anything stupid like this again. Thank you.

What guts he has to ask like that!Childish too.Iam surprised how he got that 7.6 pounds even(his guilty friend must hav given it).
What is the probability that someone will donate him????Zero?
if any of you consider donating,donateto CRY []

Next time use Baloons; (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537557)

they are more stable and less subject to
sudden losses of altitute.

Yes. And they make a better... (1)

dark-br (473115) | about 10 years ago | (#9537620) >:)

At least, it got them (0, Redundant)

mi (197448) | about 10 years ago | (#9537564)

A few minutes of SlashDot fame...

Did he help out with the Mars Beagle Probe ? (2, Funny)

TheUncleBob (791234) | about 10 years ago | (#9537571)

I see a similarity here - no matter how much you spend on bubble wrap - if you drop it from high enough, it WILL break.

Now He'll Need a Bandwidth Fund Too (2, Funny)

Limecron (206141) | about 10 years ago | (#9537577)

Hmm... 3Mb AVI * 100k Downloads = Uhoh (Not to mention the page views.)

I hope his ISP doesn't charge too much. :)

I can just see the net loss of this whole endeavor sky rocketing further. I hope it wasn't his "friend" who submitted this one.

Re:Now He'll Need a Bandwidth Fund Too (2, Informative)

Basehart (633304) | about 10 years ago | (#9537820)

Looks like he knows almost as much about encoding video as he does about sending a camera up on a kite without trashing it.

In future I'd recommend downloading a little app from Microsoft called Windows Media Encoder and messing around with the settings until you get a really small file that plays back double size.

Better still, upgrade a copy of QuickTime to the pro version and make a 160x120 12fps movie using sorensons codec with an avg bit rate of around 40k and set it to play back double size.

A little research means you'd still have a camera and a server!!

Nothing new (5, Informative)

trainsnpep (608418) | about 10 years ago | (#9537580)

Don't see what all the fuss is about: Charlie Benton [] has been doing it for years....only thing is, he hasn't been wrecking 'em.

Re:Nothing new (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 10 years ago | (#9537822)

Yes, but is it Slashdotworthy if he doesn't destroy some equipment? Not unless the kite ran Linux, provided WiFi coverage or crashed because of Windows... :)

SlashCam (4, Funny)

Konster (252488) | about 10 years ago | (#9537584)

I have invented the SlashCam, an open source project that acts as a plug-in to Slashdot that allows the viewers to see (in real time!)your server go down in flames seconds after an article containing your address is posted! as hcam

Re:SlashCam (0, Redundant)

Chatmag (646500) | about 10 years ago | (#9537647)

Damn, no mod points, just when I needed to mod the parent, funnier than hell.

Cheaper digital cameras for aerial photography (5, Informative)

pm (11079) | about 10 years ago | (#9537589)

There are several pretty good, really cheap cameras out there that take decent pictures and don't weigh a lot that would work better in this application.

For example, the AIPTek Pencam 1.3 [] weighs 2.4oz and takes 1.3MP pictures. The imager is CMOS (rather than CCD) and so the pictures are sensitive to the lighting, but they usually come out pretty good. AIPTek also makes several other models that work well. You can buy them at Circuit City and Walmart and if you hit the sales right, you can buy one for $50.

The Mustek Mini 3 [] is also very light and takes pretty good pictures and can be purchased for less than $100.

A good resource for aerial photography - although aimed at R/C airplane aerial photography - is the aerial photography [] forum at RCGroups.Com. Check out the thread at the top labelled "Digital Cameras under 5oz for aerial photography".

For triggering, you could rig an R/C servo to the switch, or use some form of PIC circuit to trigger it on a timed basis. Some projects like this are listed here [] .

Re:Cheaper digital cameras for aerial photography (1)

stienman (51024) | about 10 years ago | (#9537933)

Computer geeks has cheap megapixel digital cameras [] for under $100. Kreep an eye out - they had a refurbished 3.3MP (which I purchased and am happy with) a few weeks ago for under $60 - used compactflash too, which these days seems to be less common.


What a fucktard this guy is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537591)

First, instead of using a cheap, decent camera that could be deemed 'expendable,' he used his good camera.

Secondly, look at this quote from the page: "Here's an AVI video of the very last flight my camera made. Unfortunately, it was limited to 30 seconds in duration, so you don't get to see the actual impact. I did a number of loops, so be prepared to get dizzy :)"

LOOPS? What kind of fucking imbecile does aerobatics with a kite to which his expensive digital camera is attached? That's just begging for trouble!

And to top it all off he has the gall to ask for donations to replace his destroyed-through-stupidity camera. Don't anyone give him a cent.

Re:What a fucktard this guy is. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537786)

Wow, I was just playing "spot the obnoxious cockmonger" and Ooh! I just won!

What about an actual Do It Yourself? (1)

serutan (259622) | about 10 years ago | (#9537613)

I've looked around on Google for info about building an actual digital camera but came up with nothing. Wouldn't it be cool to build an extremely minimal digital camera that could survive a kite crash? Building a digital camera from scratch seems daunting, but what about cannibalizing a low-priced camera, removing nonessential parts? Anybody done anything like this?

Re:What about an actual Do It Yourself? (2, Interesting)

GoRK (10018) | about 10 years ago | (#9537644)

A much easier solution is to get one of those so called "disposable digitals" from Ritz camera or Walgreens. They are very cheap and you can hack them to extract the photos, change batteries, etc. They are really quite ideal cameras for KAP. They don't have a screen, but you don't need it!

Kites... (2, Interesting)

k4_pacific (736911) | about 10 years ago | (#9537616)

One of things I've learned about kites in my life is that they tend to hit the ground at blistering speeds with alarming frequency. I've toyed with the idea of trying something along these lines with a digital camera, except I always planned on using a balloon filled with Helium with a string running back to the ground. This way, if the wind changes suddenly, its not going to slam the kite into the ground from an altitude of several hundred feet. Still, you have the danger of the string breaking, but in this case, you can include on your balloon probe a small form factor motherboard, a cellphone modem card, a GPS receiver and an RS-232 interfaced control valve to bleed the helium. This way, if it gets away, you can call it, ask it where it is and tell it to land.

Re:Kites... (1)

The Meshback (777966) | about 10 years ago | (#9537836)

Still, you have the danger of the string breaking, but in this case, you can include on your balloon probe a small form factor motherboard, a cellphone modem card, a GPS receiver and an RS-232 interfaced control valve to bleed the helium. This way, if it gets away, you can call it, ask it where it is and tell it to land.

Round here, we use what's called a bb gun.

Re:Kites... (2, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | about 10 years ago | (#9537948)

Why not use a simple single string parafoil kite for this kind of thing? I have one of these, it's so stable I can tie it to a post and leave. It's almost boring, but I prefer to think of it as serene. The only way it hits the ground is if the wind stops.

Codec? (1)

iantri (687643) | about 10 years ago | (#9537618)

Well, his site is holding up okay so far...

I can't seem to open the AVI file -- what codec is used for the video?

RC Heli Photography (3, Interesting)

TimeTrip (254631) | about 10 years ago | (#9537632)

If you think Kite photos are cool, check out some of the pix taken by RC heli pilots with their rigs:
Pictures here []

X10 cam? (2, Interesting)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | about 10 years ago | (#9537635)

I gotta ask - isn't this the sort of thing those damn X10 cameras would be good for? A kite can't be too far out of range of the wireless camera and a good laptop.

What's the resolution on those things anyway. I was so annoyed by their advertising schemes that I forgot that they might possibly be useful in some way.

Re:X10 cam? (1)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | about 10 years ago | (#9537664)

My mistake. I didn't know how heavy those thing actually were.

The ads make them look so small! One more person suckered by advertising... ;-)

Re:X10 cam? (3, Informative)

GoRK (10018) | about 10 years ago | (#9537673)

I have an X10 camera on my rig as a spotting camera. I modified it to accept external video input so I can hook it to the A/V output of the digicam and see exactly what picture I'm taking. If I'm using a cheaper camera or a film camera I can use the original X10 cam to see where it is pointing as well. The camera runs on a rechargable 9V battery run through a small 12V DCDC converter. The receiver runs on a 2AH Gel Cell worn in a pack. The video screen is a small 2" LCD with a sun hood that is attached to the R/C controller.

Re:X10 cam? (1)

Kremit (632241) | about 10 years ago | (#9537708)

Resolution is approx. 310 lines. They aren't bad for projects (like the Kitecam) or for monitoring a small location, but the quality pales in comparison to a bullet cam of the same size (and about $20 more). Take for example, the SkyCams on my weather website:

Cam 2 []
(X10 Cam, CMOS chip, 310 lines of res)

Cam 1 []
(Bullet camera, CCD chip, 420 lines of res)

So yes, I actually bought an X10 camera. But it was from eBay so it's not like they got my money directly...

Re:X10 cam? (1)

pingus (542585) | about 10 years ago | (#9537905)

you could aim a periodic beam antenna at them from the ground. this is fairly directional, so it should yield some nifty results.

Academic slant... (3, Informative)

jim_deane (63059) | about 10 years ago | (#9537637)

I don't mean to shill for my university, but I am a graduate student in the physical sciences at Emporia State University, where we have a Geospatial Analysis program. One of our professors is heavily into KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) and other SFAP (Small Format Aerial Photography) including anchored baloons and more conventional planes and helicopters.

We generally use both color film and color-infrared, and have begun to use some digital. The hard part (aside from not crashing the kite) is the image processing. We use ground markers and GPS units to determine some reference points, and use Idrisi software to do a rubber-sheet transform on the image. We then use the same software to stitch the images together and do more detailed analysis (color channel seperation, specialized boolean operations, etc.).

Using color and infrared images, we can make high-resolution images similar to the comparitively low-resolution satellite (see: Landsat) images. Through the analysis, we can identify land usage, soil moisture, vegetation types, vegetation/crop health, and many other factors.

Now the fun part: if you like science, we have graduate and undergraduate programs in the physical sciences department where you can specialize in Geospatial Analysis. The other best part--you can do it on-line if you wish.

See The Emporia State University GSA homepage [] or the Physical Sciences homepage [] for more information.

And we're not the only university that has such programs--do a search for "Geographic Information Systems" or "Geospatial Analysis" and you'll find several more.

(I don't consider this too much of an ad, because anyone who thinks the kite photography is cool should see that there are education opportunities and careers to be made that involve this kind of work.)

Re:Academic slant... (1)

jim_deane (63059) | about 10 years ago | (#9537693)

Again, I reply to my own post, thereby reinforcing the absent-minded professor stereotype.

This link [] goes to the syllabus for the Small Format Aerial Photography (SFAP) course I alluded to above.

If you go into the Course Schedule [] you can go through some of the web lectures and information on SFAP.


Best KAP site on the net is Charles Benton's (1)

YouHaveSnail (202852) | about 10 years ago | (#9537662)

If you're interested in either learning to take great aerial photographs with a kite, or else just seeing a bunch of terrific images, Charles Benton's KAP site [] is the place to go.

Benton is a professor of architecture at UC Berkeley. Living in northern California, he's got no end of interesting places to photograph. And I think his photography is probably aided by his architectural training and a strong ability to imagine what a shot will look like even though he's not looking directly through the camera.

It's absolutley worth checking out.

My Dad Used to Do This (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537705)

back in the 1930's. he used a box kite and a piece of ice, which would melt and trigger the shutter on the camera.

Disposible Digital (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | about 10 years ago | (#9537709)

Wouldn't getting a disposible digital camera have been a better plan? They're pretty cheap and I think even Wal*Mart sells them. And, if I've remember correctly, /. even had a story about some guys who made them reusable.

Popular Science Magazine (2, Insightful)

armyturtle (603867) | about 10 years ago | (#9537720)

Do they always post all of the popular science magazine articles in here? This was in this months issue. Just curious.

Fate of Payload Inversely Proportional to Cost (2, Funny)

Rob Carr (780861) | about 10 years ago | (#9537727)

"Paul Mutton successfully managed to kill an expensive digital camera taking aerial photos using a kite, parcel tape and some bubble wrap."

High Power Rocketry folks [] have known for years that the probability of a successful flight is inversely proportional to the cost of the payload divided by the average cost of payloads being flown. For many years, expensive video cameras ensured failure.

It's only been through the addition of multiple onboard altimeters, accelerometers, computers, amateur radio transmitters, GPS units, rocket locators, and other horrendously expensive gizmos that lone video cameras are now fairly easy to fly.

BTW: There's a fun traditions if you are launching an on-board computer running Windows. If the flight fails, you call Microsoft Support and report that your computer crashed.

Of course, if you were running Linux, maybe it wouldn't have crashed....

IIRC (2, Informative)

c0dedude (587568) | about 10 years ago | (#9537730)

IIRC, Scientific American had an article a few years back about how to make a stable kite cam with a disposible (read: invincible) camera. Here's a link [] , but it costs $$$.

/.ed ? (2, Informative)

propus (791608) | about 10 years ago | (#9537736)

Google's cache [] for those who can't access the site.

Re:/.ed ? (1)

msim (220489) | about 10 years ago | (#9537829)

Cheers for that.

Yet again whoring your website on here to recieve the slashdot effect proves to be the best load testing tool on the market. :-)

pfffft (3, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | about 10 years ago | (#9537759)

A real nerd would build and launch his own satellite camera rig. Then when it crashed he would launch a global appeal fund to rebuild downtown LA.

Remember children! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537790)

If you want to try this at home, think of a better excuse than "But aerial photography is cool" when FBI officials start asking you who did you make the photos for.

Digital cameras aren't that resilient... (1)

mikael (484) | about 10 years ago | (#9537794)

Don't overestimate the resilience of digital cameras. I trashed my Nikon Coolpix 950 simply by dropping it four feet onto a thich rug carpet while it was switched on... the batteries popped out, and the lens drive motor system was frazzled (every time I switch it on, the motor can only go in one direction). So far, I haven't found any camera shop willing to to the repairs.
Ironically this camera survived three years after a tumble down rocky hill.

Egg dropping (1)

Fortran IV (737299) | about 10 years ago | (#9537808)

Reminds me of the egg-dropping contest they had one year at the University of Arkansas. Design a container that will protect several eggs (3?) from breakage after a several-story fall. You must be able to open, reclose, and relaunch the container within yea-many seconds. Dimensions are limited to X by Y by Z.

It ran in several rounds, each round from a higher floor. The ultimate winner didn't depend on padding at all; he used an otherwise empty box that had egg cups strung on shock cord suspended in the middle. Maximum volume + minimum mass = minimum impact velocity.

Next time, maybe a box kite instead of a wing, with the camera shock-corded in the center?

Re:Egg dropping (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 10 years ago | (#9537989)

Neat, I did the exact same thing in 7th grade. Except I used rubber bands.

How about on a Gameboy? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537815)

Uh-Oh. The bandwidth bill will kill him (3, Interesting)

rainer_d (115765) | about 10 years ago | (#9537830)

According to Netcraft, the site is hosted by NotNet Ltd.
They have several hosting-schemes: 1, 2, 4, 8 and 20 GB transfer per month, with additional bandwidth for 5 GB-pounds per month per GB or 20 GBP for 5 GB...
The domain itself responds with a errorcode 500 now...
But at least, the hosting-provider is up-front about not offering any kind of "unlimited" hosting-schemes...

Re:Uh-Oh. The bandwidth bill will kill him (1)

Al-Hala (447007) | about 10 years ago | (#9537934)

The error code is just watchdogging the Referral address. Type in the URL manually, and lo, in all shiny goodness.

What about a dozen balloon tied to a rope? (1)

Idou (572394) | about 10 years ago | (#9537853)

Or is that too easy to be considered "geek" worthy (or maybe wind is a factor?).

Cam Fund? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537880)

Maybe this guy needs to setup a fund for his server.

Applied Kite Aerial Photography Gone Right (1)

chris_oat (5511) | about 10 years ago | (#9537899)

This technique (tie camera to kite, tie kite to hand) was used to do some interesting image based modeling work by Paul Debevec, he flew his kite around the UC Berkley campus then later used the images to reconstruct 3D models of various buildings. Check it out: Paul Debevec's Campanile Movie [] .

Helium ballon would be better (1)

suso (153703) | about 10 years ago | (#9537922)

I always thought about making some helium balloon setup so that the camera could fly a lot higher. The problem is, getting the pictures back. You'd have to follow the balloon until it came down or have a really good wireless connection. But that wouldn't be cost effective.

There was another guy who had a kite cam page on the net, he didn't get his kite very high though.

Ah! Eliot College!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9537983)

I was at Kent from 89 to 93. I was at Darwin college myself. From your pictures I gather you're at Eliot. I remember it used to smell funny at the Eliot bar, sort of sweet, burning grass smell. Don't know what it was, but people were all red-eyed, talking funny.

You didn't go to the bar before flying your Kite now, did you?

Fell for 30 seconds (1)

Easy2RememberNick (179395) | about 10 years ago | (#9538004)

So it fell 960 feet?

32 (feet/s) X 30s = 960 feet

That would be "really hard" as he said.

Re:Fell for 30 seconds (1)

i8a4re (594587) | about 10 years ago | (#9538055)

Not exactly. Acceleration due to gravity is 32 f/s^2 (feet per second squared). But you must also account for the drag generated by the kite. Based on what the article said, there is no way to mathematically determine how far or hard it fell.

Shooting at Kent State? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#9538021)

Shooting at Kent State? That's so passé.
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