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Kite Aerial Photography

The use of a kite as a photographic platform has its roots in history. The french first used kite photography in the latter half of the 19th century for military reconnaissance until the advent of the aeroplane in the 1910s. It was subsequently largely forgotten until its renaissance as a leisure pursuit in the 1970s and 80s.

A single line kite, designed for its stability and its lifting capability, is chosen. It may be of a framed type or a soft kite of the sledge variety.

Modern digital cameras are ideal for remote photography where weight is an issue. A good KAP camera should be light, of good resolution, be easy to control remotely and strong.

The camera is mounted on a frame which is suspended from the kite line using a cradle, this allows panning horizontally and tilting vertically. The camera’s shutter is controlled either by an automatic timing device on the frame or remotely from the ground.

The more sophisticated systems allow the camera to zoom and rotate into both portrait and landscape modes and may even have a video downlink to allow the photographer to see the view through the camera. It is also possible to integrate altimeters, GPS and other devices into the video system.

The system is flown by getting the kite up in the air until it is stable and providing enough lift in flight. The kite may be anything up to 50 metres high at this point. Once the kite is stable the camera apparatus is attached to the line and the kite is raised until the camera is at its operational height. The pictures are taken and the system is brought down in the reverse of the above operation.

Kite flying higher than 60 metres is controlled in the UK by the Civil Aviation Authority. It is necessary to obtain a certificate of permission (free) from the Air Utilisation Section of the CAA prior to a flight above this height.

© tony cropper