Kite Aerial Photography E-Resources

Tale Of Two Extremes

Walter Anderson,Dallas, Texas, USA       March 18, 2002

If you read my last article, you are aware that I had just completed the manufacture of my second rig. The first not having survived its maiden voyage. I built this rig using Brooks Leffler's Monopost III design, published in Volume 4, Number 3 of the Aerial Eye. A photograph of this rig is shown below. I spent last weekend flying this rig at the two extremes of wind conditions for my 13 Delta-Coyne. This proved to be a very educational experience.

On Saturday, March 9th, I took my rig and other equipment to Russell Creek Park in Plano, TX. The winds were strong (12-15mph) and variable (gusts to 20-25mph). Since I don't have any experience flying kites of this size, I was unprepared for the magnitude of effort that was about to be required. It was with much effort that I restrained the kite to only two hundred feet. On several occasions the reel was nearly pulled from my hands. Even with the variability of the winds the Delta-Coyne kite flew quite steady. At one point a 19 mph gust caused more than 50lbs of pull on the line. I can only say more than 50lbs because the strain gage was sheared from its base.

I decided to risk the rig and camera and attached them to the line. The camera was sent aloft with another 200-300 feet of line being let out. While the kite was stable the Picavet did not prevent some severe lateral movement of the rig and camera. At one point the camera rolled around the line several times. Discretion being the better part of valor I walked the line down and detached the rig.

With the excessive motion of the rig I did not expect that any of the photographs would be sharp. I was very surprised that most of the photographs were much sharper than I had any right to expect. An example of one of these photos is shown below.

I also tried out the 17 ft2 parafoil that I mentioned in the first article.  I mentioned that I didn't think this kite would be able to reliably lift a camera rig.  I can now say with certainty that I was wrong--at least for moderate to strong wind conditions.  This kite easily provided greater line pull than my Delta-Coyne.  I only attached the 15 foot streamer tail that came with the kite; however, given the wind conditions I think that this kite would benefit from drogue tails.  With the provided tail the kite was somewhat unstable.   There was a lot of side-to-side movement.  I would estimate 20-30 of horizontal movement.  The most astounding thing was how much effort was required to walk this line down.  I had to keep the line under my arm as I walked toward the kite to keep it from pulling the line from my grip.  I am thinking that a 7 ft2 version of this kite would be a great lifter in strong winds.  When I get around to testing this I'll let you know my results.

The next day brought much different wind conditions. The wind speed was only 4-5mph. Even though this is lower end of the useable range for my D-C I still decided to try and take some shots. I went to a local nature preserve called The Connemara Conservancy Meadow The kite rose fairly easily, with 200 feet of line being let out without any real problems. I let the kite fly for 5-10 minutes to see if there were any stability problems. It looked steady so I attached the camera and rig and let more line out.

At about 400 feet of line the Kite seemed unable to provide any more lift. Occasionally the wind died and the camera slowly drifted down to the ground. It seemed to touch down with little force and no damage occurred. Once the rig was on the ground the Kite would stabilize and eventually lift the rig when the wind would pick up again.

I spent about two hours shooting two rolls of film. Most of these were sharp and clear. One example from these photographs is shown below. I am amazed at the ability of this system to fly in such light winds. The rig weighs about 660 grams for everything including rig, suspension, and line attachment hardware. I suspect that this contributed to the success.

I have now taken about seventy photographs from a kite-borne platform.   This certainly does not make me a seasoned veteran; however, I do have a much better feel for the process.  Like other new KAPer's I find myself identifying dozens of potential sites as I drive around town.  I only wish there was enough time to photograph all of them.

[Ed- Walter has contributed his DC 13.5 flight data for inclusion in the KAPER kite comparison chart ]