Weekend Project Instructions – Make A Kite Aerial Photography Rig

Weekend Project Instructions – Make A Kite Aerial Photography Rig

This weekend I explore the world of photography from a kite’s point of view. My inspiration was the instructions from Make Volume 1 available in both the print and digital magazines. You can download these instructions as a PDF right here.

I had a vex robotics kit and so I used it. It turned out to be too heavy and so if you decide to go this route you either need heavier winds, a bigger kite, or a lot of helium balloons!

Here is my first version, you can see all the steel and the blue case full of heavy AA batteries!


It’s got a lot of extra weight on it. The great thing is that I was able to mock this up with the VEX kit without having to buy anything. Functional, but heavy.

And so it was back to the drawing board. I scoured the internet and found two great websites that went into details about their KAP rigs. Scott Haefner has a great page showing his carbon fiber rig and Charles Benton shows his progression of rigs as he improved his designs. For my next rig, I’m going to find a model airplane setup and use carbon fiber to make it even lighter!


The picavet suspension allows the rig to stay stable with the kite at any angle. It’s all one string and it slips pretty easily through key rings. In the future, I hope to get little pulleys that are used in miniature sailboats instead of the rings.


Here you can see the button pressing servo. Ideally, I would have used servo modules all around, but the kit came with three motor modules and one servo. The downside of this is that with servos, I could tell which direction the camera is facing. With motors, they spin without bounds.


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The rig actually took some great shots. The windspeed, according to sailflow, was 6 knots, which turns out is really on the low end of windspeed, I can’t wait to take it out again in more wind!


Kat was on hand to take some photos of the action. In her picture here, you can see the Sutton Flowform 30 that I bought to keep the rig up! I’ve made kites on the sewing machine before, but that’s another project!

If you have an improvement, ideas, or feedback, put a note in the comments or drop me a line at bre@makezine.com

12 thoughts on “Weekend Project Instructions – Make A Kite Aerial Photography Rig

  1. aconbere says:

    Nice shots of gas works :)

    I have a question regarding seattle area KAP groups or just kite groups. I’ve been into making my own kites for the last couple years and while most have been utter failures, I’ve learned a few things (beyond that they take forever to complete). Any recommendations of people who are intersted in that kind of thing would be great.

    ~ Anders

  2. Dirkus says:

    Bre: Please note that if your kite falls in the bay, liquid damage and impact damage may cause your SD300 to fall under a “Warranty Exclusion.” (that’s the new P.C. term these days…) I’m teaching a new class of camera techs for the Canon support center, and I showed them your video. We were all cringing and waiting for the *plop* of the camera going into the drink or the *crunch* of it bouncing off the ground. Personally, I’d recommend picking up a refurb SD10. Only 4MP, but it’s nearly half the size and considerably less weight. In fact, as much as it pains me (they do sign my checks), I’d recommend a non-Canon camera to do this with: an Aiptek pen cam. $20 at your local Wal-Mart/K-Mart/S-Mart, light as a feather, and can be made much lighter with the removal of all that bulky plastic casing. Its small profile and low price also make it ideal for other more adventurous projects like rocketry, RC planes and RC helis where “turf-assisted landing events” are much more common and dramatic. Keep the pretty camera on the ground to take pics of the flight from below instead. ;)

  3. Dirkus says:

    BTW, what’s the deal with the electrical tape? Break the battery door?

    /starts rummaging through his parts drawer…

  4. Homebrewer says:

    Very cool rig and pictures. Makes me want to get my much simpler pendulum rig out over central London… But these days I might get arrested — the kite and the payload are bit ominous looking!

    Check out the garbage bag Scott Sled and the very simple yardstick pendulm, NE555 timer cam at the KAP page at:


  5. Bre says:

    Hi Dirkus,

    My little sd300 camera is actually my backup rig. The zoom doesn’t really work anymore and I’ve put somewhere around 20k of photos through it, so I got a new sd600 and sent the sd300 up in the rig. The battery holder is worn out since I kept the camera in my pocket and had a bad habit of opening and closing the compartment all the time. I’m not sure I can justify moving away from canon as that would involve a reduction in quality of the photos, so I’ll check out the sd10 and see if I can find one. I need more cameras to do cool things with!

  6. Dirkus says:

    Ah, OK. Yeah, I’d say that 20K photos is definitely good mileage! Here’s an idea for aiming the camera: Head up to Walmart, they have a wireless video surveilence camera for about $79. It’s not cheap, but this same camera can probably be used for several worthwhile projects. You can toss some Li-Ion batteries together to run both the RC receiver/servo system and the video camera at the same time while keeping it all light. Attach it to the front of the SD300 on the large flat area where it says “Canon” and now you can have a live preview of the image before you take it. Depending on the quality, it may also make for interesting video footage for a bird’s eye view of large events, like burning man or maker faire!

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