Get High: Go Fly a Kite

By Jeff Attaway from Abuja, Nigeria
By Jeff Attaway from Abuja, Nigeria

Everyone wants a drone but the reality is that $1,000 and really more like $2,500 after accessories, a gimbal mount, extra propellers, etc. is a lot of money. But, being able to take aerial photos without renting a helicopter is very attractive proposition.

I was reminiscing with an old friend this week about flying those huge Green Giant kites in our local school yard. (My older readers will remember that those kites were free with five labels from Green Giant frozen vegetable packages.) After hanging up, I starting thinking about whether it would be possible to lift my GoPro into the air with a kite. So, I did what everyone does today when faced with a complex problem, I Googled it.

Surprise! It has a name: Kite Aerial Photography or KAP. The American Kitefliers Association (AKA), devotes a section of its website to information on KAP. Moreover, you can put together a decent KAP kit for about $40. This means, while you still must worry about breaking your GoPro, you don’t have to worry about breaking an expensive drone to get aerial shots of the beach. You also don’t have to worry about national and local regulations and kites are not seen as evasive or as dangerous as a drone so you can even fly one on the National Mall.

First, you need a kite that creates uplift; many stay afloat using drag. A simple but effective kite that creates uplift is a Conyne Delta Kite, available starting at $20 Amazon. Your also need string, about $10 on Amazon. Finally, you will need a camera mount. There are plans for DIY mounts available for free online. The simplest one appears to be by Make magazine and AKA has one online as well. I suspect any one of these DIY mounts shouldn’t cost more than $10 to build. So, for a total of $40 bucks you have your “drone.”

Flying a kite is also a lot simpler than flying a drone. You simply mount your camera to the mount, turn on your camera’s intervalometer to take images every few seconds, and go fly your kite. When done, simply pull in your kite and download the images to your computer. There are no batteries to recharge or die on you, except for the one in the camera.

While I am sure, there is a steep learning curve, I think it can also be fun. Who minds a day outside in beautiful weather? How about a day at the beach? You can do this with your kids or grandchildren. They get to fly a kite and you get to indulge your passion for photography.

While not as powerful and maneuverable as a drone, it is much less expensive and simpler to operate. I need to follow the advice I get from someone around the office almost every day and go fly a kite.

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