This is the most successful version of my kite aerial photography rig. It took 3 prototypes and 3 or 4 refinements to get to this design. The first one was too flimsy, the next one was too heavy, until I finally had enough lift and a light enough load. It’s been 3 years since I looked at this design, so I think I’m going to scrap it and start over. I can still use what I’ve learned about the process. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re trying to start into aerial photography.
Buy rechargeable AA batteries and standardize on them. The Nikon 885 uses a special battery, $13 a piece.
I’m going to try a plastic frame next time. My first metal frame was WAY too heavy. Think about weight from the beginning.
Think bigger about the kite, and smaller about the rig.
I’m not sure that the frame within a frame design is the best one to go with.
I think it would be a good idea to control the orientation of the camera from the ground. With this rig, I have to bring it down to the ground to change the yaw or pitch of the camera. I could achieve Pitch just by adding a servo to the outside frame and changing the middle nuts/bolts into ball bearing joints. Yaw is a little more complicated. The yellow wheel on my rig was me thinking about controlling yaw from the ground. It’s geared, but I couldn’t find a satisfactory way to turn it with a servo. Most of the connections I thought of put too much weight on the small shaft of the servo. I think a rod and gear design is the best way to connect the frame to the Picavet. Close to what I did above, but with the gear connected to the bolt, and a rotating joint at the head of the bolt. I’m going to have to be very precise when I drill the holes for the bolt and the servo. If they don’t rotate around each other in a perfect circle, the gears will wear, or the rotation will stop.
I’ve been toying with the idea of replacing the kite with RC helicopter blades. That would require a stabilization system and more sophisticated power controls than I have. As I was researching the idea, I ran across the Dragonfly company. My idea was for three booms and single engines, but I think their design of double engines on quad booms is much better. The complexity of powered aerial photography quickly got out of hand. here are some youtube videos of people trying to lift things with RC helicopters.
So, I’m back to the Kite and camera. Cameras have gotten a lot smaller and lighter in the last couple years, so I think it’s a good time to try some KAP.