I became interested in kite and balloon mapping as a cheap local aerial mapping solution which would allow me to explore aerial mapping and to make aerial maps. I bought a balloon and kite mapping kit from Public Lab and got a cheap used Canon camera from EBay. The kit contained two kites, one 9′ in width and the other 7′ and a balloon. Since the cost of helium is rather high and I haven’t been able to find a source of helium besides Walmart I decided to first concentrate on the kites. The camera has to have a continuous mode which means that a picture is taken every x seconds. For this camera, a picture is taken every .9 seconds.
The camera is mounted in a soda bottle cage by rubber bands and a wing is attached to keep the cage from spinning.
I tested the large kite without a camera a couple of times and found it very easy to fly. April 7, 2015 I went to Santa Rita Park south of my house at about 2:30 to test out the camera and the smaller kite. I went to the central ball park and setup under a tree at it’s western edge, the wind was from the west, south-west. I can see how having shade can be important. The wind doesn’t pick-up until later in the day in the desert so it’s going to be hot when flying. Also, it I wanted to use my wind speed attachment to my phone it would be hard to read in the bright sun.
Couple of things happen, I have to tie the camera down better, it swung wildly and got off center with the bottle showing. Later a string came undone and the camera was shooting through the bottle and not pointing down. Got some wild oblique shots of the neighborhood but not orthogonal. The camera does not adjust as the shots are taken, whatever the settings when continuous mode starts remain the settings so any change in light is not adjusted for. The kite did, however reach a good height. It floated to earth when the wind died suddenly for a few minutes but it sank slowly and the camera landed softly. Only problem was that the line stretched across the field and had to be reeled in.
I need to mess with the cage structure and think about stability a bit (Trivedi, Young, Muha, Rieger, Yeager, 2011). I also want to try the larger kite in these variable wind situations. The flight took about 30 minutes and used about 1/2 of the card memory so a 60 minute flight is possible. I’m not sure, however, that the batteries in the camera would last that long. I am also looking into pole mapping and balloon/kite hybrids. I think that there can be a niche for non-drone simple aerial solutions. Also, it is a way to cheaply get aerial data. Once I can get the data I need to look at the computational end, creating maps from these photographs.