Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Equipment

KAP Cradles and Suspensions
Table of Contents


My first three Kite Aerial Photography rigs (27K jpg, November 1996).


At the end of the day, after the rest of the family has gone to bed, I often retire to the basement and do what son Thomas describes as tinker. My basement shop is where I build my KAP Rigs and, truth be known, it is as much fun to build the devices as it is to use them. This is my favorite time of the day, quiet except for jazz on the radio, not a telephone ring to be heard. The pages subordinate to this page describe my various camera cradles and suspensions. In general, they have been easy enough to build. Take a look and give it a try.

Son Charlie in the Sanctum Sanctorum. I retire in the late evenings to this basement shop and work on this and that including my KAP rigs. Other than a benchtop drill press and a Dremel rotary tool, I use hand tools for the work. (49K jpg, November 1996).

The following pages provide some detail on the kite aerial photography rigs that I've built and flown. Each of the presented solutions has worked well for me. I'd be interested to hear of your experience if you build one too.

KAP Rig #1 - Flying weight 1 lb.,4 oz.

My first rig was originally designed around a Minolta Freedom Vista point-and-shoot camera. I closely followed a design published by Brooks Leffler in the first issue of
the Aerial Eye. After six rolls I adapted KAP Rig #1 to carry a Yashica T4 point-and-shoot camera and went on to take around 100 rolls of film with that setup. The rig was retired in September 1996 after I completed KAP Rig #3 to replace it.

KAP Rig #2 - Flying weight 2 lb.,10 oz. to 3 lb., 0 oz. depending on lens.

Based on a Canon Rebel X this is my first single-lens reflex rig, built to take KAP images with wide angle lenses. It is my first rig with in-flight rotation of the camera from horizontal format to vertical format (after Wolfgang Bieck). Its maiden flight was September 1996 and I am having a blast with it. 

Addendum in 2002: This rig has become my go to choice for most KAP. It has been remarkably dependable, shrugging off its share of abuse, and served for over 300 aerial rolls of film so far. As I think back I can remember replacing one servo in Hawaii (due to a stripped gear), rebuilding the rig twice on the Ivanpah Dry Lake Bed (after hard falls to the playa floor), and tightening up the occasional screw. Other than these small accommodations it has been virtually faultless in performance. 

KAP Rig #3 - Flying weight 1 lb.,3 oz.

This rig is the replacement for KAP Rig #1 after it was retired with distinction. Basically, I had so much fun building KAP Rig #2 that I kept working until this one was finished too. It carries the updated Yashica T4 Super point-and-shoot and I was able to add in flight horizontal/vertical format rotation without adding weight (in comparison to KAP Rig #1.)

My 2002 addendum on Rig #3 notes that it is seldom used. This is in large part due to ease of use with Rig #2 carrying the Canon Rebel. The Rebel rig has performed well and now that I carry a range of kites it is an easier argument to go one size up in kite than one step down in cradle weight. Pity as it is a nice little rig.

KAP Rig #4 - Flying weight 1 lb.,9 oz.

My latest KAP was built in March 2002. This setup is built around the venerable Canon S100 Digital Elph. I bought the Elph in Summer 2000 and carried it through Europe that year and quite a few places since -- the odometer was reading over 6,000 images after one year of use. In the summer of 2001 I purchased a Canon G1 with 1 Gb IBM Microdrive and that became my daily use digital camera. The little Elph has languished for a while and I decided to send it aloft. Spring Break 2002 provided a fine opportunity to chill out and build the rig. I will let you know more as I gain experience with my first flying CCD. In the meantime you can take a look at what the Elph is flying over by checking out the queue page.

I am often asked "how many cameras have you lost?" The answer is one, sort of. Here is a harrowing tale of misadventures with KAP Rig #4.

My Picavet Suspension - Flying weight 2.75 oz.

Contemporary KAP systems typically use one of two suspension types: 1) a rigid pendulum suspension or 2) the string- and pulley-based Picavet suspension. I only have experience with the latter. This page describes the two versions that I've used.

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