What’s kite aerial photography?

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Kite aerial photography is an old form of remote sensing that uses kites to lift cameras for aerial images. It offers a unique and deep perspective of land-based subjects from lower heights than airplanes. The components of a typical kite aerial photography system include a large kite, strong kite string, a compact camera, a remote control, a suspension system, and a means of moving the camera remotely. Since the 1990s, kite aerial photography has become a popular sporting pastime and a low-cost alternative to conventional aerial photography.

Aerial kite photography uses remote sensing to gather information in the form of an image. It is actually a very old form of remote sensing as kites were used to take aerial photos in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was done for military reconnaissance, disaster assessment and scientific purposes. Once airplanes became more common in the 1919s, kite aerial photography fell out of popularity.

Kite aerial photography uses the lifting power of a kite to provide an aerial platform for a camera. With the camera in the air, there’s a refreshingly unique view of land-based subjects. This type of photography offers the deepest images from lower heights than an airplane could provide. As the kite flies low, the viewer sees clear figures, buildings and the human-sized environment with recognizable features, unlike photos taken from much higher altitudes and much higher speeds.

In one launch method, the kite is first flown without the camera system. Once it has risen and reached a steady state above ground turbulence, a radio-controlled camera system is attached to the kite line. Then, the line is released further and takes the kite and camera higher into the sky. The operator can now walk and steer the kite line manually, move the camera with the control system and take photographs.

The components of a typical kite aerial photography system include:

A fairly large kite about 10 feet wide.
Strong kite string, often braided from Dacron.
A compact camera.
A remote control to activate the camera. Alternatively, the camera can be set to take photos at pre-set intervals.
A suspension system to attach the rig to the kite line and stop the inevitable rocking and swaying movements.
A means of moving the camera remotely in two or three axes, called a rig. Some systems rely on a fixed camera mount; camera placement is achieved with the remarkable controllability of modern multiline kites.

Since the early 1990s, aerial photography of kites has become a popular sporting pastime as well as being used for commercial and scientific purposes. Some of the reasons for the growing popularity of this method of photography include:

A rebirth of the pleasure of high-performance sport flying.
Development of low-cost, lightweight, high-quality automatic cameras.
Need for low altitude observations in situations where manned aircraft cannot perform well.
Low-cost alternative to conventional aerial photography from an airplane or helicopter.

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