Pros & Cons of platforms for low level aerial photography

LEAP Options 2013_05I’m preparing for a short talk on KAP and I need to  get a grip on the options when explaining ‘why KAP?’ to photographers. The table sets out the options but there are aspects of KAP that don’t fit in.
Other big conciderations in favour of KAP (for me) are:
  • it’s ‘manned’, open and accessible;   as with a tethered balloon the operator is usually to be found on the other end of the string.
  • flight duration: I have flown kites with a camera on for hours, the only linits are the wind and camera batteries (my best camera runs for 2 and a half hours at a time)
  • simple:  the powered microcopter option  demands concentration from the operator. FPV control requires your full attention and the environment awareness of the operator can be compromised by this. A kite, once it’s settled,  is usually stable enough to allow the flier an ‘eye over the shoulder’ to keep things safe.
  • silent:  I’m preparing a risk assessment for photographing feeding birds in a nature reserve, once the kite is aloft there is no noise.
  • it’s fun! If I am happy with my kite I’m confident in its limits, where I can put it and what the wind will do with it- I can do more with a kite than almost any other aerial platform becasue its what I want to do. Using a 10m mast, hitching a ride on a balloon are all great ways of getting an aerial view but nothing matches the joy of flying a kite for me.

Earith _01 640copyMill 640 wide_08Roof Survey

For most survey work I  ‘find a way’ of getting the photos I need but if I can get my kite to do the work I get a satisfaction bonus that is very hard to beat.
There is something about working with the wind that sets the mind free: you must concentrate on respecting and resolving the forces to hand. When the balance is achieved you are truly ‘at one’ with the elements of wind, light and time.


About billboyheritagesurvey

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4 Responses to Pros & Cons of platforms for low level aerial photography

  1. Jasja says:

    And kites are a clean platformed, compared to aircraft, drones or helium balloons!

  2. With kites in urban setting it is not just straight handling issues, but availability of launch/flying sites – often you cannot even get near what you might like to photograph.

    Your ‘Simple and predictable risk/ safety case’ has come with experience – for a newcomer to KAP that might be different.

    On light aircraft you could mention the amount of ground/ different sites that can be covered in a single flight where as the other methods tend to be site specific or have limited range.

    Level of silence is largely dependent on choice of kite (which for photographing birds you obviously won’t be using noisy ones). I suspect the presence of something visible in the sky will be of greater concern to birds feeding on the ground/water than simply the noise it might create.

    • Thanks for taking a look Hamish, I have tweaked my table accordingly…

      Making comparisons is difficult as there is a useful overlap between methods so it is not a simple case of ‘today I’ll fly a kite, tomorrow I’ll work from a pole!’ more a case of ‘what will work on this site given the weather today and what I need to achieve?’

      I have ‘difficult positioning’ as a catch all ‘con’ for KAP as I seem to get stuck where ever I fly- wires- roads- trees all seem to conspire to block the path but the urban situation is definitely worse! ‘Difficult positioning’ is common to all tethered methods unless you have an open site.

      On the kites v birds issue I have been testing and there is a height and distance at which birds are not aware of ( or become used to) the presence of the kite- it depends a bit on species but they seem to have an overhead ‘blind spot’ around 40m above them…and of course I won’t be using a noisy kite like the PFK, in fact if it is Bft 4 I think I’ll stand down anyway: water birds are going to be bobbing about too much to be worth shooting!

      Wide area cover from a light aircraft is a definite plus but it is at a very different resolution: this is complex problem and I chickened out of flagging the issue: At 600m the photo-scale is completely different to KAP and this changes what you can do with it dramatically.

  3. Hans Elbers says:

    KAP is relatively easy and ‘environment friendly’ in open area’s. It is also quite safe when one is careful. The main drawback is the dependency on good winds, which make tight planning difficult. The drones (multicopters) are probably better at quick short sessions in tight places.

    I.m.o the main drawback of drones is safety when flying near people: problems seldom happen, but when they do the damage can be horrific (the computer control is smart, but a small wire might break, blades may hit someone in the face!) I wonder what a good insurance for professional drone usage costs…

    Another reason not to invest in an expensive drone is regulations. It would not surprise me at all if semi-professional drone usage gets forbidden (or very regulated) in a year or two…

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