Droning on…CAA IN2014/081

My choice of aerial platform isn't political- its practical!

My choice of aerial platform isn’t political- its practical!

On the KAP forum a Kapper posted a thread on recent work with his drone. For some a kite is just one way of getting a view form the sky but there was some reaction from those who felt a KAP forum is not the place for exploring drone exploits, particularly as more and more low level aerial work is going to the UAV/UAS fliers.

So this leads me to re-evaluate the proposition, do I get me a drone and forgo the kite? I expect I’ll have to,  simply to get my orders filled faster. Having developed an aerial photographic practice that just about covers its costs this is a realisation that brings me little joy and even less satisfaction.

Drone work is now commonplace and, at last, it’s regulation framework has now emerged from the CAA. For me it looks like commercial drone work is difficult to manage given the costs, consents and controls involved- for a freelancer on a tight budget it just doesn’t add up. Getting a drone is easy, making it pay is another matter.

In April this year the UK  CAA introduced regulation of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA)  and Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft (SUSA).  Civil Aviation Authority INFORMATION NOTICE Number: IN–2014/081   “Small Unmanned Aircraft Operations Within London and Other Towns and Cities Issued: 25 April 2014 makes the use of uncertified drones by uncertified pilots difficult for the general public.

David Mitchel (a long standing kite aerial photographer and  now a drone pilot) summarises the restriction on flying any camera equipped RC aircraft that records imagery thus:

“You will have to obey the rules (see below) and, if you are being paid for the work (or want to sell the photographs) you will also need a CAA permit (which will mean being or having a qualified pilot). If you are a qualified pilot you can request permission to break the rules below (issued on a case by case basis).

The rules are that the aircraft shall not be flown:

  1. in controlled airspace, except with the permission of the appropriate ATC unit;
  2. in any aerodrome traffic zone except with the permission of either the appropriate ATC unit or the person in charge of the aerodrome;
  3. at a height exceeding 400 feet above the surface;
  4. at a distance beyond the visual range of the Remote Pilot/RPA observer of the said aircraft, or a maximum range of 500 metres, whichever is less;
  5. over or within 150 metres of any congested area of a city, town or settlement; or
  6. within 50 metres of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the Remote Pilot; during take-off or landing, however, the aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person, unless that person is under the control of the Remote Pilot

The good news is that kites carrying cameras are explicitly exempted from these rules.”

There are many excellent examples of the new aerial work by drone posted on the web as well as bucket loads of nasty goPro footage, however very little of it appears to be legal in the UK under the IN2014/081 regs.

Meanwhile the drones have have proved magical at replacing the crane shot in almost every possible arena, the camera moving though space above the subject is fast becoming the standard cut away shot, TV and movie directors love it. Once you have seen the motion of the camera in flight the viewpoint of our dreams seems to be made real.

Reaction in the small and scattered  KAP facebook community (there are at least 4 parallel  KAP ‘social’ groups on there) to the growing ubiquity of drones is mixed, there are those who are happy to accept the new opportunity to get a camera in the sky and there are those who feel ‘open skies’ are a right to all, Bertrand Grieu says:

We are a quieter bunch and in my experience people respond nicely to kite flying. Multicopters and kites both have distinct advantages. To each their own!

Others feel KAP is being threatened and should keep it’s own space: Grant Golding says:

Let’s keep this a drone free zone!

I’d like to feel safe from the spinning blades:

I so wish we didn’t have to share the sky with them but it’s not possible to keep the drones out of any KAP group! Many kappers can’t resist the drone and you can’t blame them.

…and Bertrand Grieu keeps to an ‘ends over means’ view:

Come on the sky is big enough for all aerial photo lovers!

I’d like to think a KAP shot is unique, at least in the eye of the photographer:

A good photograph from a kite is an achievement of skill and patience, a photo from a drone is a very different thing. There are plenty of places for drone pilots to go and share shots so there is no need to assume kite fliers want to see this. If “Public Group: Aerial images taken from kites.” means something else I’m out of here….fast! I choose to photograph by means of a kite because the kite is an important part of my life, the experience I have of the landscape is part of the process- this is what I know and share. A drone will get aerial shots but the pilot has a very different experience. I have had one near miss with a drone and that is enough. I want kite fliers to share and learn from our experiences as aerial photographers: that is why I’m here.

Grant Golding shares a wonderful example of why KAP is special. The joy of discovery by surprise:

It’s kap not dap! I even avoid boring people with pap on here!
I love kap for the happy mistakes like the previously undiscovered boat burial!

Grant Golding Boat

Mike Jones sees kite flying as something of a force of nature, an unstoppable result of the inventiveness of mankind:

I remember years ago there was this guy that went on about how much better remote control helicopters were than kites/KAP, but strangely enough, people still fly kites, and people still find photography from them interesting. Then there were/are guys with balloons, etc. To each his own. KAP, KAPpers and KAPing are still here and is what the group is about.

Grant Golding:

I always say I’m a kite flyer! Never photographer which upsets the locals as I have lots of images locally published with estate agents etc!

Tom Benedict:

To me they’re different things entirely. This whole debate reminds me of when I used to do large format film photography. I could spend an hour setting up, composing, changing my mind, moving, re-composing, etc. while waiting for the light to be juuuuust right. Product: one sheet of film with one image on it.
At various times during that process people would walk up with a compact camera, bang off “the shot” and walk away. I’m not saying my way was any better or any worse than the person with the compact. In the end we wound up with very similar images. I just spent a lot more time relaxing with mine and, as Bill has written, connecting with the place.

Sometimes when I’m doing photography at work I have to take the other approach: knock out the photos on my shot list and move on. But when I’m doing it for myself I have the choice. I still move at glacial speeds when I’m using a DSLR on a tripod, so I’m equally happy to move about that fast when doing aerial photography as well. Kites work fine for me.

Having been shouted at by a public well informed enough to say …’get a drone!’ I feel fairly put upon by the ubiquity of the drone:

Sometimes I see this as a ‘steam vs sail’ thing, in the end steam (or diesel these days) wins but, 200 years on, sailing is still very popular! I have just done a conference KAP stand and all day long people are telling me about drones… and goPros. I tell them the kite gives me time to shoot and some of them get it but most don’t. Trying to explain art to those who cannot see it is a bit of a waste of breath.

So there we are: the drone is the king of aerial videography and kite photography is the refuge of a dwindling bunch of wilful kite fliers who can’t or wont get a drone. As I explore my landscape from above I find the challenge gets tougher and the reward greater-but that’s me-I don’t mind how you sail your boat just leave me to the wind..

The exemption of kite and balloon from IN2014/081 is likely to be down to the scale of impact on airspace: provided a kite conforms to the long standing rules of the air, conflicts are avoided. Where kites need to exceed the agreed limits the NOTAM system provides a ready mechanism to ensure safe operation.  This then is the great virtue of KAP it is not dependant on a costly and difficult regulatory framework- I am free to fly my camera anywhere deemed public space and anywhere else where I have consent of the landowner.  Unlike a drone the flyer is usually easy to find- they are on the end of the string!


You can always find the kite photographer on the end of the string!

Over on Reddit I found a strange phenomenon: a lot of people who enjoy extreme sports (or ‘outdoor pursuits’ as we used to call them) like to fly kites and there is a steady trickle of ‘dude: how to I fly my goPro?’ questions on there. They are not interested in photography, they are not that interested in kites, what they seem to want is a way to get a new view of themselves in the outdoors- ‘extreme selfies’ if you will.

So the future is fish-eyed after all!



About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
Gallery | This entry was posted in KAP, Significance, value and society and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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