The View Up Here

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When is KAP your best bet?

Posted by Tom Benedict on 15/03/2013

In my last post I mentioned that a particular subject really needed KAP to get the job done. Truthfully, a helicopter or multirotor probably could’ve done the job more easily, and in less time. I guess what I meant was I couldn’t do it from a pole, a rig suspended from a tree, or any of the other aerial platforms I’m currently using. (Nope, no multirotors in my stable of AP platforms yet. YET…) Which leads to the question: When is KAP the platform of choice? Or is there always some other aerial platform that’s more appropriate?

Before going into my reasons why I think there are cases in which KAP is the most appropriate platform, let me clarify: I’m talking about low altitude aerial photography. No full-sized airplanes, helis, satellites, or alien spacecraft. I’m sure you can see the garden I photographed yesterday from a thousand feet. But getting that kind of resolution from that altitude isn’t easy. For low altitude work, a low altitude platform is almost always the better choice.

One case that comes to mind is radio quiet zones. This may sound odd, but I work in one. Our building is close to several radio telescopes. Using a cell phone, ham radio, or RC transmitter near one of them essentially blinds them. It’s like shining a flashlight into an optical telescope. Bad idea. I know that with a GPS and waypoint system I wouldn’t even need the radio. But if the aircraft got close to the beam of any of the radio telescopes, the RF coming off the motors would be enough to raise the background on the telescope’s signal. Still not great. But a kite, a KAP rig, and an autoKAP controller, and you’re golden.

Gemini North Sunset via GoPro

Another that’s more common is whenever the aerial photography is done directly over people. For me, aerial portraiture is a fairly specialized form of KAP that requires 100% concentration on what you are doing. Let’s face it, getting hit with a KAP rig because the KAPer wasn’t paying attention would be quite painful. But getting hit with a multirotor or a generously sized RC helicopter? That’s closer to deadly. When I’m flying over people, give me a kite every time.

Sand Play for Two

Any time I naturally want the camera to be tethered to the subject, I think of KAP. A good example of this is a boat that you’re photographing from above. I know it’s possible to launch and retrieve multirotors from boats. The grassroots mapping of the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon is an excellent example of this. But after watching some of the behind the scenes videos of those launches and retrievals, I have to think that using a kite is a lot less stressful and more likely to succeed. Besides, once the rig is airborne, you really can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Speed Boat 2

One case that comes to mind is one in which the subject isn’t necessarily comfortable with the idea of being photographed. No, I’m not talking about paparazzi, or stalkers, or stealthy surveillance. I’m talking about wildlife photography. I’ve found that many animals that would otherwise register my presence if I approached them on foot don’t react at all to a KAP rig floating overhead. This has let me photograph them from a vantage point that’s not available with a ladder, pole, or anything with a spinning propeller.

Honu 3

So when else is KAP the platform of choice? I don’t know. For me, it’s whenever I want to relax while doing aerial photography. For others that may mean RC airplane, or helicopter, or a hundred foot pneumatic mast. But for me, it will always mean a kite, a string, and a sky to fly it in.

Fine Guidance System

– Tom


2 Responses to “When is KAP your best bet?”

  1. uni-cloud said

    Have you ever thought about writing an ebook or guest authoring
    on other blogs? I have a blog centered on the same subjects you discuss and would love
    to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would
    value your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e-mail.

    • Tom Benedict said

      I’d be happy to! What’s the URL for your blog? I’ve probably got a bunch of material up in rough form, but I’d love to read through what you’ve already written to see how my stuff might dovetail into it, and what kinds of rewrites I’d like to do on it.



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