Instructables

Kite Aerial Photography Picavet System - Fun, Simple, and Easy to Build!

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Picture of Kite Aerial Photography Picavet System - Fun, Simple, and Easy to Build!
In this Instructable I will be teaching you how to build a picavet and camera mount for kite aerial photography/video so that you can capture amazing bird's eye views of the world around you.  The purpose of the picavet is to hold and stabilize the camera while it is attached to the kite so that you get the best quality photos/videos, as opposed to simply sticking the camera to the kite which would give you crazy blurry whiplash photos.  I tried to design this picavet system so that it is simple to use and so it would offer a bit of protection for the camera in the even of a crash landing. The Instructable is broken into three main parts, designing and creating the picavet platform, designing and creating the camera mounting system, and tying the string and pulley system that stabilizes the picavet platform.  If you have any questions or suggestions please post them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them. Enjoy!

Note: The Picavet system I designed is for taking videos. As such there is no mechanism for activating the shutter release to snap a picture.  If you are interested in having photos there are a number of programs such as Imagegrab that all you to pull pictures from videos.

To avoid confusion here is a list of terms that you will need to know throughout my Instructable:
KAP = Kite Aerial Photography
Picavet = system of cord and pulleys that stabilizes a platform that the camera is attached to.
Picavet Platform = "X" shaped piece of plywood that the camera is mounted to. 

Disclaimer:  Although I have designed and built this KAP system with the safety of the camera in mind, I make no guarantee that your camera will be safe in the event of a crash.  If you plan to build your own Picavet/KAP rig please understand that there is a chance that your camera could be broken and move forward with that information in mind.  Also please be mindful of the Picavet during flight, abrupt changes in wind can cause the kite and picavet to move very quickly and if your not careful someone could be injured.  Lastly never fly kites near people, power-lines, or in restricted airspace.  Be safe out there!
 
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Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
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When I design an Instructable I want the project to be accessible to everyone.  In the past I have found some really amazing projects on this website that I would have loved to build but they required special tools or materials that I simply didn't have access to.  Now that I've decided to start writing my own Instructables I don't want to put you guys in that situation so I try my best to use tools and materials that are easy and inexpensive to find, mostly using materials that anyone can pick up in their local hardware store.

This project is no exception, save for the kite and camera, you can get everything you need to build this project from a home improvement store for around 20 dollars and most of the tools are things that any maker probably has lying around his/her shop already.

Materials:
General:
Small Camera - The camera I use for this Instructable is a Sony Cyber-Shot.
Kite - I prefer parafoil kites as they tend to fly steadier than delta and diamond kites.
Kite String - Make sure you use a strong kite string, 50lb - 75lb string should be enough.

Picavet Platform and Pulley System Materials
10" X 10" square of plywood
10 feet of kite string or accessory cord (accessory cord is like a thinner version of paracord)
4 - 1/4" eye bolts
4 - 1/4" lock washers
8 - 1/4" nuts
3 jump rings
Heat shrink tubing or electrical tape to secure knots
2 small carabiners

Camera Mount Materials
Small strips of wood roughly 3/4" X 1/2" X 12" 
Wood glue
Wide elastic/rubber bands
4 small screws and 4 small washers
foam for padding and protecting the camera

Tools
Ruler and pencils for layout
Band saw or Jig saw
screw drivers
pliers to tighten nuts and bolts
Drill or Drill press
Fly cutter,  Forstner drill bits, or hole saw (some way to  cut a hole that is roughly 1.5" to 2" in diameter
clamps for holding glued wooden parts
heat-gun or lighter for heat shrink tubing
The ability to tie a bowline knot 

Step 2: Building the Picavet Platform: Measuring and Layout

Picture of Building the Picavet Platform: Measuring and Layout
Once your have your piece of 3/8" plywood cut to 10" X 10" it's time to do the layout work.  Start by drawing diagonal lines from corner to corner that meet at the exact center of the plywood.  Next measure and find the middle of each side (5 inches) and draw lines in towards the middle from that point that are 2 inches long.  once your done marking you should have a layout that looks like the provided picture.  Make sure to take your time and lay things out as well as possible, the lines and marks you make now will be used for drilling and cutting later on.

Step 3: Building the Picavet Platform: Drilling and Cutting

Now that you have finished laying out your project, it's time to break out the power tools.  Start by drilling holes at the 2" mark on the lines you drew from the middle of each side of the plywood, these holes can be any size because they are just there to make cutting easier later on, I used a 1/4" drill bit.

After you have the four small holes drilled, it's time to drill the big hole in the middle.  This hole need to be big enough to accommodate the lens of your camera so you will have to do a little measuring and planning because each camera is different.  For my Sony Cyber-Shot I needed a hole that was roughly 2" in diameter.  To drill this hole I suggest using a fly cutter or hole saw, however, careful jig saw work can also do the trick if you don't have those tools available.

Now that you have the four small holes and one large hole cut it is time to create the cross shape of the picavet.  To do this start by marking 2" out from each corner of the plywood (8 marks in total, 2 for each corner) and then draw lines connecting these marks to the small holes you drilled as the picture shows.  Once you have your lines drawn start cutting making sure you are cutting on the proper lines so that you have a shape like the one pictured, you can throw away your triangle shaped scraps.

The last thing you need to do for this step is to mark and drill holes on the diagonal lines that are 2 inches in form the corners.  You will be putting eye bolts through these holes later on so make sure they are the proper size, i.e. 1/4" holes for 1/4" eye bolts.

Step 4: Creating the Camera Mount

There are two important things to remember when creating your camera mounting system; the first is that you need to build a mount that will protect your camera so it will be as safe as possible if it ever falls back to earth accidentally, the second is that you need to have access to power and shutter release buttons once the camera is placed into the mount. 

To solve these problems we are going to build a camera mount that is essentially a small box with padding on all four sides that snugly fits the camera.  Start by cutting some wooden strips that are about the same height as your camera's width, (3/4" to 1" depending on the camera) , and roughly 3/8" to 1/2" wide.  Once you have your wooden strips, create a box that is roughly 1/2" bigger on all sides than your camera by cutting and gluing the strips together.  After your glue has dried cut and install the foam on the inside of the box so the camera fits snug within the mount.

Now mark where your power button and shutter release (the button you push to take the picture) are and cut away the wood to allow easy access to them while the camera is inside the mount.  Don't forget to cut the foam to match the cuts you made in the wood.

with all that done, position your camera mount on the picavet platform and glue it in place so that the lens of the camera lines up with the big hole you cut in the center of the platform. clamp and allow to dry.

Lastly cut and install your rubber strips over- top the camera mount with your small screws and washers.  Make sure that you stretch the rubber so that it is taunt and strong enough to hold the camera in place.  check out the photo for examples of how this should look.


Step 5: Making it FANCY!

Picture of Making it FANCY!
Great work so far!  Now that you have the picavet platform and camera mounting system finished up it is a great time to think about decoration.  Remember that your decoration should go on the underside of the picavet because that is what is most visible once the picavet is attached to the kite string and up in the air.  Although it isn't necessary to fancy up your picavet I really enjoy having mine decorated, it just makes it more fun to use and looks a lot better than having a hunk of unpainted plywood soaring about the sky.

For my design I used graphite paper to trace an image of the Instructables robot and then painted the design using acrylic paint followed by 5-7 coats of clear polyurethane. Like all things, the key to a good design is proper layout and taking your time.

Don't forget to sand before you start to paint, cutting and drilling can leave a lot of rough edges that make even the best paint jobs look poor.

Step 6: Installing eyebots and tying the picavet system

This might be the most difficult part of the process, correctly tying the string and pulley system on the picavet.  The first time I tried to do this I failed horribly and had to try several more times before I figured it out so don't give up hope if it takes you a few attempts to get this right.  Once tied properly the string and pulley system allows the picavet to automatically level itself so that the camera is always shooting video at the same angle despite the pitch of the kite line it is attached to.

To begin, start by installing the four eye-bolts as shown in the pictures and make sure that all of the eyes are facing the same direction.  The order the nuts and washers go on in is:

(Nut > PIcavet Platform > Lock Washer > Nut).  

After everything is put together properly make sure that all the nuts and bolts are tightened down firmly.

Now that the eye bolts are installed it is time to start tying the string.  take your 10' length of string and tie one end of it to one of the jump rings using a bowline knot.  I advise using a bowline knot over the more traditional square knot simply because the bowline is  stronger and will hold better as the picavet moves with the kite.  Once your knot is tied, slide your heat shrink tubing on from the free end of the string, position it over the knot, and use a heat-gun/lighter to shrink it down so that it forms around the knot holding it in place. The heat shrink tubing isn't necessary, but it does add an extra layer of protection, you could also use electrical tape if you don't have heat shrink tubing.

Once your knot is tied and secured locate the free end of the string, open the picture on this page where the eye-bolts are labeled "A", "B", "C" etc. and follow the steps below.

Note: the "free end" of the string is the end that is not tied to the jump ring.

1.  Take the free end of the string through the left side of eye bolt "B"
2.  Take the string through jump ring "C"
3.  Take the string through the right side of eye bolt "D"
4.  Take the string through jump ring "A"
5.  Take the string through the right side of eye bolt "E"
6.  Take the string through the right side  of middle ring "G"
7.  Take the string through jump ring "C"
8.  Take the string through the left side of eye bolt "F"
9.  Take the string through the left side of middle ring "G"
10.Slide on a piece of heat shrink tubing (if your not using the tubing or using electrical tape instead you can skip this step)
11.Tie the free end of the string to jump ring "A" using a bowline knot.
12.Slide the heat shrink tubing over the knot and shrink it using a heat-gun/lighter.
13. Dance a little bit because you successfully tied the pulley system!!

If you were able to successfully tie the picavet it should look like the last photo in this step and the picavet platform should stay level when you move the jump rings up and down.

Step 7: Attaching the Picavet to your kite string

Picture of Attaching the Picavet to your kite string
Attaching your picavet to your kite string is very simple and doesn't require any knots which might weaken your kite line.  All you have to do is clip your mini carabiners to the jump rings and then wind your kite string around them as shown in the picture.   Once the kite is flying and the kite string is under tension the carabiners will be fixed in place and will not move.  when you want to remove your picavet from your kite line simply open the carabiner and unwind the kite string.  Generally three to four loops of the string is enough to hold the carabiner in place.

Step 8: Done, Enjoy!

Picture of Done, Enjoy!
Congratulations, if you have made it this far you now have a picavet that is ready to send into the sky!!

Start by installing your camera into the picavet platform so that the lens lines up with the big hole and so the rubber bands sit across the back of the camera holding it firmly in place.  Next attach your kite to your string as you normally would and stretch out about 20 feet of the kite line.  using the carabiner attachment method from step 7, attach your picavet about 10 to 12 feet down from the kite and leave about 12" between the two carabiners.

You are now ready to launch your kite and picavet assembly, (it helps to have a friend for this step).  While you're holding the kite string spool , have your friend turn on the camera and hold the kite, and have about 20 feet of string between the two of you.  Have your friend hold the kite above his/her head and when the  wind is right have them release the kite into the air.  The kite should take off and the picavet will follow close behind. provided you have a nice strong wind everything should be smooth sailing from here on out, allow your kite to gain altitude until you find a smooth constant wind which will allow your picavet to settle down and will give you the best quality pictures/video.  When you feel you have enough video reel in your kite and collect your KAP rig. Congratulations you have just taken your first ever kite aerial video, now go post that puppy to your preferred social media  /share it with friends and family and show everyone how awesome KAP can be.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my second Instructable, I hope you found the information within to be informative and easy to understand.  If you decide to build this project I hope you enjoy it and I wish you great success!

Best Regards,

Matt2 Silver
Matt2 Silver (author) 9 months ago
Thanks for your kind words wilgubeast, I'm glad you like the instructable.
wilgubeast9 months ago
Love that you built this with a wide audience in mind. Great text, awesome photos, well deserving of a finalist spot in the 2013 Kite Contest. Hope you bring home a cool prize!
Matt2 Silver (author) 9 months ago
Sure, It'll take a little bit, I'm off at college and left my camera etc back home. But I'll try my best to get the pictures to you guys ASAP : )
audreyobscura10 months ago
Can you post the videos you've made?
Really fun idea! Great work!
Neat! Thanks. I have found a fantastic wood for building light and strong structures like this. Pauwlonia. Lighter and stronger than Balsa, CHEAP, too. Check it out if you can find it. I am fairly sure you can build this lighter than plywood and not lose any strength.
Thanks again, great instructable.
Tight Lines!
bamboo4210 months ago
Love it thanks
audreyobscura10 months ago
So RAD! Great work!