Wil Cao, a structural engineer at Parsons Brinckerhoff in New York City, and a member of the New York Professionals chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA, brought us this guide to building a remote-controlled camera rig for a kite.
In 2005, Wil and the Engineers Without Borders team were repairing an embankment on a river near a rural village in Cambodia and they needed aerial photos of the site. Google Earth didn't have good shots of the region, and renting a helicopter was out of the budget.
Wearing their thinking caps and their sweaty shirts, the engineers decided to make a kite rig. Actually, they had several kinds of images and the shots from the kite filled in the gaps. They had a blurry satellite photo from a predecessor of Google Earth, which they overlaid with Cambodian military topographical maps and filled in holes with shots from anywhere they could get them, including helicopter passes, satellite photos from private firms, and, relevant to this Instructable, a camera on a kite.
The kite rig went through two phases. The one shown here is a fancier second version, but, at the risk of false advertisement, this Instructable is on the first, homemade, truly DIY rig that Wil made at home. (We don't photos of the camera in the original rig because that camera was the only one available at the time... sorry!)
Our design here is highly customizable. We'll draw lines around how to assemble it, and you can fill in your own measurements and other details. Here's how to make it.
Step 1: Specs & Parts
The rig rotates the camera 270 degrees and tilts 180 degrees. The remote control is from an RC plane and it has a range of 2000 ft. (Wil's kite string was 1000 ft, so it was always in range).
What you'll need
Aluminum flat plates (Home Depot)
Servo equipment, can come in a package: (Servocity)
-Hand-held controller (transmitter)
Gears (salvaged parts from an old printer)
Epoxy and Super Glue
Coat hangers (optional)
Fiber mesh for strength (optional)
A fancy kite
Cost: About $200, depending on what parts you can salvage