Aerial Photography Super Affordable Kite




About: I am a University of Edinburgh electronics engineering student.

Hi everyone!

Here is a very fun and super easy to build tutorial on a kite that will take a camera up in the sky and let you snap those aerial photos you’ve always dreamt of. The kite actually costs pennies to make but is very effective in what it does!

It’s good fun to learn about aerodynamics rather than some rocket science stuff that will bore you to death if you aren’t already an expert in engineering.

So all you kids, makers, creators, hackers, grandmas, grandpas, enthusiasts and of course rocket scientists – follow myjourney and make yourself a kite like this!

P.S. I don’t like much text so feel free to scroll and look through all the pictures – they are really explanatory and give you everything you need to make a kite yourself!

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Birds View Photography Using a Kite

Why would you bother making one???? Okay, for aerial photography we need to get a camera up in the sky obviously. But it isn’t obvious how … we could throw it or fire it with a cannon (that will be fun) or buy a $1000 drone to do the job. The last one is only a bit expensive but otherwise the best option haha. Okay lets be serious we don’t have such a budget … but we can hack the system and achieve the same result with a dirt cheap $10 solution! That is 1% of the cost of the drone

  • Affordable
  • Easy
  • Fast to make
  • Fun to play with!!!

Step 2:

Materials needed:

  • 4 x 90cm (35 inch) linden or balsa wood rods – 10x10mm (0.4x0.4 inch) cross section
  • 4 x 55cm (21.5 inch) linden or balsa wood rods – 10x10mm (0.4x0.4 inch) cross section
  • 1 x car cover (or some lightweight fabric like the ones used in tents)
  • Thread

Tools needed:

  • Drill and a small bit
  • Needle
  • Saw
  • Hot tip cutter (or just scissors)
  • Glue
  • Measuring tape and a pencil

Step 3: Chop Chop

Chop the wood in the correct lengths!

Step 4: Mark the Short Rod Half Way

Put a mark at the 27.5 cm or 10.1 inch if you are working in metric.

Step 5: Drill at the Half Mark

Use a 2 mm drill bit or 0.04 inches. The smaller the better - we want the wood to stay strong after all.

Step 6: Make a Cross and Stitch It Up

Take two of the small pieces, put them at 90 degrees to each other and stitch them through the holes you've just made.

Step 7: Tighten!

Stitch well and make sure everything is tight! As you see I have tightened the sides of the main stitching.

Step 8: Glue the Joint

Firstly, make sure the angle is as accurate to 90 degrees as you can. Now using some wood glue cover the thread. That will help it stay in place.

Step 9: Drill the Ends of the Cross Pieces

Measure 1 - 2 cm (0.4 - 0.8 inch) from the end of the cross pieces and drill with the same small bit you've used earlier.

Step 10:

Measure 14 and 15 cm (5.5 and 6.3 inch) from the end of the big wooden rods. I've put a mark for long and short - see next step...

Step 11: Assemble the Cross Pieces and the Long Ones

Put some glue and align the cross assembly to the long rods.

Step 12: Stitch Stitch Stitch

Now, get the needle through the hole and repeat many times. Wind some thread around and glue with the wood glue on top of everything.

Step 13: Assemble the Kite's Wooden Frame

Finish the frame assembly by putting all the long pieces and the two crosses together. Use plenty of thread and glue on every joint to make sure it will withstand the winds!

Step 14: Mark Down the Fabric Strips

Now, get the car cover (or destroy an old tent maybe?) and cut it in 28cm wide strips. That's 11 inches. I've used a hot tip wood engraver for the cutting to seal the edges and make sure they won't fall apart. If you cut with scissors you can use a lighter to slightly touch the fabric edge at the cut.

Step 15: Cut Strip to Lenght

Now, lengthwise you just need one turn of the fabric around the kite's frame. Mark the end and cut it off.

Step 16: Stitch the Fabric Around the Frame

Using the same thread now stitch the fabric strips around the wooden frame. Make sure it is somewhat tight and not loose at the ends.

Step 17: Add Key Strength Stitching

To add to the overall strength of the kite stitch the corners of the fabric. This will help improving the anti-twisting performance under wind pressure and will keep the fabric where you put it. Put glue on top of every stitch you make to improve the long term life of your kite.

Step 18: Wire Support and Camera Mount

The kite is held in a single point so adding an additional rod will make it stronger. That will also act as our camera mount location. I don't know whether this additional piece of wood is necessary as it's just my intuition but I've also glued it down and used a fancy knot that I sealed with the glue at the end.

Step 19: Sanity Check

Put the kite on the scale. Mine read only 231 grams! That's like two GoPros (without the underwater case).

At this point it looked promising that the flight will be successful.

Step 20: Camera Mount

Get the camera attached to the frame assembly that we just made stronger. I've used two zip ties.

Step 21: Start the Countdown 10... 9... 8...

The kite is done! Now let the glue dry completely and that is it!

Step 22: The Sky Is the Limit!

Now it's you and the kite! Run and it will get up in the sky in no time! The design flies really well in low winds 3-5 m/s as well as stronger up to 20 m/s. Tie the rope just after the fabric if there is no/low wind. Tie the rope to the nose if the wind is strong!

I launched it from a moving car which was pretty coll but plenty dangerous haha (no I wasn't driving if you're wondering)!

Thanks for watching! Rate an comment - I'd love to know what you think or want to suggest!

P.S. If you really liked my instructable please vote for it in the MAKE IT FLY contest ;)

DIY Summer Camp Challenge

Runner Up in the
DIY Summer Camp Challenge

Make It Fly Contest 2016

First Prize in the
Make It Fly Contest 2016

Outside Contest 2016

Participated in the
Outside Contest 2016

Be the First to Share


    • Book Character Costume Challenge

      Book Character Costume Challenge
    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Multi-Discipline Contest

      Multi-Discipline Contest

    47 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I think this would also be a good option in places where you can't fly drones. National parks are one good example. Also there are lots of places that are within 5 miles of an airport that are perfectly acceptable to fly kites.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Yes, or where you don't want to injure any people. Like at the beach for example :)


    3 years ago

    Been thinking about doing this, goes on the bucket list. Gopro with WiFi will do very nicely. :-)


    3 years ago

    Oh this is great. Thanks for giving me some imagination stimulus. I just looked at the first instructable today and saw a Banggood ad on the side. One of the items (several actually) was for RF remote controls. Some of them are good up to 1000 feet or more range and the receivers can be small and light. Now to figure out a way to trip a "cheap" digital camera. I did see a project where a camera was opened up and the contacts for tripping the camera were extended. I dunno if I want to go to that extent, not sure I'd be successful in putting the case back together. Maybe some sort of small solenoid to push the camera button but that would ad weight. Must do more research.

    4 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Easier to have a second steing with a little leaver system that will press the shutter. You'll minimise weight :) but if you go fancy with a shutter control then be sure ro post pictures how it worked!


    Reply 3 years ago

    A 4 lb weight fishing line would not add much to the load and may do the trick without a lot of added expense. Must try it. I just got a digital canon camera for 42 at a garage sale. Not too big or heavy so if it still works (waiting for a battery from China) it will be going up in the sky.

    Mark 42hertzgamma

    Reply 3 years ago

    The weight of the string adds up faster than you'd think.
    I suppose with really lightweight monofilament (fishing line) it'd be okay, but keeping the strings untangled could be an issue.
    A cheap radio control for micro scale gliders might be good.

    David the RDonnH1

    Reply 3 years ago

    Lot's of good cheap ($10 &up) digital cameras on places like craigslist. I saw a 5 year old Nikon for $10 recently. I like Canons that use AA instead of proprietary batteries but they weigh more.


    3 years ago

    Awesome project :) Congratulations on winning First Prize!

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Your choice of a simple box kite was a good one. I doubt there is any kite design that is more stable, or easier to make and fly. They have good lift-to-drag ratio. I made one years ago with 1/4" dowels, Tyvek, and 1/4" ID Polyethylene tubing. I sewed a hem on both edges of the strips with a sewing machine and fastened them into tubes with an overlapped seam. I attached the tubes to the dowels with zip ties, reinforcing the Tyvek with filament tape. I then fit the cross-braces and use cut poly tubing to attach them. This allows easy take-down for transport. The whole thing rolls up and fits in a mailing tube. I use a zip tie in the center of the braces for added stability (not shown here). See attached images for details.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Polyethylene tubing is such a great idea and makes it conveniently foldable unlike mine design. Great idea!


    Reply 3 years ago

    I got the idea from an old book of kitemaking. That and the idea of using Tyvek, which is thin, strong, and lightweight, and is easily taped to repair in the field.


    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing a very nice l'ble.

    My grandfather made one very similar when he was manning a weather station on a tiny island in the Coral Sea in the 1920's. He took some amazing arial photos of the entire island. Then one day the string broke and he watched his kite and beloved camera trailing the ramining string across the waves as they disappeared into the distance.


    3 years ago

    OK, so the kite is cheap to make, but I see you are using a fairly expensive ($300+) HERO3+ camera. If I had such a camera, I would not want to risk it to a kite. Aside from damage incurred by a crash, there is always the risk of a tree or powerline grabbing your kite, or your kite getting away. You didn't mention triggering the camera so I assume your camera has a built-in intervalometer to snap images at a regular interval.

    What I would use for a camera is a used Canon Powershot, around $20 on eBay, with CHDK (, the Canon Hack Development Kit, installed on the SD card. I have a Canon A530 that can take 2592x1944 images and only cost me $20 on eBay. CHDK is a free firmware enhancement that you install on the SD card. It has functions, like an intervalometer, motion detector, and many more. You can write your own scripts in UBASIC or Lua. I would use the intervalometer and set it to like 5-10 seconds between frames, and then create a video with interpolation between frames, for smooth motion, using free Avisynth. I posted a thread on how to do this:

    Smoothing time-lapse videos with AviSynth - Creative Uses of CHDK - CHDK Forum

    It only took a few lines of code. The result is surprisingly smooth. Here's a side-by-side comparison of raw and processed footage:

    Timelapse smoothing using Avisynth - YouTube

    CHDK allows remote triggering through a USB cable anyway but there is also a mod that allows RC control through a modified USB cable:

    CHDK Camera Control Tutorial

    APM to CHDK Camera Link Tutorial - DIY Drones

    I haven't tried this but it may be of interest to those who want RC control.


    3 years ago

    Hey great instructable! You should use a "picavet" to stabilize your camera with minimal additional weight!

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Nice execution!