KAP | Rigs, Building Methods and Ideas I Like

Home Page KAP Rig Main Page The History Of Photography

Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) is a lot of fun. It incorporates many challenges; understanding kites, photography, radio control, weather, the artistic possibilities and the technical obstacles. Among the first technical obstacles you encounter are those involved in building a rig. I pored over websites, drew up ideas, bought some materials, stood around in hardware and hobby stores staring at parts and then, in what turned out to be a brilliant move, went to the superb KAPiCA02 and KAPiCA03 conferences and met a whole bunch of KAP practioners and, at KAPiCA 02, built my first rig, from a kit.

I subsequently proceeded to build my own self-designed rig, to carry a Contax G1, and then another, smaller rig for my Minolta Dimage G500 digital camera. This digital camera made it very easy to document rig construction, and I did that as I built the G500 rig and have posted this material here to help new rig builders with some ideas.

Then, virtually at the same time that I first posted these pages (Spring 2004), Brooks Leffler began offering a KAP rig kit for sale. If you don't want to run the traps on all the design issues, buy tools, work out parts needs, etc., I would highly recommend Brooks's kit. You can get his BBKK (Brooxes Basic Kap Kit) at Brooks's site. He offers the kit in metric or SAE hardware versions and also sells a basic Picavet kit and, if you want to have some KAP bling bling, sets of Pekabe blocks. Actually, even his kit is a bit fancy since it's black anodized! (At the first KAPiCA I talked with one guy about anodizing for a while but it seemed to involve tubs of hot acid or something and I decided not to bother).

If I haven't discouraged you yet and you want to go your own way, build your own rig and see what's involved, read on.

I remain, as I write this, very much a novice at KAP, but decided to write these pages for two reasons:

  1. I would have appreciated some of this guidance and specificity when I was in my "poring over web pages" stage
  2. I got a digital camera, making it much simpler to take, edit and post the photographs. No pesky scanning!

Experienced KAPpers may look at these pages and mock the shoddiness of my workmanship or the rudimentary nature of my designs, but there is definitely a learning curve in this and perhaps this will help you get through the first part of it faster.

Get a rig built, get out there flying, be careful and have a great time!

Rig Building in Excruciating Detail

Pan Mechanism
Building the Pan Mechanism You have a couple of fundamental movements to the KAP rig. One of them is panning. This page describes how I build my pan mechanism for my rigs.
Servo Modification
Modifying Your Servo That pan mechanism goes a lot more smoothly if your pan servo is modified to rotate continuously. On the servos I use, this is an easy procedure. This page describes how I do it.
Servo Bracket
Making a Servo Bracket There's a lot of fiddly small-piece work to be done. On this page, I detail the steps and work needed to make a small bracket to hold my shutter release servo.
Servo Bracket
Building the Camera Tray The camera sits in its own tray which is able to tilt from horizontal to vertical. This article shows how I made mine including some illustrations of using a hand-operated metal brake.
Servo Bracket
Building the Main Frame of the Rig The core of the rig is the main frame piece. The pan mechanism gets mounted to it, the receiver and batteries and antenna, the tilt servo and camera tray. This article discusses how to make this piece and in particular looks at using a metal nibbler to get useful rectangular holes in your aluminum.
Rig Motion Videos
So, Does This Thing Work? I will get around to posting photos of the finished rig and videos of the rig's motions. In the meantime, I've already done some videos from the rig aloft so you can see what the camera sees. Grab that barf bag!

by Matthew Cole, Saint Paul, Minnesota