"You should get a drone!" Ugh not again...

edited October 2013 in General
How often do you guys encounter people telling you, "That's nice but you could get way better photos if.../You could fly without wind if.../Have you tried out this expensive piece of drone technology yet? It's $3500 but totally works!"? Seems like every time I go flying or share some photos around, people immediately wonder why I'm not buzzing a drone around or dropping loads of money on GPS controlled UAVs.

Even after they see some of my photos (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasion/10338967155 for example), they seem to think that any sort of drone with a GoPro stuck onto it could do way better. I know I'm not an expert or anything, but jeez, some days it feels like the only people who appreciate my results before drone fever takes hold are folks on this forum and the KAP flickr page.

Any tips on deflecting drone conversation so people actually focus on the fact that you're flying a kite instead?

/end rant


  • Yes, this annoyance comes up on the forum every now and then... :) The first specific question is always: "is it a GoPro?". :) And I don't blame people, that would probably be my first question too, if I wasn't into photographing or KAPing...

    My key selling points for kites are:

    1) The Silence! There's plenty of situations where noise is distracting your target
    2) Possibility for long and interrupted shooting sessions
    3) Simpler, thus safer than drones. Of course there's certain danger elements in kites too. :)
    4) It's relatively inexpensive way to do aerial

    I think it's #2 that sink to the crowd the best. That it's about 10min of flying and then it's time for battery change etc.

    To be fair, I usually mention that the most annoying thing about kites, is the space requirement. Sometime it's just impossible to get the thing in the air. :)
  • I am tempted after the recent windless weather here in the U.K..the summer was better than the past couple of summers,but very low on wind.Have been looking at quadcopter vids on yuotube,and have even ordered a toy version (£27) to learn how to fly it.(not arrived yet).
  • Windless days ~ what about a pole ?
  • The simplest and most accurate answer for me is, "Because I want to use a kite."

    Gear questions come up anywhere photography is done. "Why are you using that camera? You'd get better results if you used a Nikon." "Why are you shooting handheld? You'd get better results if you used a tripod." "Why are you using those strobes? You'd get better results if you used real studio lights." "Why are you using a handheld pole? You'd get better results if you used a vehicle mounted pneumatic mast." "Why are you using a kite?..."

    In the end it boils down to light, subject, and a desire to create something. If I can do the photography I want with my cell phone, I will. If I can do it by wrapping a DSLR in plastic and slogging through the mud, I'll do that. If I want to use a large format film camera, that's what I'll use. And if I want to do my photography from a kite, I'm using a kite.

    I know I'll eventually add a multirotor to my toolbox. The technology is maturing to the point where it's as available as a nice tripod. And it opens up subjects I might not be able to get with a kite. But it's in no way a replacement. It's just one more tool in the toolbox.

    Besides, flying kites is a heck of a lot of fun.

  • Well, recently some young chap seeing me preparing some rig parts tried to to tell me that it can't possibly work, it would fall out of the sky, destroy the camera, etc... My answer was: "well, I actually did it many times, I'm just making another version of the kite here".

    Why kite not a drone?
    1. Things happen about an order of magnitude slower, so one has enough time to think over all the photo setting while flying the thing.
    2. Things can fly an order of magnitude longer without interrupt, kite does not have a battery to exhaust and camera (and or rig) batteries will last an order of magnitude longer than best multicopter battery
    3. You can't lawfully nor safely fly multicopter above people.

    Of course there are places where multicopter is a much better options or sometimes even the only option. But there are cases as well, where multicopter is not an option at all.

  • I'm glad that I'm not the only one out there contending with this! I've told people it's a lot more fun to fly a kite and much less risk (especially crashing expensive equipment in most cases), though as non-kite flyers maybe they don't quite get it ;). A couple of the more well-known photographers around my area are starting to experiment with fancy quadrotor setups so a lot of people in our community are kinda wondering why I don't jump on that bandwagon. It's definitely a lot cheaper for me to stick with kites at the moment!

    Thanks everybody for throwing out some good counterpoints to the drone of drone lovers. I totally understand how they'd be useful in some cases, but for me part of the challenge is working with limited winds where I live. If it were 100% easy it wouldn't be worth doing!

  • I guess the ultimate situation for this conversation would be doing autoKAP with the kite anchored to the ground. For me this should also include a beach chair, some iced tea, and possibly a good book.

    "Hey, what are you doing?"
    "Aerial photography. Can't you tell?"
    "Wouldn't it work better with a drone?"
    [Me, raising my glass and showing them my book] "No."

    It's a different mindset.


    P.S. I feel like such a hypocrite saying this, though. The last time I did KAP I was using an RC rig with a video downlink, and jockeying the camera into position for each photo. If someone had asked me if it would be easier with a drone I would've said, "YES! Do you have one?!" But in my mind I was sitting in that beach chair sipping tea...
  • edited October 2013
    Is it possible to to transport drone on a bike? ;O)

    PS I think that if you shoot with a drone, most of the attention is focused on flying rather than taking nice photos. Another loud toy for boys.
  • @benedict: Haha, I'm still laughing your comment, that's brilliant, I'm so going to do that some time! :D
  • edited October 2013
    The best way to take AP or AV from a kite is using a kite.
    Would be funny to see a drone trying this.
  • @BlueKiteTeam: very true! I ride around with my KAP gear quite a lot now that I've got it slimmed down to what I actually need in the field. Though there isn't any space on my bike at the moment for a folding chair and cooler full of cold drinks ;)

    Of course, with winter on its way I'll be giving all of that up for snowshoeing in to potential KAP spots... still more portable than the alternatives!
  • KAP is a real pleasure in contact with the surrounding space. The main advantage is low intervention in the environment. A man leaves behind few "of waste". Noise is also rubbish. The combination of man + kite + camera + bike is brilliant. In today's everyday life, excessive emotions we have enough. Talking here about the drones is perhaps a provocation! ;O)


    Dopero Drone
  • edited October 2013

    I get a lot of this and I often feel I don't want to fly in public because of it. People seem to be getting agressive over 'ownership' of airspace: somthing to do with living on the 'Silicon Fen' I suppose. You can add 'microlight' to UAV as suggested 'alternatives' too.

    More than anything else I think KAP is about landscape photography. As a photographer the kite gives me something the drone dosn't: time. Nobody with a drone mind set is going to understand that so I have a hatfull of answers ready now.

    It usually goes like this

    Passer by: 'What are you doing?'

    Me: 'Aerial photography'

    Passer by 'But why don't you use a drone?'

    Me 'Because I want to fly a kite'

    Passer by passes by.

    Sometimes they are less polite:
    Shouter, on seeing large kite in the sky, shouts: 'You should put a GoPro on that!'

    Me, provided they stop and listen: 'No, I have a proper camera up there..see?'

    and sometimes it goes like this:

    Passer by: 'Why don't you use a drone?'

    Me: 'Have you seen the price of those?'

    and once , when things were not going at all well it went like this:

    Passer by: 'Why don't you use a drone?'

    Me 'Good idea, this is not working at all well'

    I have gone into the 'this is commercial photography; you need a very costly licence to use a drone for this, but not for a kite! ‘argument but my stock answer is either:

    'Ask me later, can't you see I'm busy! '


    'This is poor man's aerial photography- have you seen the price of a Cessna?'

    The drones will get better and cameras will get lighter but I'll still use a kite when ever I can because it places you in the landscape and lets you feel the sky and that takes time- the one thing the kite will give you.


  • edited October 2013
    In Sweden there is another valid answer; Pictures taken with drone can not be published without permission from the military.
    From a legal point of view a kite is just a huge monopod and I can do what ever I like with the pictures with some exeptions for protected areas.
  • edited October 2013
    Was just flying a kite in filthy wind on Arran (I was on the downwind shore near hills; dumb, I know, but my family had gone to eat and play crazy golf). So I was just fighting it up and down and never managed to get any decent pictures at all. But lots of kids came and admired the fled. And a man came rushing over and laughed because he had thought I was a paraglider stranded over the sea and had come to save me. And another couple of women came to thank me for putting a smile on their faces (for the most bizarre of reasons). So I was very happy to have flown a kite despite no pics. Apart from about 100 of the dogshit bin I was anchored upwind of (not putting them on flickr).
    Of course, lots of other people might have liked a drone. It's a big world with room for all of us.
  • Well maybe something in between would be good. The Fotokite:


  • edited October 2013
    Hmm...looks like a useful way forward, by removing a lot of the control dynamic from the 'copter to the line batteries might last longer. Nice find!

  • @wayback: "It's so simple, it becomes like a flying pet." Yeah, maybe if your pet is a giant wasp... interesting concept at least!

    Thanks for all the suggestions everyone, I definitely feel a lot more prepared to make a case for KAP now.
  • If I understand correctly, the Fotokite moves solely on the basis of the position and tension sensors for the tether line. But I wonder how that would work in the wind. The wind will be blowing the line around, and that will make the Fotokite move around too instead of staying in one position as you may want it to.

    Well, there's no denying that these low-cost quadcopters are a major advance in aerial photography. I still like flying a kite, but there are some shoots I'd like to do that KAP won't work on - buildings near downtown where it wouldn't be safe to fly a kite. And the quadcopters are only going to get more capable and cheaper.
  • edited October 2013
    Regarding the FotoKite, that is a neat find and the first time I have seen it, although...confession time...

    Because the wind is almost nonexistant in the warm Summer here in mid-South Carolina, even my wonderful 8-foot Rokkaku by BKT (for which I'll be forever grateful) will not take to the sky. So, I did purchase an amazing "drone" a short while ago for AP. I'm NOT a big RC enthusiast, but can handle this because it is easy to control in all three axes relative to my own position (rather than the aircraft's orientation). Also, if my radio goes out, it will simply (?) come back to the place where it took off. Oh yeah, it carries my relatively heavy Canon SX200, same as my kites, but no gimbal rig.

    Okay, so, what's this have to do with the FotoKite?

    Here is the point: As a further safety precaution, I use 100lb test, incredibly thin, lightweight, and strong braided Spectra line as a tether. While there is virtually no tension on the line, it's there, near me, if I need it. As an added bonus here in the US, our friends at the FAA have no reason (or basis IMHO) to worry (and OF COURSE, I do not fly over anyone or anything that could suffer harm).

    Secret's out. End of confession. By the way, I totally agree 100% with the comments and enumerated points above. Kites rule.
  • Bystander: "What are you doing with that quad copter?”

    FotoKite Flyer: “I am just taking it out for a fly....”

  • edited November 2013
    I actually have a drone too, so I usually reply that it is too windy, or go into a long monologue on lighting circumstances, time needed to frame the cloud shadows, that tugboat that I want exactly there and there, until they get bored and move off.

    And for when i AM flying the drone, I am getting this hoody!
  • edited November 2013
    I think I should have copyrighted the T shirt idea back in '99 !!

  • AerialLensGuy, it seems to me that the critical development for the UAV is being able to control it relative to your position. A friend of mine is big into RC airplanes, and he said learning to fly one is not a minor task. It's fine when it's flying away from you, but coming towards you everything is backwards. They even have training apps to help you learn. But with the quadcopters, that's no longer an issue, so it's much easier to learn to fly it, which makes it accessible to lots of people.

    Anyway, I see the Niagra Falls quadcopter video on Youtube is now up to about 1.4 million hits. These things are just going to get more and more popular, unless the FAA spoils the fun.
  • edited November 2013
    I now have 3 drones.

    Good thing is you can fly anytime any wind under 30mph.

    Bad thing is you constantly worry about piloting, and are locked into your Fatshark glasses, you need to concentrate, you find yourself fighting against time as battery only last 15 minutes or so.

    Kap lets you breathe, looking for inspiration on framing the best possible picture, admire clouds or light.
  • There were some good discussions on this topic over on this thread:

    I'll re-iterate what I said on that thread -- Drones stay in the air because of software, and to date no one has ever written bug free software. There are far fewer things to go wrong with a kite, and every one of them can be prevented with a visual inspection of the kite and the environment-- no expert audits required.

    New and interesting and different things can be done with drones that kites can't do, but all the advances in microelectronics and materials that make drones possible also make kites better too. When all the hype settles down and drones are less novel, kites will still be there, being simple and useful.

    Poles, kites, and balloons are just sooo dead simple. I mean, when the feds decided to watch DC 24/7 this year, what did they do? they put up a tethered JLENS balloon of a design that hasn't really changed since the 1920's. So even in the world of bottomless military funding, a kite balloon won the day. Here's goodyear's 1926 patent for basically the same thing with people in it:

  • edited November 2013
    Kites are inclusive, drones are not.
    Tom Wells with Power Sled 14
    Davie Kerr with Power Sled 36

    Age difference of fliers >85 years.
    That says it all for me ;o)
  • John wins, that is the best reason. :)
  • Haha that's cute, hook 'em while they're young!
  • edited November 2013
    nasion - that's it!

    We have managed to get KAP kits into 12 primary schools and to many more indirectly through outreach programmes etc.
    Only 2 kits directly to secondary schools so far ;o(
    In total, 83 KAP kits/88 cameras (including 4 near infra-red) to 70 recipients ;o)

    When they are more mature, like Jim Knowles' 12 year old daughter, under supervision, they can safely fly better cameras like the Sony Nex5R with Samyang full-frame fisheye lens with a HQ FF2:
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