Community projects with KAP

edited January 2013 in General
I'd like to hear from anyone who has had experience of doing a community project based on KAP.

I have been asked to look into this as part of a 'Landscape Partnership Project' in the UK. The idea is to get group activities going to bring together archeology, local history, schools, wildlife protection and other 'landscape stakeholders'.

I have some ideas such as building up a seasonal cycle habitat photo-map with simple nadir rigs flown by schoolkids. I see this as a process involving building the rigs, flying the field and building the mosaic. I reckon I could only feel safe with no more then 5 kites aloft at once so by repeating the cycle 4 times in the year everyone in the class should get a go with the string.

What would be a good ready made bombproof kite for the job?

I figure a 10 year old should be OK with a 1.5msq kite but I'd like to know how small a child could be trusted to handle a KAP kite?

I have settled at 5 but how many kites could be expected to fly together without tangling?

How to manage the mosaicing-maybe cut out and stick down is better then digital for group involvement?

Clearly a cheap, basic compact camera is needed, I'm minded to use a Canon Ixus- any other ideas?

I'd like to fly Simon Habord's AutoKAP rig too- any thoughts on work-shopping the manufacture of 5?

Should be fun, gloves will be supplied!




  • edited January 2013
    Hi Bill

    What you describe is exactly what we do, but not making kites and rigs.
    YACs, Rural Connect, schools, archaeology societies etc.
    It is the basis of our Charitable Trust:

    The kids are not usually the problem but the adults responsible for them, hence our new page:
    Kids much younger than 10 can handle kites, see:
    With very young children party balloons and keyring cameras are safer as they will not fly away if dropped:

    how many kites could be expected to fly together without tangling?
    One ;o)
    But we normally fly a maximum of 5:
    but with some tethered!

    Generally we stick to two or three on a small site with no more than two mobile:
    (image by Jim Knowles)
  • edited January 2013
    Thanks John, excelent stuff..I like the crowd control idea of pinning some of the kites down!

  • edited February 2013

    If you intend buying kites for community use, you may wish to consider registering yourself with a wholesaler, or just argue a discount. I buy our kites in quantities of 6. I have just ordered three HQ Power Sled 1.0s (and three more 1.7s) to see if they will fly the HD 808#16D on a coat hanger wire arrangement.

    With the 808 camera, I am aiming for roughly a 'U' shape with one side longer than the other. The base of the U, which is straight, has the line wrapped around it, with the sides hanging down, the longest arm acting as a pendulum. I will attach the camera to the short arm with a safety line to the kite line. Everything depends on the length and weight of the wire. Here is a mockup with two tent pegs and the camera on the left:

    I like the HQ Power Sled 1.7 as a small kite and the Premier Kites 14 is OK.
    At a guess, I would say that I have bought well over 30 kites in the last 12 months.

    My wife, Rosie, uses a builders belt to clip the reel onto. Something similar is a possibility with kids.....if the kite is not too large!!!
  • edited January 2013
    I'm not so keen on the PowerSled- I have seen too many collapses! My preference is for a small (1m?) Rok: I'm finding Rok stability hard to beat!

    I was going to go for wooden/ally cross picavet suspension as they are fun to build, then zip tie the camera to the X and hope for the best!

    The HD 808#16D looks good: decent quality at a decent price! Can you get still shots from it?

  • One thought on cheap cameras is that when smart phones become obsolete or get cracked, they still have functional cameras. You could put a notice out at the school for any such devices (and their chargers).

  • edited January 2013
    Thanks for all the advice John, The West Lothian Archaeological Trust is just awesome at involving kids. I'm always impressed.

    @hobbiestoomany great idea on the camera phones, same goes for phones labeled "Bad IMEI" (can't get on the network) although those are often stolen.

    For cameras, I like the Canon SD series and a rubber band over the shutter-- no software for kids to fool with, but you can also move to CHDK. The older canons-- SD 600 and the like, are available on ebay for around $35. In full sunlight the results are still quite good, better than even recent phone cameras. The autoKAP is nice, but a PET bottle rig is super light weight, and the kids can build them themselves for free.

    If you're going to workshop a cheap auto rig, try the silly putty and rubber band rig:
    Details here.

    Our software can help you do the mosaics with the kids in an easily sharable way, and their maps can end up in Google Earth &
    We also just implemented map annotations.

    Hmm... iframe embedding isn't showing up for me-- can you see the videos maps?
  • edited January 2013
    Excellent ideas gentlemen!

    I'm writing up outline project proposals now and see from John the virtu of skipping the rig build exercise and concentrating on flying.

    Mathew: Map knitter looks good: I suspect we will have to work with what ever image processing the schools have. I couldn't find a download link for Mapknitter module that would simply let us montage: is there one?

    I'm keen on Simon's 'silly putty rig' and will be building one very soon.

    Apart from making photomaps I'm thinking of getting some custom 'signature' line laundry commissioned and then KAPing it over the event locations- or maybe getting the group to build it. It should look good from above and below!

    Next the risk assessment...any body got a good catch-all one handy?

  • Blakebill--
    we don't do the simple auto-montage-- its hard to implement in web browser without killing our server resources. But you can montage a photoset and then upload it to Mapknitter to handle all the Gdal/tiling necessary to make it a georeferenced image.
  • edited January 2013
    Thanks for the links, I have inclueded them in a proposal and it looks like this is a live one!

    Mathew, I'll stick to PTGui and Pshop for the montages. If we end up doing a number of sites across a wide territory ( looks likely) georeferencing will be a must.

    I want the photomaps to be pin sharp so despite the huge weight /cost benefit of the HD808#16 the test image John posted is grim from the mapping point of view ( fisheye distortion and a lot of fringe aberration) and the recycling 'win' of old phone cameras will get me into inevitable multiple reso problems!

    I think a batch of eBay sourced Canon Ixuses (hopefully the same model- one with image stab would be good!) will be the camera of choice.

    I have outlined a programme of rig building ( a fixed nadir and a Simon Harbord Silly Putty) and KAP flying that should generate some decent habitat mapping which, when repeated, will show seasonal change and rotate tasks so everyone 'gets a go' at the fun stuff.

    I'm going to go with 2 kites to give us Bft 3-4 operability. Both from Didak: a 6mm GF sparred 1.2m Rok and an Explorer 1.2. Testing will follow once I have got the prototype rigs built and have abetter idea of how much lift I'll need. I want to keep the kites small for small hands to fly!

    What larks!

  • Hi Bill

    I would not use the HD808 camera for that work either.
    There is no problem using other cameras when the kids are supervised properly.

    Keep us all up to date on the test flights ;o)
  • edited January 2013
    Let me suggest a different approach. If you want high quality images then you will have to do them yourself. You have the skill and equipment and you have put in hundreds of hours to hone your craft. Not wishing to undermine John's enthusiasm for letting people have a go I personally think that showing people how to use aerial imagery (once captured) is a better approach. Lets face it they can look at Google Earth for free and once they have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different formats of aerial image they will see more from whatever source material they have access to. I think that it is important to demonstrate KAP but I would be cautious about giving the impression that anyone can do it. I would think that most of us have had to work at it before we got images worth sharing and I often wonder how many people have a go and then give up before they are successful.

    Reading imagery and mapping I think are better skills to teach, particularly if you use open source software. You can then give people both skills and resources; therefore substantial legacy skills (currently what the box tickers want to see).

    Open source GIS like QuantumGIS is great. It has a good georeferencing tool and uses shape files as its native file type. If your aim is for the project results to enhance local HER's this should be ideal for producing HER compliant data. You can also use the OS opendata mapping as a background. QGIS also has a neat open layers plugin that lets you see your mapping against Google Earth although you have to be careful about using different CRS (Coordinate Reference Systems) you can also use this as an accurate guide for georeferencing.

    If all this sounds interesting you might want to have a look at a not for profit, open content manual, that I have produced for community groups This is underpinned by the use of opensource software so that groups have all the tools needed to produce the same standard of record as professional archaeologists. I also offer GIS training for community archaeology / heritage projects.

    I know this post has taken a different course to the other replies and I have not set out to undermine their ideas (I apologise if anyone thinks that). I have had a reasonable amount of experience, and success, in running community archaeology projects, including getting a highly commended in the British Archaeology Awards. I have therefore seen how learned skills can be used beyond a single project. I have a local amateur archaeology group who now run their own projects and invite me along as a volunteer. That's good feedback.

    Anyway whatever route you take let me know if you need any more information.

  • edited February 2013
    Martin, I think that you are aiming at a different age group.
    I am talking about on site working with junior and younger secondary school children:

    As I said before, promoting KAP is the basis of our Trust, so I am obliged to respond.

    We have junior school children happy at flying and taking down kites and pressing buttons on cameras!

    It is setting up the picavet that is a stumbling block.
    Hence, the tent peg approach.

    The software is the biggest hurdle!

    ' I would think that most of us have had to work at it before we got images worth sharing'
    Not if you are on a specific site, with standard camera settings, under strict supervision and with appropriate instruction.
    Archaeological images do not have to be 'presentable', just useful or instructive.

    When running with a kite (no wind!) with the Bath and Bristol young archaeologists we obtained this exceptionally low quality, near IR image in April 2009:
    but it shows a feature running through the area of a playing field which later in the year can sometimes be seen as a parch mark:,-2.623257&spn=0.000996,0.00283&t=h&z=19

    'be cautious about giving the impression that anyone can do it.'
    I have the exact opposite view, it is us that complicate things! We are not the chosen, but often just individuals that are good at picking things up without personal instruction. I would like to see KAP taught on university archaeology courses....or even just the use of a camera ;o)

    KAP has a learning process, whether you are young or old. My observations are that children are infinitely more adaptable than adults.
    A major problem with KAP has been that characters like us (KAPers) strive for better and better images (including, for our group, visible, near and thermal IR and near UV) without looking at the wider picture!

    Here is pole work too, where Mila:
    took this:
    but I did have to put my foot against the base of the pole ;o)

    My wife was a teacher and made, and flew, kites recreationally with kids in school.
    I was a maths teacher for a while and working with kites and children is a doddle by comparison.

    When it comes to university archaeology students, we demonstrate the technique and send them away with the kit, after they have taken some good aerial shots!

    Members of the Edinburgh University Archaeology Society.

    The Public Laboratory for Open Science and Technology share our ethos.

    Our Trust has just submitted a short article for publication entitled:
    Low Level Aerial Photography – A technique for everyone
    If published, we will add details here:
  • This is a fantastic discussion. I've been working on a project - now two related projects - that could be considered community KAP in the sense that John is talking about. In the past I worked on another project more similar to what Martin is talking about. In parallel with this I've been pursuing another aspect of KAP that has turned into a combination of both Martin's and John's takes on the topic. It gets off the theme of community KAP to some degree, but I'll share it here anyway. Please bear with me.

    Here's what happened: I've been trying to push my photography - in the air and on the ground - to create better photos. At the same time my younger daughter, who's all of seven years old, is getting interested in photography. We both need time in the field to pursue photography, so we often work side-by-side. Keeping what she's doing and what I'm doing separate has been... tricky.

    Any time you push a creative process, it's inherently frustrating because it amounts to raising your expectations beyond your ability to create until your skills have increased enough to meet them. Almost always this process includes comparing your work to that of others who already have the skills you're trying to develop. The trick is to have enough of a vested interest in the pursuit to know that all the hard work is worth it.

    This is the opposite to the approach that's required to interest someone in the creative pursuit in the first place. If I held my daughter's photography to the same standard as my own, she would quickly become discouraged and quit. That's why I almost never photograph the same subjects that she does. If I do, I try to do it from a wildly different vantage point so that she doesn't try to compare our work. When the time comes that SHE start to make comparisons, it'll be time to start talking to her about composition and light. But not until.

    What John is describing sounds a lot like what I'm trying to do with my daughter: interest the kids in KAP; let them get that thrill of seeing the first aerial photograph THEY made; provide them with the knowledge that they can start to think in terms of seeing the world at some height other than four feet off the ground. At the same time, they get to see how thinking in these terms gives them a unique perspective that's useful for a particular application of KAP: archaeology.

    This is also what I'm trying to do with the community KAP project I'm working on. I've been photographing the garden at the local middle school for the last several years. The teachers who coordinate work at the garden use the photos to plan out future plantings, irrigation, etc. Now a second school has approached me about doing the same thing for their garden. Unfortunately I don't have time to do an adequate job at both, so I'm trying to put together a package of tools that the students themselves can use to make their own aerial photos. I'm taking John's approach here. The results won't be something that would hang in a gallery, but they'll be just as good for garden planning as anything I've done. And since it's the students themselves doing it, that's even better. And when the time comes that THEY compare their work to mine, that's when to start talking to them about fine points of KAP. But not until.

    What Martin is describing sounds a lot like what I'm trying to do with my own photography: gain better skill and control of the process so that when I put a camera in the air, I can make the specific photograph I'm after with just the right light, shadow, vantage point, composition, etc.

    This is also what I had to do when I photographed Ahu a`Umi, a historical site here on the Island of Hawaii. The archaeologists who planned and coordinated the project had particular photographs they needed in order to complete their work. A haphazard approach would never have produced the data they needed. There was some miscommunication about necessary features on the ground in order to make the most of the data, but otherwise we stuck to a well-described set of guidelines for the photo sets we made. In this case I used Martin's approach. Though in my case I was the one being brought in and given guidelines, not the other way 'round.

    Both of these are community KAP projects. And both John's and Martin's approaches are valid. It really depends on the purpose of the community project in question. So I hope this discussion continues, and continues to expand the way it has in the previous two posts.

  • edited January 2013
    Hi Tom


    My only comment is that as the junior school children use a camera that Rosie and I use (set to interval mode, ISO 200, infinity, exp. comp. -2/3 and sports mode), but smaller kite, the images tend to be the same quality.

    Our best images, as a group, come more from the environmental conditions when we take the photos. When you have a pre-arranged meeting you have to take what the weather throws at you (or doesn't).

    In the case of our outings with the Falkirk, Bath and Bristol, Inverness, and Ross and Cromarty Young Archaeologists Clubs and YACs leaders at Braemar, we had either no wind or the occasional gust. When you travel down to Bristol and then up to Inverness this is disheartening, but if you are willing to run you will get something eg:
    A group outing to Falkirk - a Roman fortlet.
    Jim launched the kite, I held the camera and Rosie provided the pull.

    As a result, we now only do such work locally.

  • This discussion really inspired me over the weekend-- I worked a lot of these thoughts into a post at the PBS IdeaLab-- with special reference to the great work of the awesome Lothians!

    thanks all!
  • edited January 2013
    Fantastic stuff, guys! Quite inspiring!

    Bill, I just posted about a deal for a very cheap and lightweight CHDK-capable camera that might work for you.

    No idea if Canon could make this would work for UK residents.
  • edited January 2013
    Oh my...and I have submitted my outline proposal already!

    The links are great..keep them coming!

    In reply to Martin I need to get a few things straight here.

    1. Hopefully I'll be working with 10-12 year olds to impart the personal and collective sense of achievement in making a photomap from KAP. The goal is a simple one: you get to see the ground up close where you live and get a new perspective of the landscape you live in!

    There is fun to be had flying kites, building rigs and picavets etc. and I hope to do this as a group activity hitting some basic science topics along the way.

    2. This is not an archaeology project (yes I know all of the world and ..all of human history is... ) but this is about community and landscape. As I intend to get school kids to do this I want each group to record seasonal change in 4 passes over the same square. The project is as much about the doing as the getting so I have set the bar low.

    3. There is no reason community KAP Image resolution and quality should not be as good as possible and my job will be to make sure this is the case. I don’t believe screen dumps from Google earth or standard APs are anywhere near the resolution you get from KAP for habitat recording. The whole point is that we fly lower and see more! G earth is a good starting point for the lesson plans though.

    3. As a qualified surveyor and cartographer, I know a group of kids won't be able to meet professional standards but the significance of self captured images of your own territory achieved by wind power is memorable and empowering. When it comes to community projects I believe there is a place in the world for both the professional and the amateur. If all we get out of this is a good group experience it will have been worthwhile- sure I can take the photos but, on this project I'm here to enable not to dictate!


  • Oh..John, I forgot to mention I have ordered a 160x135 CiM Rok they are pretty cheap and I hope small enough for a 12 year old to fly without risk of being blown into the next county!

    Fortunately I live in the district the project is based in so I hope I can get a flexible schedule for the flying phase(s) of the project.
  • edited February 2013 is the beginings of the AutoKAP rig I intend to use.

    Should be fun!
  • edited January 2013
    Looks familiar! I can answer most of your questions on the rig Bill. Your link took some cutting and pasting to work.

    How long will it run? Depends on the number of turns, the strength of the elastic and the viscosity of the putty. I aim for about ten turns over a ten minute flight with shots about every 4 seconds.

    How big a rubber band? Camping shops, yellow tent peg bands are the best. The red bands the posties use are Ok if you use two at a time.

    How heavy will it be? Pretty light just a couple of ounces.

    What sort of interval should I set the intervalometer for? 4 to 10 seconds.

    Can I get a class of children to assemble it with out a rubber band pinging war breaking out? Hmmm. That's one for you.

    Why is ‘Silly Putty’ now only available as expensive ‘Science Putty’ and what does this tell us about the nature of science today? You should find it in toy shops in egg shaped containers.

    Will the tilt gear be too difficult to make? For kids, I wouldn't bother, just use presets.

    Will a fixed tilt design be a better bet? Yes

    What will the image cover be like with a constant shift in pan and tlit? Can be pretty damned good.

    Only one way to find out: build it and see!
    I agree.

  • Glad you spotted it Simon, it's sketched from the YouTube clip posted by Mathew above: I can't find any decent drawings of it!

    Thanks for answering the questions but I have one more:

    Which makes the best frame work aluminium or plastic?

    10mins rum time is excellent. I'm really looking forward to getting this working- you never know it might change the way I KAP altogether!

    Can't find Silly Putty eggs for love nor money round here..they are even being sold on eBay as 'vintage' toys now!

  • edited January 2013
    Regarding the silly putty, this recipe (and I am sure there are many others) works well:

    Seems to have the right properties, and there is probably better known by someone here.
  • edited January 2013
    Both aluminium and plastic work fine Bill, as you doubtless know there is a trick to bending Aluminium without cracking. I get strip plastic and aluminium from B&Q. If you just use the term "putty" and limit your search to toys and games, you should manage just fine: some of them are wrong type, ie "farting" or "slimy" !!!
  • Inspiring thread.

    These links may be of use. Our very own admin has had articles on simple KAP rigs.

    from the above thread you can download the full instructions

    Another video on Vimeo.

    And Flickr.

    Hope this helps.

  • edited January 2013
    Has anyone considered mechanical egg and cooking (ie 60minute type for limited pan ;o)) timers.
    I have ordered a couple to rotate the 808:

    If they are not appropriate, at least my cooking and eggs may improve!
  • I love this simple stuff! I''ve seen an egg-timer rig done a while back but cant find a link

    We'll be talking about Dethermalisers next!

  • One proposal that has 'taken off' is the idea of giant line laundry as an eye-catcher for events. I need to get prices in for a big lifter, line and ground anchors for a 50m eel! I'd like to get him made in the UK and fly if off a big Gomberg flowform (they look sooo cool). Anybody got ideas of who could make me one?
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