LensVid Exclusive: Sparrowscope – Smart Kite Photography
A new Kickstarter project is looking to bring a simple, controllable way to shoot images from a kite mounted camera. Shooting images from a kite isn’t new but until now creating a rig that can allow you to capture images in an efficient way was pretty hard and quite expensive – Sparrowscope is looking to change that.
Sparrowscope is a lightweight rig controlled from a smartphone (android/iOS based) which is attached securely to the rig and is also used to take pictures (although there might be other options for taking images with the rig – if you are an advanced user and willing to do some DIY work to attach a light mirrorless camera for example). In order to control the rig from the ground you will have to use another smart device with the Sparrowscope free app.
The Sparrowscope with an iPhone
The Sparrowscope goes for around $250 (CAD) for a Sparrowscope + DELTA kite (other kite kits are available as well) – you can get one on the project Kickstarter page.
Here at LensVid we are proud to bring to you a special interview with the developer of the Sparrowscope – mechanical engineer Ori Barbut, explaining how and why he came up with the project and a bit about how it works.
A: I was at the beach with some friends having a picnic, and we had a kite tied off flying on its own. A stranger came up to us and asked if we’d send up his camera, set to take pictures automatically. We had some fun with that, trying to tie the kite line around the camera in a way to take pictures of us… but we couldn’t tell if we were in the picture, and at the end of the day none of the pictures turned out. Apparently just tied to the line, a cheap camera doesn’t take a good picture—not a huge surprise. I was already aware of kite aerial photography, but this was the first time I tried it and it was kind of fun. A few weeks later, I got to thinking that it would be possible to augment the technology in your phone to do this in a much smarter way.
A: It took about 16 months from the first prototype to the final design. The first prototype sent an iPod Touch up within two days of thinking up this smartphone kite photography idea. I explored many different avenues for stabilizing the rig and simplifying it, as well as making sure that the rig could easily be packed into a small volume—the first prototypes were anything but compact, and the space it took for carrying them was an obvious flaw to me.
A: The Sparrowscope is primarily made of a lightweight aluminum alloy, that with a typical phone weighs under 350 grams.
A: I envision the typical use case of one person flying a kite and someone else controlling it. There are two other options though, suitable for you to take pictures with the Sparrowscope on your own. The first is Solo mode, where the Sparrowscope can automatically take photos and rotate between shots.
A: There are currently strict regulations about drone flying in many locations, but imagine: what if a farmer could get a quick view of his or her crops from the sky, without paying a pilot to fly a plane overhead? You also see some high-end real estate photography that includes a somewhat aerial view of a home. Some of those real estate shots are taken from kites, some from quadcopters. I think the Sparrowscope could see uses in those two areas, and others that I haven’t imagined—time will tell what the Sparrowscope’s backers do with it. I’ve heard from one backer who is interested in photographing frisbee games and a half-marathon he organizes. I’m excited to see what uses people will dream up!
A: For the time being, I’m focusing on still photos only.
A: You could, it’s a very lightweight device and people who do kite aerial photography (KAP) sometimes also do balloon aerial photography (BAP) as well with the same kinds of rigs being lifted.
A: I have some features in mind to expand the current capabilities of the Sparrowscope. As I said earlier, the Sparrowscope can improve and gain functionality through app updates: it’s not a device with a frozen feature set. It’s too soon to say which of my ideas will make it and which will not, but I’ll be tinkering away and trying new things. I’m sure that the people who have supported the project will have some neat ideas as well, and I imagine the community driving some of these innovations for everyone.