About Southern Maryland Kite Aerial Photography

My name is Daniel Prosser. I got into kite aerial photography in 2020 and started this site a few months later to share my photos, stories, and kite aerial photography information with anyone who might want to read it. Since I live in Southern Maryland, and that’s where I do most of my KAP, it made sense to make KAP in Southern Maryland the main focus of this site. I hope other people who live here and find it will enjoy the unique views of places they know well, and maybe even take up the hobby themselves. However, I don’t guarantee that I will only put stories and pictures of Southern Maryland here. After all, if I travel and do KAP in other places, I’m going to want to share those stories and pictures too!

My KAP Journey

My journey into kite aerial photography took a bit of an unusual path, I think. Whereas most people seem to progress from kites to drones, I went the other direction.

When I was a kid, my grandfather was really into kites. He built is own and bought others. From what I remember, most of the kites he made were traditional diamond-shaped ones with colorful sails and long tails, but he also had deltas, box kites, and parafoils. I still remember the excitement of watching one of his kites become a small speck in the sky above my parents’ house.

My grandfather also built and flew model airplanes, both for free flight and static display. Like him, I am interested in everything that flies, but the planes really got my attention. Before I was a teenager, I was building them too, with his help. I got into radio-controlled airplanes soon after, and that has been another hobby of mine ever since as well as the inspiration for my career. Kites were kind of a distant memory at that point.

I always wanted to do aerial photography with my planes. By 2019, first-person-view (FPV) equipment was light and cheap enough that I decided it was time to try it out. Due to space limitations and increasing drone regulations, I had pretty much limited myself to flying only very small and lightweight planes, around 1/2 lb in weight, so carrying a heavy HD camera was out of the question. Flying FPV with an analog camera was a lot of fun, but freezing frames from the video to view the landscape left a lot to be desired; buildings and geography anywhere in the distance became unrecognizable blobs, and the images were almost useless in printed form or as a desktop wallpaper due to the low resolution.

A delta conyne kite made out of wooden dowels and a plastic drop cloth. A kite like this only takes a few hours and a few dollars to make.

Around this time, I started flying an old kite that my parents had given me from my grandfather’s collection. It was a delta kite purchased from somewhere. It was kind of small, heavy, and unstable, so not too easy to fly in the gusty inland breezes we had around home. I began to build better flying, cheap kites that really rekindled the excitement I remembered from being a kid. One example is the delta conyne in the picture above. I also started researching kite aerial photography and realized that kites had quite a few advantages in this area, at least compared to my small R/C planes (those are listed below).

By this point, I had made up my mind. I would build a kite and rig and use it to take aerial photos. I wanted something that would be very sturdy and last a long time, so I learned how to use my wife’s sewing machine and built the Mini Dopero and a rig made out of plywood. You can read all about what happened next in my KAP stories on this site!

Why KAP Instead of Drone Aerial Photography?

Drones have a lot of advantages for aerial photography. They’re not at the mercy of the wind, they can be deployed almost anywhere (well, almost anywhere it’s legal to do so, anyway), and the modern, computer-stabilized ones are extremely smooth and easy to fly, even for people with no other flying experience of any kind. But kites have advantages too. Here is a list of the reasons why I use a kite instead of a drone for aerial photography.

  • Even a moderately-sized kite can carry a lot more weight than a small model airplane or drone, opening up the possibility of carrying a “proper” camera for taking stills instead of a comparatively low-resolution video camera.
  • The weight-carrying capacity to price ratio of a kite is high compared to a drone.
  • Drones have a stigma. Many people don’t like them flying around. The buzzing sound is annoying, and they just have this bad reputation for spying on people, deserved or not. On the other hand, most people enjoy watching a kite fly. Having a camera or something else attached to the line is cool as opposed to spying (provided you’re doing it responsibly, and not actually spying, of course).
  • At least in the US, kites are subject to fewer regulations, and that gap is getting wider as the FAA announces new drone regulations all the time. I want to enjoy my time flying things, not be worried that I’m doing something illegal! Of course, it’s important to always be safe and follow the regulations that do exist. We don’t want to give the FAA reasons to add more kite-flying regulations!
  • A kite can fly for hours using nothing but wind power. There’s a pureness to that matched only by sailplanes in the drone world.
  • There is a unique DIY aspect to KAP. Sure, you can design and build your own model airplane (that’s what I do, actually), and you can also buy a kite rather than build one, but you’re not going to find a prebuilt KAP rig ready to be controlled from the ground with your smartphone! The fact that it takes more work and expertise to get good pictures with a kite provides a safeguard against lots of unscrupulous people picking one up off the shelf of their local Best Buy and proceeding to do something irresponsible with it, like flying it near the landing pattern of a major airport!
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