Kite aerial photography (KAP) involves the use of large kites to lift compact camera systems for capturing images of ground features. Our goal has been to develop equipment and techniques for infrared kite aerial photography. Attempting to conduct infrared photography from kites has proven to be a considerable challenge for several reasons. Among the most important limitations are those inherent in infrared film and conventional cameras. Infrared film has no ISO speed rating, and camera light meters do not measure infrared energy in the scene. Furthermore, KAP equipment should be relatively compact, rugged, light weight, and inexpensive.
We have designed, built, and field tested two KAP rigs based on the Canon EOS RebelX camera, which is a 35-mm, full-featured, SLR camera. Our first rig is a dual-camera setup, in which the cameras take simultaneous color-visible and color-infrared photographs. This rig has radio control of the camera shutters. Camera tilt and pan positions are set manually prior to each flight. The second rig is for a single camera (color-infrared only); the rig has full radio control for pan, tilt, and shutter. The dual-camera rig weighs 1.5 kg, and the single-camera rig is just over 1 kg. Based on considerable field testing, we have determined appropriate manual light settings under full-sun conditions–1/250 shutter speed and f-9.5 aperture. Our preliminary results suggest that infrared KAP may be valuable for detailed investigations of vegetation, soils, and other environmental features.