Aerial Photographic Techniques for Children

(For insured organisations and groups using aerial platforms below 60 metres in the UK)

Aerial Photography Index

Archaeology Index

The Scottish National Aerial Photography Scheme (SNAPS)

West Lothian Archaeological Trust

Scottish Charity No. SC043118

Low-level aerial photography can be both rewarding and challenging for people of all ages and abilities, including those with disabilities who may be wheelchair-bound. This page highlights techniques which are manageable by those of school age, especially younger pupils, starting with a cheap stick-on HD video camera.

Techniques can be presented as described or delivered in a wider scientific context as part of an experiment and discover lesson (eg How much water do you need in a water rocket for it to fly to its maximum altitude? Is it best to put the camera on a balloon or kite or on the line to which it is attached? How much weight can a balloon or kite lift?)  

Contact John

Kite aerial photography (KAP) on Cairnpapple.  May 2012

For examples of our kite and pole work with children see:

Inverness / Ross and Cromarty Young Archaeologists

Falkirk Young Archaeologists

Pole aerial photography in Bristol April 2009

Bath and Bristol Young Archaeologists

Edinburgh and Stirling Young Archaeologists, schools and the public

Edinburgh Young Archaeologists

These are standard techniques, with our normal cameras, as used in our archaeological photographic survey work. An attempt to demonstrate KAP to YAC Leaders at Dalvorar was unsuccessful due to a total lack of wind.....so we used a pole.

Tom Wells (2 years old) flying a Power Sled 14 in a light wind.

  Armadale  April 2013

Edinburgh YAC at Blackness Castle

Kite aerial photo - note the line at the top centre of the image.  June 2010

We hope to post simpler, cheaper solutions, especially for kite work, to reduce any concerns over potential damage to cameras. Having said that, good kite aerial photography kits can be put together for around 70 based on a Brooxes Simplex rig and then any compact camera added for use in video mode. See the foot of this page for taking still images or simply fasten down the shutter release button in continuous shooting mode.

Videos can be viewed and low resolution still images (viewed frame by frame) extracted using free programs like the cross-platform VideoLan (click on 'View' and then 'Advanced Controls' after installation).

Picasa is a free, user-friendly image editor and much more.

An alternative technique used by Sky Lincs

Give a Scout a camera......and fly the Scout ;o)

 

Techniques using a stick-on keyring video camera

Camera

The HD 808 #16 (now replaced with the #16 V2-B), 1280x720 pixel (24 Nov 2012 - Manual & software, including interval mode. See also here), light (18g) camera appears to produce the best videos for this price/weight category.

Left: HD 808#16 keyring camera (52x38mm)   Right: Y3000 video comparison

(Now replaced with the #16 V2-B Dec 2012)

The 808 #16 with wide-angle D lens (28) looks particularly promising (albeit with marked distortion* - GoPro comparison), as the wide angle will cope better with camera movement and give a good field of view at relatively low heights. Model numbers are critical for the correct quality as other models have the same case. Eletoponline are the primary supplier. Replacement lenses and batteries can be obtained online.

The HD 808#16D keyring camera (57x38mm) with120 wide-angle lens

* Linear distortion can be corrected easily via the Filters > Distorts> Lens Distortion menus in the free program GIMPGML undistorter is very simple to use (enter 1.6mm as the focal length and then fine tune with the slider if necessary).

Before undistorting with GML ...

... and after without fine tuning (note the cropping)

VirtualDub is available as a free download for stabilising videos using the plugin Deshaker filter (Download), but we have not used it on any videos that we have posted on this website.

Any video converter

 

More details will be added following consideration of the techniques listed in the Aerial Photography Index.

Pole

A cheap ~70" monopod (10 - try eBay) is a good introduction to pole work with children using any compact camera for either videos or stills (employing the standard 10 second shutter delay). A sectional fibreglass carp fishing pole is a good next step with manageable lengths up to about 8m. The number of sections used can be selected for the age / height / strength / experience of the user.

Small cameras like the HD808#16D can be taped or stuck onto any long pole, as in the example below.

A feature created by the Scouts. A video still taken with the wide-angle 808#16D taped onto the end of a carp fishing pole without the last two flimsy sections - video clip. Select HD using the cogwheel icon.

120 field of view, video still with incorrect date and time stamp - 18 Dec 2012

 

Kite

Camera on the kite

A poor quality still from a shaky video taken in a gusting wind (see the twisting, looped tail) but reasonable as the 808#16D camera was pointing into the sun and velcroed to the unstable top lower edge of a HQ Power Sled 1.7 kite!  19 Jan 2013   See also here

Camera on the kite line

Two tent pegs taped together with the HD808#16D camera on the left.

Shown without the safety line.  Camera 18g   Rig 56g   Total:74g

Safety Line

The two images below are stills from a video taken with the 808#16D camera - video clip. Select HD using the cogwheel icon.

Attachment point formed by two 'large' velcro pads either side of the peg loop with two small ones in between.

808#16D camera flown on the above tent peg, transverse pendulum. Video stills extracted with the free VideoLan

26 Jan 2013

The vertical arm needs to be longer

 A coat hanger wire was tried next. A soft weight, Blu-tack, was added to the end of the long vertical arm. The assembly should, as a rule of thumb, balance on the finger, just above the weight. The plastic covered coat hanger below weighs 28g, the camera 18g and the corresponding added weight is ~140g (later reduced to 100g). Increasing the weight beyond this will not significantly increase the effective length of the pendulum. The effective length of a pendulum (ie down to its centre of gravity) determines the natural period of its swing, the shorter the length, the faster it oscillates.

With this shape, the line tended to slip down the pendulum and straighten the wire.

A still from an 808#16D video (Select HD using the cogwheel icon in YouTube) using the above coat hanger wire, transverse pendulum.

2 Feb 2013

The video has not been stabilised and the above image is not corrected for distortion (wysiwyg).

Some wobble in the long arm is visible in the video. Increasing the gauge of the wire would improve this or replacing it with something rigid. This is a relatively light coat hanger wire, so shortening the long arm can improve the wobble too. Stability can also be improved by reducing the tension in the line by walking slowly forward. Later, it was found that reducing the Blu-tack to ~100g improved stability.

A smaller version

An improved form with kinks to prevent the line slipping.

A smaller version with the same gauge coat hanger wire and less wobble. The weight with the camera is 91g, of which 46g is Blu-tack and 18g the camera. This is the most stable arrangement to date but the pendulum can be longer. Here is a video clip with the line under tension (ie not slackened to improve stability) using a HQ Delta Graphic 2m kite. The pendulum has a transverse swing but the longitudinal component of the swing is dampened by the tension in the line. Height variation has negligible impact.

A grey scale, near infra-red image of the field to the west of Blackness Castle using the above modified pendulum.  Unfortunately, the camera detached and was swinging and bouncing on its safety line...but images, like the one above, were still extractable from the video! 

Bronwen Knowles age 12    30 March 2013

Kite aerial photography with a slightly longer version of the above system at the Hidden Heritage Project excavations in Tarbet, along with Northlight Heritage and school groups. Near infra-red video clip  

17 May 2013

 

 

A more versatile variant of our coat hanger wire rig by Bill Kerr of the Kite Club of Scotland

 

 

Balloon

For schools, this is an ideal technique for trying first indoors.

Helium-filled rubbish bag

Heidi flying the near infra-red converted 808#16D camera on a tied-off rubbish bag. Armadale Stadium is at the top left. 

25 Dec 2012

More details here

 

Water Rocket

Initially, we are using a drop-away rocket to lift a parachute with a 808#16D camera attached.

Bottle, fins and a nose cone made by cutting off the top of a bottle and then cutting off the bottle neck. The cone has 3 rubber spacers on it (to prevent sticking) and is also lifted slightly by the parachute but is pushed towards the bottle by lift-off.

 A still from a video taken with the above configuration  24Jan 2013

More details here     video clip

Select HD using the cogwheel icon.
 

Other ballistic techniques

Projectile techniques can be useful educationally, but are probably best avoided. Anything that is fired into the air should have an appropriate parachute attached.  Blunt arrows still need a parachute, probably attached to the balance point along their shaft and will also need to have a near vertical trajectory. We will investigate the many possible techniques along with safety issues.

 

Quadrocopter

We are reticent to use quadrocopters with children. However, we will investigate if the small, light WL V929 Beetle (2) can be used safely for aerial photography in a group context.

 

Model planes and gliders

The HD 808#16D is used extensively with model aircraft (2). However, as our interest is primarily on-site investigation, we will deal, at least initially, with platforms that fly directly above a site and not with model planes or gliders.

 

 

Photography using a cheap 830nm infra-red pass filter

Infra-red Photography

Taken with the HD 808#16D, with the rear mounted hot mirror (infra-red blocking filter) of the lens replaced with a 6mm diameter 830nm infra-red pass filter. The lens is screwed out, the hot mirror gently prized from the back of the lens and a 6mm diameter 830nm IR pass filter (LPF-830-0601 7) pushed in to replace it.  The lens is then screwed back to a point where it focuses. 15 February 2013

How the camera was converted for use in the near infra-red

 

Managed by the West Lothian Archaeological Trust

 Scottish Charity No. SC043118