Saturday, July 12, 2014


What do you do when you're busting to try some FPV gear and it's too windy for the RC plane?
Lift it with a kite. 

For ages I have been jealous of KAP buddies Ramon Pallares and Tom Benedict with their video downlinked KAP rigs. Finally I have the equipment to try it myself.

The trigger for this was Hobby King's release of the $30 Quanam FPV goggles. They include an LCD  that doesn't go to blue screen when the signal drops out.

The video link uses a Boscam 5.8GHz 200mW video transmitter and receiver, also from Hobby King.

Pan servo operates via one of the pots on a 2.4GHz Turnigy 9X.
The day was cold, wet and blustery but the PFK Nighthawk delta handled it easily and let me capture this jiggly footage. With FPV you can actually see what the camera is pointing at, very satisfying.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

World Wide KAP Week 2014

I have been distracted by other forms of AP lately, namely RC flight Aerial Photography, video, building and flying, so WWKW2014 is a great opportunity to rekindle my love of KAP.

Unfortunately Mother Nature had a different idea. WWKW 2014 for me has been 7 days of frustration waiting for the rain to stop, the clouds to disperse and the wind to show up at all.

I could only manage 2 sessions but I'm reasonably happy with the results.

First session was with the PFK Nighthawk in not much wind. I returned to a favourite site, Point Henry,  hoping to capture some shots of approaching rain clouds. Lack of practice meant all I got was water and some beach. Still, that's why KAP is interesting, you never know what you've got.

The second session was again at Point Henry in a late afternoon dash when the clouds dispersed and wind came up.

But even with my largest kite, 2m Rokkaku, it was barely enough. The Rok would fly OK but struggle to lift my lightest manual rig for the Canon S100.

For this shot I tilted the camera up hoping to catch the kite in the frame with the setting sun. Altitude is only 10m or so but it is still a KAP shot.

WWKW discussion on KAP Forum

WWKW Flickr group

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Kite sewing videos

Here are three short narrated videos on kite sewing techniques. It is much easier to pick up the details by watching someone do it rather than reading about it. You can watch these larger on YouTube or Full screen by clicking on the icons bottom right of each video.

Just for demo purposes I'm working on the top triangles of a 1.7m rokkaku but the techniques can be used on all kites.

Here is a page listing all my KAP related videos.

Panel layout, cutting and sewing a flat fell seam

Reinforcing patches for corners, spine, bridle points and spar crossing points.

Spar pockets and loops

Friday, May 24, 2013

1.7m yellow rokkaku - 20 sq ft

This scaled-down rokkaku is designed for KAP, fitting in between the 9ft Levitation Delta and the 28 sq ft 2.0m white rokkaku.

Like the 2.0m kite the size ratio is 5:4:3. This means 5 units high, 4 units wide and 3 units between the cross spars. The top and bottom triangles are 1 unit high and the bridle points are 1 unit out from the spine. For this kite 1 unit equals 34cm making it 170cm high, 136cm wide and 102cm between the spars.

Woven cloth has least stretch along the WARP fibres (down the length of the roll). The WEFT fibres (across the roll) may not be as straight or as strong, and the BIAS (at an angle to the fibres) gives the most stretch. Cut out your panels so that the WARP fibres are parallel to the outer edges of the kite. This is the reason 5 or 6 panels are used for the rokkaku.

Ripstop nylon from Emma Kites is 155cm wide which is wide enough to cut out the rectangular panel (forming main body) in a single piece with the warp threads aligned correctly. The top and bottom of the kite still need to be made from 4 right angled triangles.

I bought a 5m pre cut length for US$21 (free postage) and used less than half.  I did notice that the WEFT fibres run in quite a pronounced curve across the roll, maybe that is why it was so cheap. However the kite still flies perfectly.

Spars are 82.6cm Skyshark Camo P4X tubes from Kites and fun things. US$3.50 each with US$42 postage. To spread the freight cost I bought 20 of them with carbon fibre rod ferrules (3.75" x 0.24") and vinyl end caps (0.281"). That will be enough for another 3 kites or lots of breakages.

I did the seams a little differently this time for a neater finish. Virginia tells me the correct term is flat fell seam. Two panels are sewn together front to front along the marked sewing line (20mm in from the edge) then the panels are opened out and the 20mm seam folded over to the left or right. About 12mm of the underneath seam is trimmed off, then the top seam edge is folded over and under the trimmed edge then sewn down close to the folded edge. This gives a neat finish with no raw edges.
For the first time ever I also used the correct thread colour top and bottom for the entire kite.

I'll do some instructional videos on the sewing details soon. Stay tuned.

The patches, webbing pockets and velcro loops are all the same as the 2m white rokkaku as are the folded hem edge and bridle.

Here is an A4 size plan for the 1.7m kite. Feel free to download it for your own use.

Timelaspe of cutting out and sewing the 1.7m rokkaku. 4hrs in 80seconds

Here's the first flight in Bft 2

Here's a test flight in Bft 4+

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WWKW 2013

World Wide Kite Aerial Photography Week is on at the moment. 26th April to 5th May.

The idea is for KAPers from all around the globe to shoot as much as possible this week and share the results on the WWKW Flickr Group.

We are encouraged to share all sorts of photos related to the KAP sessions, even non flying ones when the wind doesn't play ball.

Many KAPers make this an opportunity to push the limits, try something different.

I decided to try shooting just water, trying to capture the colours, textures and moods created by wind.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Rapid Bay South Australia

Rapid Bay jetty on the Fleurieu Peninsula South Australia is the best dive spot to find Leafy Seadragons. These bizarre fish are related to seahorses and are only found in South Australia, nowhere else in the world.

We planned a 4 day trip to dive flat out and photograph seadragons but the weather had other ideas. The trip became a KAP trip due to strong winds ruining the diving.
A new jetty has been built to allow access to the crumbling old jetty where the seadragons live. Depth up to 10m but 6m mostly.

Second Valley jetty 10min up the road from Rapid Bay. We stayed in a holiday rental house here with a very short steep driveway. Had to be pulled out by 4WD after getting bogged in deep dust. Very embarrassing but the neighbour said it happens regularly.

Cape Jervis where the Kangaroo Island ferry docks.

Leafy Seadragon - we did get in for one dive and found 3 leafies making the trip worthwhile.

4 min video of our one dive

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rokkaku pushed to the limit

Continuing on with rokkaku testing, here's a video in Bft 5 or up to 20kn. That's beyond the recommended wind range for this kite but I just had to see how it would behave.

Line pull was averaging 20lb and peaked at 25lb, which is unpleasant.

The Skyshark P4x spars flexed alarmingly but survived.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rokkaku bridle and bow adjustments

Here are two videos showing the tuning adjustments used on a rokkaku kite.

If either of these adjustments are a long way off the kite will either pull like a donkey and not fly high, or swing around wildly from side to side, or fly forward then drop back repeatedly.

But within a small range of adjustment you can choose how high it flies or how hard it pulls.

Angle of attack or bridle height adjustment.

Spar bow adjustment

Friday, February 22, 2013

Making a 2m Rokkaku - bow tension and flight

Part 4 of 4

Spar bow lines
A rokkaku is a flat kite which means it has no inherent stability. Some bend in the spars is required. Adjustable tensioning lines bend the spars like an archer's bow.

In the sewing instructions I mentioned how to create an end loop in the pockets for the bow lines. This photo shows how the end loop works.

The lines are about 2.2m long, tied at one pocket, looped through the other pocket then back to a sliding clip.

I made the sliding clip from UPVC plastic which can be heated and bent into shape. A 30mm x 15mm piece is drilled with two holes, rounded off and heat bent with a slight curve.

The clip slides along the line and holds the bow under tension.

The amount of bow can be adjusted to change the flight characteristics of the kite.
More bow gives less pull, more stability and a lower line angle, better for stronger winds.
Less bow gives more pull and a higher line angle but will reduce stability. If the kite is wiggling side to side you need more bow.

Some folks say you must have more bow in the bottom spar than the top, others say they can be the same. Mine seems to fly well either way.

I tend to set up with 6 to 8" of bow in the bottom and a little less in the top.

Angle of attack
The final small loop in the bridle is used to adjust the flight angle. The prussic (prusik) hitch, or double larkshead hitch holds it in place under tension but can be loosened and moved under no tension.

With the loop at the centre point of the bridle the kite will pull like crazy and sit on the ground. Moving the loop up a long way, say 12", will make the kite go up a bit but tip over towards you.

This ideal bridle position is somewhere between these two extremes. Try placing the loop about 8" above centre and see how it flies.

If the kite flies but with not much pull and is luffing or tipping over at the top move it a bit lower.

If the kite is pulling hard and not rising far move the loop a little higher.

When it is in the correct spot the kite will climb up high and sit there with moderate pull on the line. You can now dictate exactly how much line pull you have by moving the loop up or down in small amounts. If you need more pull for lifting an SLR move it down a bit, and if you want less pull for easier flying move it up a bit.

The rest is up to you, go fly the kite and have fun.
I'll make a video showing different bridle positions and the resulting flight characteristics soon, maybe different spar bowing too.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Making a 2m Rokkaku - Spars and bridle

Part 3 of 4

Carbon tube spars
Wrapped carbon tubes seem to be the spar of choice for many Rokkaku flyers, they are certainly the lightest and quite stiff but a little expensive locally.

Kites and fun things have a great range of SkyShark tubes way cheaper than I can find in Australia. The P4X camo are US$3.50 each, an absolute bargain even with $42 shipping. I ordered 12 spars plus internal solid carbon ferrules and vinyl caps to fit.

The P4X spars are 0.297"OD, 0.244"ID, 32.5" length, or in modern units 7.5mm OD, 6.2mm ID, 82.6cm length. It's pretty much impossible to find full length spars so joining is essential. Most of the wrapped carbon tubes are made as arrow shafts, hence the standard 32.5" length.

It's best to avoid joins where spar and spine cross and at bridle attachment points so some nutting out is required to determine what lengths to cut.

The cross spars are roughly 160cm requiring a 3 piece design. 2 x 3/4 lengths with a 1/2 length in the middle. That left 4 x 1/4 cutoffs.

The spine is 200cm requiring a 4 piece design. To reuse some of the cutoffs  I used 2 x (1+1/4) lengths. The 1+1/4 being permanently glued with an internal ferrule so it's actually a 2 piece spine.

Ferrules are glued in using epoxy.

The next job is to carefully fit them to the kite, trimming the ends evenly until they are the right length. Take it slowly, you don't want to cut them too short. Then you can pop the vinyl caps on to cover the ragged ends.

The final task is to make up the bridle. It consists of top and bottom Vs (black in the photo) joined by another V (red) with a short loop at it's apex (green).

For the top and bottom Vs take 3.6m of 200lb dacron line (making a 1.8m V), pass the ends through the kite bridle points and tie to the spars using a larks head hitch. Carefully find the centre of the V and tie a small loop. The line for the third V is about 2m long (making a 1m V) and is tied between the top and bottom bridle loops using a bowline knot.

The final short loop is made from about 30cm of line and attached by a prussic hitch to allow angle of flight adjustments. This hitch grips under tension but can be moved under no tension.

Initial placement should be about 8" higher than the middle. You might need to slide it higher or lower to tune the flight angle.

Here is my first flight of this wonderful kite.

and another compared to the Skydogs Pirate Rok

Next post will cover spar bow lines and kite angle of attack.