This is a rig my son and I made for Kite Aerial Photography. Yes, you must be a little crazy to put your expensive phone up in the sky on a kite string. But it’s a fun, simple way to explore the view from the sky.
It fits the Samsung Galaxy S3, including a typical case (1.5mm extra on each side). The inner dimensions are 15.5x77.4x143mm. Smaller devices will need some spacers (cardboard is fine) to keep the device centered for balance and to avoid sliding around.
My shop offers a few different sizes for other smart phones. There are slots in the center and on the left and right for the camera view. The position of these is fixed so double check that your phone’s camera is in one of those spots.
In addition to the materials here, you will need
1) One ¼” bolt, 1.5” long.
2) One ¼” wing nut.
3) Three ¼” flat washers.
4) One ¼” lock washer.
5) A kite
6) Lots of kite string.
7) About 12 feet of kite string for the suspension.
8) An app that can take photos repeatedly, every 3 seconds or something. This function is called “intervalometer”. For example, I used TriggerTrap for iPhone and Sensor Camera for Android.
You can use a nylon bolt for ultra-light weight. I didn’t print the bolts because I didn’t want you to spend $4 on $0.25 worth of hardware, and because the 3d printing accuracy may not be quite good enough.
There is a hexagonal hole in the cross. Just ignore this. The bolt head points the other way (down). After the head of the bolt is a flat washer, then the inside of the plastic arch, then the cross, then a flat washer, then the lock washer, then the wing nut. The tilt of the phone can be controlled by sliding the bolt around the arch. The pan of the phone can be controlled by rotating the arch relative to the cross. On the cross, the loops for the strings face up. It’s possible to crack the rig by tightening the wing nut too much. But too loose and the rig could spin loose. Experiment before you fly the phone.
The video demonstrates how to tie the hangers. Or you can search online for Picavet suspension. The only change I make to the standard Picavet is that I tie all the strings together at the hanger, so they don’t droop sideways.
The box is only about 1mm thick, so it is somewhat fragile. It’s fine for flights. We did a stress test with an envelope full of coins to match the weight of a phone (see video). However, it can break if sat upon or stuffed roughly into a bag. The loops for the kite line could wear through eventually, depending how abrasive or dirty the suspension lines are. Check them every flight. You can probably reinforce them with foil tape if you plan to do more than about 25 flights. Or you can buy a replacement cross. UV light can degrade this plastic. Don't leave it in the sun and check it for cracks before use. Please ignore the little loop on the front of the gate area.
The gate is not symmetric and must be put on the correct way, so that the rods engage on both sides.
For a kite, I’m using the 7 foot Levitation by Into the Wind purchased at Cobra Kites. Many kites will lift such a lightweight rig, but a large kite can be used in lighter winds so more shots will be in focus.
You will get many blurry pictures with the phone camera because the lens is slow. It’s not uncommon to have 80% of the pictures be unusable. Just let it take a lot of shots. Videos are often too dizzying to watch.
Please fly responsibly. You can hurt someone if something goes wrong with the rig or kite or line. Don’t fly it over people or near airports or power lines. Read the safety recommendations at sites like:
You can practice flying the rig without danger to your phone by putting coins in an envelope till it weighs the same as your phone (probably around 20 quarters). Fold the envelope and put it in the phone holder. Keep in mind that if someone calls you while your phone is 200’ up, you won’t be able to answer. And if it crashes and you break it, you won’t be able to call emergency services.
There are great online discussions at:
Don’t you dare fly a phone that you don’t pay for. Like if your parents are paying for it!
BY PURCHASING THIS DEVICE, YOU AGREE THAT WE TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR BROKEN PHONES OR INJURED PEOPLE OR ANY OTHER LIABILITY, EVEN DUE TO A DESIGN ERROR. Feedback is welcome however.
Thanks to Hamish Fenton whose rigs inspired the shape of this rig, and to James Gentles for the cross shape, which lends stability. And thanks to all the supportive people on the KAP forum.