Budget Drone Photography or ‘Kitecam’

aerial view on anchorageWe have all admired those sweeping aerial shots that used to be the exclusive domain of professional photographers with much greater budgets than ours. With the introduction of the drone, that monopoly is admittedly being challenged at least to a certain extent. Whilst significantly cheaper than chartering a helicopter, drones are still fairly expensive and everyone we have met who owns one, has complained about reliability. This is fairly usual when a technology is in its infancy and I have no doubt that as the years roll on and the market deepens, drones will be super-reliable and virtually free with breakfast cereal.

Back in the real world of the everyday cruiser, where budgets are still a part of life, $4000 is a lot to spend on something that works only a few times.


However, there is a tried and tested technology that has been continuously developed for thousands of years, principally by the Chinese who invented it at about the time of the birth of Christ.  It is simple, cheap and enormous amounts of fun.


Welcome fellow sailors to the ‘kite-cam’


You will need:

1 stable kite (we add a drogue to ours, just to be safe)

A line of fishing reel

A light digital camera (waterproof!) that can be programmed to take pictures at regular intervals

A safety lanyard

A basic understanding of a photo-editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop

A helpful partner.


Firstly, set up your kite and test fly it without the camera to get a good feel (remember that if the kite is not flying strongly in the wind you have, it will not fly at all when you add the extra weight).


Then bring it in and lash the camera to the frame along the central axis. Set up the camera to take a photo every 10 seconds and off you go….



As you can see from the pictures, the only down side is the fishing line bisecting and spoiling the photograph.  This can be easily erased in most photo editing suites in about 2 minutes.

And there you have it – cheap aerial photography by kite-cam.  And possibly the only product from China you will ever own that was actually invented there!

kitecam on calypso



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11 Responses to Budget Drone Photography or ‘Kitecam’

  1. Rich Perth says:

    Mate, you truly are what you say you are.
    Inspired every day by your book and your page. Wanna drop it all now and be a gypsy.
    I am going to become a pain in your behind with the advice and guidance I need in a few years time when I’m ready to by a Good seaworthy boat and get off the grid.
    Great photos.
    Love your work

    • rick says:

      Hey Rich,

      Thanks for that! Feel free to ask anything you like, we are always glad to help fellow grotty sea gypsies. PS: why are you waiting?



  2. Graham Ruddick says:

    Hi Rick hope are both well and keeping healthy!
    What about the Out vote how cool is that!!!! The people ran the country for one day and what a message they sent out…………….. FANTASTIC result we have not stopped smiling!!!
    Sure you could put together a gyro copter see http://www.kate.aviators.net/gyro12.htm
    How is the boat all ship shape now ? Where are you heading to next
    P & G XXX

    • rick says:

      Hi P nG,

      Cant say l share yiur enthusiasm with the OUT vote, by the gyro copter looks fun! 🙂

    • rick says:

      Hi P nG,

      Cant say l share your enthusiasm with the OUT vote, by the gyro copter looks fun! 🙂 We ade off to Huahine as soon as l fit our new cylinder head!

  3. Ade says:

    Excellent idea, Rick.
    We will definitely be doing this and give you a mention every time we do..

    Hope all’s well with you both.


  4. Rolf says:

    Hello from Kiel,
    what a great and simple(!) idea, I will try it next time in spring. Thanks for this idea!
    LG Rolf

    • rick says:

      Thanks for postin LG! You can post your picture here if you have any good results or discover any techniques that might be useful to other readers. Good luck and thanks!

      R n J

  5. Tomas Blazek says:

    Hi guys,
    greetings from Stewart Island! Funny enough, yesterday i was discussing this idea with my mate back in Czech republic, as he wants to see some aerial shots of my little vessel with me on it….and i refused selfie stick :-))
    Reading your book once again as I’m preparing my 28ft steel sloop for live on the big blue!Hope to see you somewhere up there one day. I owe you few drinks already for get me real!
    If you by any chance going to be close to NZ feel free to drop me a link!
    have a great days!

    • rick says:

      Will certainly take you up on that! Currently in Tongadoing a partial re-fit. Post your kite-cam pic here if you get a good one!

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