Control Systems

Camera control technologies range from Silly Putty to radio systems -- gather your notes on how to set up the cradle here

I am ten years behind most KAPers, but working to catch up ...

A Smithsonian kit introduced me to KAP; pull a string to trigger the camera, pull down kite, rewind instamatic camera, send kite and camera back up, pull the string again, etc. Broox enabled me to build my first reliable rig with a James Gentles "peanut" controller for a simple pan and shoot modality (tilt was set manually). AuRiCo was a second-generation controller that made possible far more extensive automatic KAP with Canon cameras and CHDK.

I admired the remote control rigs of others, and I decided that I wanted to give that technical approach a try. Andrew Newton was an inspiration, and I modified a Spektrum DX5e transmitter for this purpose. Just recently I moved the control potentiometers to a handheld device, as did Andrew though I used a slide potentiometer for the tilt function.

I struggled to achieve the accurate proportional pan control that Andrew Newton recommended. With the help of long time KAPers, Peter Bults, Brooks Leffler, and Simon Harbord, and their articles in the THE AERIAL EYE, I was able to learn how to modify the control potentiometer to allow for adjustments to match pan angle.

Along the way, inspired by other KAPers, I decided that I wanted a video downlink so that feature was added to my present rig and the control unit. The slide potentiometer controls tilt, the rotary potentiometer controls pan, the red push button is the shutter switch, and the sliding switch at the bottom turns the video downlink on-off. The larger video screen is velcro-ed to an extension of the handheld platform.

I feel that I have now reached the point where most remote control KAPers were 10 years ago! I do have plans for next steps. With the guidance that Dave Mitchell has provided on this forum, the upcoming winter months will see me cannabalize the transmitter, build an Arduino interface, and put together a handheld device so that all the control and transmission components are ready-to-hand. If I am successful, I suppose that I will only be five years behind my colleagues in this community!

I owe all this to members of this KAP community.

Stories about KAP kites and KAP rigs may come later.


  • at today status I'm using just a DJIPocket 2 with phone control or a RICOH GR autokap kit but I still have a RIG with full control - DuneCam system working (Scott Armitage...)

    SMAC from Italy

  • Interesting to observe that with the time we all tend to look for simplicity and reliability... I do not use RC or video control was too bulky to charge the batteries and too large to travel comfortably....Yes I may spend a bit more time in post production but this is fine and I still maintain a ratio if 1% keeper from a kap session ( 1000 images yield 10 keepers...).

  • edited April 2023

    Still catching up with the pioneers in KAP activity, but I have been able to make a small leap forward this winter. With Dave Mitchell’s Arduino-based KAP Controller sketch, and his personal responses to my inquiries, I have completed my construction of this KAP controller. The red cover on top covers the autoKAP DIP switches; another red cover on the left side covers access to the USB port on the Pro Micro development board. A switch on the right side is the power switch; it has an indicator LED. Access to the 4 AA battery pack is from a movable panel on the back. The top micro switch is a toggle switch for pan adjustment; the second micro switch is designed for the horizontal/vertical control, but I am using it to control onboard the video camera and transmitter; the third micro switch is the autoKAP/manualKAP switch. The case itself is from scrap flooring and plastic paneling from my shop. I have pictured earlier on the forum my rig; I only have to swap out the pan servo and gear set for a continuous micro servo and appropriate gears. The bottom cover extends beyond the top of the controller to create a platform for the video receiver (velcroed in place). The strap allows me to drop everything and haul in line as needed!

    This has been a fun, at times frustrating, experience, a learning experience, and a shared experience with some of you more accomplished KAPers—Dave Mitchell, Bill Blake, “Montagdude.”

  • Image will follow. Experiencing an issue with FLICKR photos …

  • edited April 2023
  • Robert - you can put images directly into posts here - when it was hosted at Berkeley Cris didn't allow it because he was worried about space usage but the KAP Forum now has plenty of storage capacity.

  • edited April 2023

    Nice work with the controller! That looks like a fun project. I've been kind of losing trust with my Dx6i for radio controlled airplanes, as I've had a few loss of signal events that I think may be due to the transmitter, which I got used. Nowadays I only fly a tiny drone with it, though, so it's not a big deal if it falls out of the sky. It works fine for KAP too, of course. Maybe I should cannibalize mine as well for a project like this and get a new one for non-tethered aircraft.

  • Montagdude: Indeed, it was a fun project. It is my first serious use of an Arduino-based development board. Dave Mitchell’s recommendation to use a wire wrap tool for connections to its pins was invaluable. It was not my first salvage operation on a piece of electronic equipment, but the transmitter yield was certainly more functional. Again, Dave Mitchell’s recommendation about how to salvage the transmitter module was essential. My box is not as compact as what Dave Mitchell and Bill Blake did with theirs, nor as streamlined as the one Dario built. I wanted one that would be a platform for a larger video screen, and would give me some room inside to easily deal with the components. Actually now that it is built I see where I could reduce the overall size by at least an inch in width and length. I did tweak some parameters in Dave Mitchell’s Pro Micro sketch to get my pan servo and tilt potentiometer to operate as I wanted. It has been bench tested, and I will soon do a field test. As noted, I used your concept to control onboard the video operation.

  • Ningaloo: Thank you for posting the image. I continue to miss a step in my efforts—frustrating— to post images, and not the links. I have done it before but for some reason I have lost that ability!

  • No problem.
    If you scroll towards the bottom of this thread you should find the few steps required to post a Flickr picture to a discussion post supported with a screenshot.
    On the photo page click the share arrow icon in the bottom right, select the Embed option, pick the size you want to share, copy the link in the text box, paste it into your post.
    Use the post preview button to check the embed link has worked.
    Hope that helps!

  • The internal layout …


    Thanks to Ningaloo for getting me oriented to posting images correctly.

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