Let's go fly a Sparrowscope! Kite photography comes to Kickstarter

Ori Barbut has loved electronics and tinkering with things since he was a kid. He fixed things for his friends and his parents' friends; then he took two degrees in engineering; and now he's a freelance engineer in the aerospace and energy industries. But he's also developed a project on the side, combining all of these skills and interests, inspired by a picnic in a Toronto park in 2012. Someone asked him and his friends if they could help secure a camera to a kiteline, for a spot of aerial photography. It got Ori thinking: there has to be an easier way to have a go at kite photography. Within a few days of thinking about it, Ori had knocked together a balsawood prototype. And now, after 16 months of development, he's about to launch the Sparrowscope on Kickstarter.

The Sparrowscope comprises a kite, a harness for a picture-taking mobile device, and an app for communication. The theory is that you launch the kite, fly it into clean air where it's easier to control, and then attach the harness to the line and send your mobile device up to start taking photos.

Barn from above

The Sparrowscope uses an easy-to-fly kite, so even if you're not a kite-flying expert, you shouldn't have too many problems. The harness uses a three-point design, meaning that if one strap fails there are two more to hold your phone in place. And the frame that takes the harness up the line is designed so that regardless of the angle that your kite plummets ground-wards, your phone shouldn't hit it. You won't need to catch it in your hands.

All the details

You'll need two devices, both running the Sparrowscope app, to operate the Sparrowscope: one in the harness and one on the ground. The one in the harness will be your picture-taking device; it will also send tone pattern signals to the tilt-pan motors through its headphone jack, allowing you to direct your camera using your device on the ground. The aerial device and the grounded device communicate using a wi-fi generated by a wireless hotspot. The device in your hands will give you a live view of what the aerial device is recording as well as allow you to direct the pan-tilt function to help you get the shots you want.

Panning, tilting, and taking photos

You can send a fourth or fifth generation iPod Touch (running iOS 5 or later), an iPhone 4 or later, or an Android phone running 4.0 or later up into the sky. On the ground, you've a greater range of device options:

  • a third, fourth, or fifth generation iPod Touch running iOS 5 or later
  • an iPhone 3GS or newer
  • any iPad model running iOS 5 or later
  • an Android phone running 4.0 or later
  • an Android tablet running 4.0 or later.

Barbut needs to raise $75,000 (Canadian) from his Kickstarter campaign to bring kite photography to the masses through the Sparrowscope. The cheapest pledge that you can make and get your hands on a kite and harness rig is $249 (Canadian). As luck would have it, the project is launching on a day when the winds are so high in the UK several train companies have been forced to cancel services because of the risks from falling trees, but you shouldn't let that put you off. This sounds like far too much fun to pass up!

A photo competition for February!

Kites for sale on the beach at Viareggio, Tuscany

In honour of the grand and crazy trip that I'm currently enjoying, we thought that a suitable theme for February's competition would be flight. Whether you choose to submit a picture of a seagull, a 747, a bumble bee, or a kite, it doesn't matter: your subject just needs to be airborn with intent.

If you submit the winning entry, you'll win yourself a 12" Fracture courtesy of the wonderful guys at Fracture. (And if you've not checked out their work, then you should!)

The competition opens today (Thursday 2 February) and closes on Thursday 23 February. Entries need to go into the Small Aperture Flickr pool, but please remember that it's one submission per person.

I've reproduced The Rules, in case you need to refer to them, but otherwise, good luck!

The Rules

  • If you decide to enter, you agree to The Rules.
  • You can’t be related to either me or Haje to enter.
  • One entry per person – so choose your best!
  • Entries need to be submitted to the right place, which is the Small Aperture Flickr group.
  • There’s a closing date for entries, so make sure you’ve submitted before then.
  • You have to own the copyright to your entry and be at liberty to submit it to a competition. Using other people’s photos is most uncool.
  • It probably goes without saying, but entries do need to be photographs. It’d be a bit of strange photo competition otherwise.
  • Don’t do anything icky – you know, be obscene or defame someone or sell your granny to get the photo.
  • We (that being me and Haje) get to choose the winner and we’ll do our best to do so within a week of the competition closing.
  • You get to keep all the rights to your images. We just want to be able to show off the winners (and maybe some honourable mentions) here on Pixiq.
  • Entry is at your own risk. I can’t see us eating you or anything, but we can’t be responsible for anything that happens to you because you submit a photo to our competition.
  • We are allowed to change The Rules, or even suspend or end the competition, if we want or need to. Obviously we’ll try not to, but just so that you know.

If you've any questions, please just ask!