Public Lab Research note

Kite Aerial Remote Sensing (KARS) - Thermal Infra-Red.

by John_Wells | September 20, 2016 02:18 20 Sep 02:18 | #13464 | #13464

In 2013 we formalised our donations of aerial photography equipment by setting up the Scottish National Aerial Photography Scheme. Our initial donations, starting in 2009, consisted mainly of cameras with poles. Our aim has been to introduce students of all ages, primary school to PhD, and local archaeology and other groups, to aerial photography. We have donated well over 200 KAP kits.

The Scheme originally found more success in Ireland than in Scotland!

Since the beginning of the Scheme much has changed. The price of small action cameras with 12MP Sony sensors has fallen below £30 (flown on a simple selfie stick) and thermal imagers below £200. These new Flir One imagers do not require any special form of stabilisation and can be flown on a selfie stick.

What do you need in order to do kite aerial thermography and how much does it cost?

Total cost is ~£360-£465, depending on the choice of kite.


I use a 32GB, Octa Core, Leagoo Elite One phone (~£100)

Flir One imager (~£200)

Kite and Line (£45-£140 each, I use a range of kites, but mainly a cheap 2.6m delta)

Lockable-section selfie stick construct (~£15-£20)

And, for when working alone, a dog ground stake for anchoring the line during take off and landing (~£1-£5).

The stick is fully extended in flight.

For fun, we have also flown cameras using bottle rockets and small rubbish bags.

We fly from the near UV to the thermal infra-red. The next step will be LiDAR, when the cheaper systems come through. We use KARS before any other technique (like geophysical ones) on sites of archaeological interest as it is quick and easy. The timing of a visit is critical and best suited to archaeology groups who can access their local sites when conditions are appropriate. This is especially true for thermal imaging.

We have a Facebook page on kite aerial remote sensing.

John Wells

Archaeological KAP Group

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very cool, I've been curious about flying with the updated FLIR for smartphones, but haven't had the budget.

Local levee authorities have been asking me about this kind of technology to find (and cull) feral hogs that burrow into their earthworks.

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It still seems a little expensive to fly a thermal imager, but the FLIR One is US$250 and needs more or less any old smartphone. So it's not too bad considering it's weight is perfectly compatible with KAP and you get actual thermal data. This could be really useful for identifying outflows from industrial facilities which are typically warmer than the water bodies they are dumping into. There could be some very important applications of this on the horizon. Thanks John.

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Outflows would not be a problem, as the imager is sensitive down to a difference in temperature of 0.1°C. It will also pick up developing faults/overheating in electrical services/facilities, inadequacies in insulation and active decomposition of biological materials. Other models have been used on body farms! Identification of animals in undergrowth is also another use, especially during clearance. Thermal activity underground and in waste dumps can also be identified.

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I wonder if Home Depot or other big-box hardware stores rent these as they used to (and maybe still) rent lower-resolution thermal imagers -- it used to be ~$70 per day. I'm sure they don't imagine people putting them on kites, but if it were well protected with a case, and/or if they have an insurance policy or damage waiver of some sort, perhaps it could be a more affordable option?

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Here are the phone compatibility requirements: Minimum Requirements:

'At least Android Version 4.4.2 GPS, Location, OTG USB, Flashlight, and Microphone Capabilities For Panorama functionality: Gyroscope and Accelerometer Capabilities GPS, Location, Microphone, and Flashlight Permissions'

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Rather than hire one for a limited period, it would be much better to own one (or more) cooperatively.

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I agree, and you've given me an idea to have plots-gulfcoast list to pitch in $30 each to fund one

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You might find that you have to go through all your phones to find one which works. Try downloading the Flir One app. It may tell you if the phone is incompatible. But it sometimes downloads and does not work with a given phone.

I like taking general shots with it too: swan.jpg

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UPDATE Here is a link to my more recent efforts:


I have a related Facebook page: and one on the use of phones as a visual aid both handheld and in a 2 or 3D headset:

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International Register of Applied Kite Aerial Photographers: Imaging must have a scientific/environmental/archaeological purpose.

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