Alberta, Canada, has a great deal of land area in wetlands and has fairly strong laws in place to protect those wetlands. Despite those protections, wetlands are illegally drained and filled-in each year, mostly for conversion into farmland, but also for development projects of all kinds. Alberta's provincial government has a department in place to handle permitting of wetland modification and to levy fines against unpermitted modification. Satellite imagery is readily available, and despite its age (several years) can serve as a historical record of the land's state. A ground-based photo can make it obvious that a particular wetland area has been modified, but aerial photography provides much better evidence. Drone-base, kite-based, or balloon-based photography can be used to quickly generate aerial imagery that reflects the current state of a wetland (or former wetland).
I would like to come up with a quick method to map wetlands. Once a wetland is mapped, it is protected from illegal modification, in the sense that a modification can easily be shown to the authorities. By examining historical satellite imagery, a motivated citizen could set out to map areas that may have been modified and use the resulting imagery as evidence for the authorities. To be clear, I'm not sure that this is something I want to do personally, but I have no problems helping to seed some local knowledge that could enable this sort of action.
Although I can see a fixed-wing drone as an efficient tool for mapping large areas, my dog ate the expanded polystyrene RC plane that was serving as my drone test-bed. Besides, I would like to promote a tool that is accessible to as many as possible. Drones demand a technical aptitude that isn't common and are expensive compared to a kite-based mapping kit. Worse, RC plane- or quadcopter-based drones suffer from a stigma that could complicate conversations with curious observers or concerned land-owners. A kite-based tool is far less concerning to most.
My attempt and results
I have obtained a Public Lab's Kite Mapping Pack, which contains a 7-foot Hi Sky Delta, a 9-foot Dazzle Delta, and a 15' fuzzy tail. 1000-feet of 150-pound Dacron line was ordered separately and recently arrived, although most of my testing to date was using 400' of 125-pound test nylon cord (from our local farm store).
Both kites have been out for about ten test flights in a variety of conditions without a rig. In low wind conditions I have been consistently surprised at how acceptable air is found above 100'.
My experience with the kites has been positive over-all. The 15-foot fuzzy tail is always attached to the centre loop if there is enough wind to allow it. I wouldn't attach a camera rig to either kite without the fuzzy tail in place at this point. The Dazzle seems to move around much less to the Hi Sky in similar winds. The Dazzle also flies at a much higher angle than the Hi Sky in similar winds. Just a bit too high, in my opinion.
I do feel it is worth mentioning that the Dazzle Delta has a habit of pointing its nose at the ground and staying so until it the Earth stops it. This occurs in stronger winds with or without a tail. Letting out line is a possible fix, although I have not been able to test this yet.
Given appropriate wind conditions for the Dazzle, it is by far the better KAP platform as it flies higher and with much less motion.
A line reel has been constructed from some plywood and skateboard wheels. It works acceptably, but is over-built and not properly balanced. Reeling in a kite when there is decent wind is still tiring. Letting line out can get exciting too.
My camera rig is based on the Kaptery's Redstone Rig. I have used locally available replacements for fasteners and the fibreglass rod.
For now, my KAP camera is a Canon SD1100 IS with CHDK firmware installed. After three kite-mapping sessions, I find the quality to be acceptable. The motion of the camera as it hangs from the kite usually limits the quality of photographs to below the capability of the camera. Out of about 500 images, only a couple of dozen have been as sharp as the SD1100 allows. At this point, a better camera probably isn't justified.
Another 1000 feet of kite line would be useful as it will allow high-altitude images that cover a large area of land. These images are very useful in MapKnitter, greatly easing the warping of lower-altitude higher detail images.
Figuring out how to lock my camera's settings to a particular exposure is necessary. Currently, the camera's automatic exposure creates images that are wildly different. A software tool to post-process the images to better match would also be useful.
A tool-chain to remove blurry images, correct lens distortion, crop away the outer third of images (reducing perspective issues), and bring a set of images exposures into alignment, is a necessary prerequisite to making really decent MapKnitter maps.
More experience with kites is definitely required. A kite-enthusiast meet-up would be hugely useful.
A stabilized rig might greatly increase the number of useful images that can be obtained in a given amount of flight time. If so, it would allow a better camera to be used.
A Levitation Delta from Into The Wind may be in my future.