Public Lab Research note

The Aerobee Rig

by cfastie | July 05, 2016 17:43 05 Jul 17:43 | #13261 | #13261

The Aerobee Rig is a departure for KAPtery camera rigs because it's frame is not 3D printed. There are plenty of 3D printed parts on the Aerobee Rig, but the main supporting structure is aluminum. The goal of this design was to find the easiest way to securely attach a camera to a pendulum suspension. But I also wanted it to be adaptable enough to work with lots of different cameras, allow the camera to be well protected, allow oblique or nadir photography, and allow landscape or portrait orientation of the camera. It does all those things and more.

Above: The Aerobee Rig is intended to be suspended from a pendulum, and the JerkPan escapement works best with a pendulum, but a KAPtery Picavet also clips in easily and works great for normal aerial photography.

A limitation of simple KAP rigs is that they keep taking photos of the same thing. This is good if you are making a map and the camera is always pointed down and you are walking around with the end of the flying line. When the camera is angled for oblique photography, it's usually good to have the rig rotate so different views can be captured or a wider view can be captured in a stitched panorama. The design of the Aerobee Rig lent itself to the addition of a simple escapement mechanism which allows the rig to rotate when the flying line is jerked. So the JerkPan was born. The video below shows the JerkPan in action.

Like all KAPtery things, the Aerobee is open hardware. The design files for the Aerobee are all available at Thingiverse. This includes a 2D CAD file for the aluminum parts and stl files for the 3D printed parts.

The first test flight of the JerkPan produced lots of oblique photos with the camera in portrait mode. Four of them were stitched together to capture the full extent of the building complex we were flying near.

Above: These are four of the 27 photos taken during 1.3 minutes during which the camera was taking photos every four seconds and I was jerking the kite line every 10 seconds or so.

Above: Microsoft ICE stitched the four photos into this panorama.

Above: This is the cropped version of a panorama stitched from five photos (there were fewer stitching anomalies in the version with five photos).

This week the Aerobee Rig Kit is on sale at the KAPtery for $37.00 delivered (US shipping only). That special package includes kits to build the Aerobee and a pendulum suspension. In fact, all rig kits at the KAPtery are on sale this week for at least 20% off the regular price, and all prices include US shipping. Kite line is also on sale for 20% off so this week you can't find a better deal anywhere on quality braided kite line.

This week only, all rig kits and all kite line are on sale at the KAPtery for at least 20% off.

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Thanks Ecta64. It's also really easy and fun. A great way to get photos for aerial panoramas.

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I can't wait to get mine flying. I assembled it a few weeks ago and really love the design too.

Chris, I have some notes on the assembly instructions I owe you.

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I'd love to see your assembly notes. I just updated the assembly guide and parts list ( I can easily incorporate your experience.

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EDIT: I've posted this in question form here.

Hi @cfastie! Apologies if this has been answered elsewhere, but as I've been searching I haven't found an explicit answer.

What about the pendulum and the picavet makes the picavet better for Kite photography?

According to what I can find, the pendulum works better for vertical lines, like with a balloon on a calm day. Does the Picavet handle the erratic motion of the kite line better, and provide better stability than a pendulum would?

I would like to try the jerkpan on the aerobee with a kite, and it looks like if I could only buy one, I would get the pendulum. What do you think?

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Hi Patrick,

Sorry for the delay, my Public Lab notifications go to a folder that I rarely see.

You are correct that a Picavet does not work well when the flying line is vertical. The camera rig just hangs against the flying line or bumps against it and gets knocked around. A pendulum can hold the camera rig away from the flying line, especially if it has a stiff wire to wrap the line around and if that wire is connected solidly to a firmly flexible piece of tubing.

Kite lines are almost never vertical but balloon lines can be vertical or close to it. If there are a few mph of steady wind, the balloon will pull downwind and the line will be angled enough for a Picavet to work fine.

There are three clever things about the Picavet. One is that it keeps the camera rig level regardless of the angle of the flying line. This is accomplished by allowing the Picavet line to slide through the connections so the weight of the camera rig keeps it hanging in the same position. The second thing is that a Picavet provides two points of attachment with the flying line and that adds stability (damps swinging along the axis of the flying line). The third thing is that the Picavet cross extends perpendicular to the axis of the flying line and adds some stability in that direction.

The only thing that keeps a KAPtery pendulum from swinging is the stiff attachment wire and the flexible tubing at the top of the shaft. If that system is stiff enough where it should be and flexible enough where it should be, the camera rig can have a fairly smooth ride.

The Picavet seems to be more popular than the pendulum with KAP people. That might be partly because the Picavet is an elegant solution and using one without tangling the lines is a rite of passage. Many KAPers use pendulums and swear by them (while others get the Picavet lines tangled and swear at them).

You can buy an Aerobee Rig at the KAPtery without a suspension (but you need a way to attach it to the flying line). The Aerobee Rig works with either a Picavet or a pendulum. But an important advantage of the Aerobee Rig is that it is designed to work with the JerkPan. The JerkPan sort of works with a Picavet, but works much better with a pendulum. That's because the sliding Picavet lines absorb lots of the motion of the flying line. So jerking the line does not send much of a jerk to the camera rig under a Picavet. A pendulum with a weighty camera at its end will whip a little bit when the flying line is jerked so the escapement will ratchet and pan the camera rig.

I hope this helps,

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