Nighthawk practice

I just bought a fourth kite to extend the wind range in which I can lift a camera. The Nighthawk Delta from Paul's Fishing Kites is a small delta designed for strong winds and probably won't break in winds up to 35 mph. This weekend the winds were gusting over 20 mph and I took it for a test flight.

The Nighthawk (red) is smaller than my go-to Levitation Delta (underneath). The Nighthawk is 6.9 feet from tip to tip, and the Levitation is 9 feet.

I was in a clearing on the side of a mountain, and the winds were swirly near the ground. So it took several tries to get the kite high enough that it stayed in the air. It dove toward the ground a few times, and twice it's recovery completed a full circle as I let out line to stop the dive. I flew it for about 20 minutes before I was comfortable enough to attach a camera to the line. By that time the kite was 200 feet above the ground over a dense forest.

The PowerShot S100 on the Saturn V Rig as it launched for a 75 minute flight.

I flew the Saturn V Rig with a PowerShot S100 taking a photo in a new direction every three seconds. There were fresh batteries powering the servos and a fresh charge on the camera battery. The SD card had 46 photos on it from the day before but space for plenty more.

My goal was to stitch photos into half-spherical panoramas, so I flew high to make that easier. Good stitching results happen when the camera does not move much between photos or when the subject is so far away that it does not

This is me not sure if the brand new kite would fly reliably in winds that were swirling near the ground.
appear to move much. After the Nighthawk got well above the trees, it flew very steadily and had no trouble lifting the rig. The wind was gusty and roiling off the mountain some so the kite migrated side to side now and then. But I was very impressed with the stability of the new kite.

It got cloudy after about 30 minutes, and it was late in the day, so it was soon too dark to get good exposures with the settings I was using. But before then the rig captured many complete cycles covering the entire scene. 

Little Planet projection of one of the panoramas stitched from all 25 of the photos from one full pan/tilt routine of the Saturn V Rig.

When I landed the rig the 4 GB SD card was full, but it had just filled five minutes earlier so I didn't miss many shots. There were 1510 photos on the card, 1474 from this flight. The camera battery still had 30 to 40% of its charge even though the GPS was turned on and recording the coordinates with each photo.

Part of a panorama stitched from several nadir and lower angle photos. The projection is "perspective."

The fall color was not at its peak yet, but some parts of the forest looked quite brilliant. Back home it did not take long to find sets of photos that stitched together into half-spherical panoramas. Below is one in an interactive spherical viewer. To see it full screen, click the icon at lower right.

I hope to return to this place to capture the scene when the color is closer to its peak.

There are some technical details about the flight at Public Lab.


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