Remember staff photographer Stevens Brosnihan? He was on probation for awhile after the last few “miscommunications,” but we decided to give him one more shot when he said he had a drone. I mean the Clam already has one designated drone pilot, but it couldn’t hurt to have one more. This is what Stevens gave us.
The Flight of the Analog Drone
In the blogosphere of late, there has been far too much hype about semi-autonomous flying camera platforms. These whirring, digital monstrosities leave nothing to the imagination. At best, they capture every moment: their harsh, crisp, unnerving eyes drinking in vast detail, oozing streams of image and telemetry data that is easily intercepted via man-in-the middle attacks and posted to nefarious servers for later manipulation of our collective histories. At worst, they slake our souls by diverting human vision and understanding through an interface that promises the singularity but leaves us all gasping at the shore of reality with nothing but a false memory tainted by corporate greed.
I’ve decided to respond to this trend with my own drone. One that is warm, friendly and approachable. No spinning blades or all-seeing eyes. A drone that your grandmother could understand. A drone you can build with parts laying around the house and a minimum of cash. A drone that is soft of focus and temperament.
I started with a 1977 vintage ripstop delta kite that I got when I was in middle school. It was state-of-the art for it’s day with carbon fiber spars and a seven foot wingspan. The design was inspired by hang gliders popular at the time and it was sewn in a full rainbow of fabrics–back when rainbows were just rainbows. I fly it now with proud ambiguity.
Add to this powerful airframe the following components:
- A light-weight Chinon point-and-shoot Multi-focus film camera picked up at Second Glance for $5 with it’ auto winder and decent glass optics
- Some shitty film from Walgreens
- A $4 servo to depress the shutter release. The camera advances the film!
- A vintage radio control transmitter and receiver (garage sale or basement find)
Voila! The Analog Drone is born!
If you have a big old kite kicking around, a stiff wind and a few bucks to spare, you can gain entry into the elite drone club. If you lack the kite, fear not. Kites are really simple. They are made of sticks and fabric and string. They make bicycles look like carefully engineered, super efficient mechanical devices made of machined parts, cables and gears. They make semi-autonomous flying robots look like our dark future.
What kind of FPV system do you have? How long does it take to get a GPS lock? How many waypoints can you program?
I haven’t installed a KPV system yet, but that’s an awesome idea! I’ll have get back ro you about the KPS. Maybe something that involves a few friends and bullhorns? The kite is pre-programmed with one waypoint that falls along a quadratic trajectory (the string.)
What about two she ngs, for an elliptical range?
Actually, that would be a single string, looped through an eyelet on the kite, and anchored at two points on the ground.