Randall Munroe (xkcd)

These are pictures I took by hanging cameras from kites, a hobby I've played with on and off over the years. To get the camera to take pictures, I built a 555 timer circuit that, every 13 seconds, throws a relay wired to the camera's shutter button. I used a small delta kite (larger ones on the way) and a cheap $30 digital camera with a large SD card.

Yes, the rig is still on breadboard and uses a band-aid as a structural component. Sometimes these things happen.

I've checked FAA regulations, and it seems that as long as the kite is under five pounds I don't need to notify them before flights.


Since I moved to Boston a few weeks ago, I've had great chances to fly kites from the MIT athletic field. This time, friends Liz and Tucker helped out, and we managed a good flight (with higher ones planned).

This flight was a struggle -- the wind wasn't great, but we left it up a long time and got a new record altitude -- about 260 meters in the highest shot before the battery died. That's higher than the tallest skyscraper in Boston. I'm hoping with some better wind or a larger kite we can get much higher.

The Charles River, Northeast Boston, the ocean, islands, etc.

You can see a lot of the MIT campus here, including both domes and the green building.

The Hancock and Prudential buildings. Since we're level with the top of the Hancock, that means the kite's at about 240 meters. Extra credit: calculate actual height taking into account curvature of Earth.

Distorted kite and sky.


A couple weeks after my move to Boston, I've finally managed a serious flight with the camera for the first time. We started at the MIT athletic field and let out the full 500 meters of line, and at its peak the kite was level with the top of the Prudential center, putting it at about 230 meters up.

View of downtown Boston from near the peak altitude.

A boathouse along the MIT shore.

A view of the field we were flying from. The string looks like it's going toward the building, but you're only seeing the very top bit of it -- it curves horizontally toward the middle of the field. A lot of the frames had heavy distortion due to how fast the camera was bouncing around (apparently it samples the CCD over a nontrivial span of time).

A view of the Boston shoreline across the Charles.

Final pictures from two flights.

For low-resolution pictures from my test flights back in Virginia, click here. See also: the kite prank.