Mangalore: ‘An Eye in the Sky’ at Kite Festival Affords Sharp View from Top


Mangalore: A majority have not visited the International Kite Festival on the Panambur beach here and the majority who have witnessed it might not have noticed a kite with a camera in the sky. Of course, there are too many beautiful kites in the sky with attention rarely resting on one particular kite alone.

Call it a bird’s eye view or better even a ‘kite’s eye view’, a kite is a also bird, after all.

Mugila Kannu – Eye in the Sky

Aptly named ‘Mugila Kannu’ (an eye in the sky in Kannada), the camera mounted on a kite is a project by Pruthviraj U, assistant professor, department of Applied Mechanics and Hydraulics at NITK-Surathkal, which he is displaying at the International Kite Festival. ‘I have developed it as a hobby’, he said.

The camera has some unique features. Mugila Kannu is composed of two units, first being the unit to transmit the pan and tilt of the camera and the second unit to trigger the camera to capture photographs. Prithviraj says that he is able to control the pan and tilt of the camera in any angle he wants. This is an exciting prospect for a gadget hanging 50 metres up in the sky and controlled by two joysticks.

Mugila Kannu is connected to a main kite rope. This is where the expenses in creating such a kite tend to sink in. The kite rope or the thread comes at a cool Rs 25,000 and is able to withstand a tension pull of up to 45 kilogrammes. The thread is made of Kevlar, a synthetic fibre strong enough to be used in bullet-proof body armours. What speeds of winds can the kite with the camera withstand, with such a tough thread to support it? It depends on the size of the kite, says Pruthviraj.

The camera is suspended on a seven-foot kite made of rip-sail cloth. As ignorant as I was about the ‘rip sail cloth’, Pruthviraj explained that rip-sail cloth are used in parachutes around the world. The cloth is preferred for its light weight and its strength to withstand wind speeds. It has been imported from the Netherlands and cost not more than Rs 20,000.

Canon Powershot A480 series with a resolution of 10 megapixels is probably among the cheapest apparatus in the whole kite. Though the resolution of the camera is not quite to a pixel perfectionist’s liking, one can fit any DSLR camera.

The camera is suspended using a mechanism called Picavet. In one of the photographs in the album one can see Pruthviraj displaying the camera suspended in a Picavet. The Picavet keeps the camera parallel to the ground irrespective of the wind pulling the kite hither and thither.

The whole unit weighs 1.5 kilogrammes and is slightly lighter in weight than some large kites you can see if you visit the kite festival.

Camera Operation

The camera is operated from the ground by an operator. The signals to capture an image, and the ‘viewpoint’ of the camera are being transmitted in a wireless mode. A 900-MegaHertz transmitter weighing a mere 25 grammes is also suspended along the camera to ensure transmission of signals.

There are three sets of batteries too. The first set keeps the battery running for a good four hours, second set are for the motors that control the pan and tilt of the camera and the third set of batteries are for transmitting video. Can one transmit videos as seen by the camera to a screen. Yes. But they haven’t done it this time. There are still more tweaks to do, as experience grows with such exposures.

The team of Pruthviraj has captured around 380 photographs on day 1. They expect to capture better photographs on day 2, as night kite flying with lights is expected today.

Heard from the crowd:

“This is fabulous. Some gadget of this kind should be permanently flying over the city to monitor public disturbances, traffic jams and the like.”

“At all kinds of festivals and gatherings, this should be flying and the images should be projected on an LCD screen. It would be fun.”

Author: Akram Mohammed- Team Mangalorean