Friday, October 16, 2009

Eye-Fi / Mi-Fi / CHDK / KAP: Part I - The Rig

I've had ideas of being able to come up with a Kite Aerial Photography rig that could send the pictures back down to the ground without having to have a miniature spycam. Unfortunately, all of the methods I've come up with in the past ended up adding too much weight to the rig to make it practical. Along comes the Eye-Fi pro wireless SD Memory card teamed with a Verizon Mi-Fi broadband internet card, and you have a mobile solution that could be used for KAP. By itself, the Eye-Fi card does not have enough range to be useful to KAP. Adding the battery powered Mi-Fi device, and you have a portable internet connection that you can send along with the KAP rig as it is lofted to the sky.

What is needed?

  • CHDK loaded on Eye-Fi SD Card
  • Canon Camera that allows loading CHDK firmware from the Play menu. (There are other sites that show you how to hack the Eye-Fi card with a utility knife to add the notch in the card necessary to lock the device for standard CHDK to work. My Canon SD900 Camera can load the CDHK firmware by starting the camera in the Play mode, pressing menu, and performing a firmware upate, and switching to Capture mode.)
  • Verizon Mi-Fi Device (Sprint Mi-Fi would also work)
  • Velco and a Rubber Band
  • KAP Rig (

I started by placing velcro on the back of the Mi-Fi card and on the rear plate of the Brooxes Basic KAP Kit.

In addition to the velcro, I have added a simple rubber band to ensure that the Mi-Fi device stays with the KAP rig.

With the Camera attached, you can see the Mi-Fi card fits snugly behind and should have excellent reception to the eye-fi card in the camera.

Here's another view from above of the entire rig, focusing on the Mi-Fi card attached behind the Canon SD900.

Now, I am in a unique position to have an additional Verizon broad band card built into my laptop. Now, most people probably don't have access to one, let alone 2 verizon broadband connections. I'm thinking that the Mi-Fi device is somewhat limited to distance, just like the Eye-fi card, but you might be able to send the kite up 100 feet and still be able to connect with it. My plan is to have my laptop on the ground create it's own internet connection and watch the pictures as they are uploaded from the secondary Mi-Fi card. Currently, I have them set to upload to my Smug-Mug account and a private Gallery. However, you could use Flickr, Gallery, Picassa, or a number of other online sites, and have an almost real-time KAP web cam. The upload speed on the Mi-Fi card is the limiting factor, and it's probably going to be a good idea to have the KAP script slow down, and only take pictures every 30 seconds or so.

I plan on testing this new KAP / CHDK / Eye-Fi / Mi-Fi / Wi-Fi setup the next time I go out to do KAP. The goal is to be able to see the pictures from the camera without having to bring the kite down and downloading the images off the Memory card.



    Please keep us posted on the flight. Yes, if you have a 2nd MiFi on the ground, you can use your laptop to connect to the Eye-Fi Manager, or directly to SmugMug. You can also set-up email / SMS / Twitter alerts and watch those alerts from your cell phone. So you'll be able to see everything in real-time, even if you didn't have a 2nd MiFi.

    The Wi-Fi range of the MiFi is pretty limited, so you will probably not be able to connect to it, from the ground. But try it, I may be wrong :-)

    Please keep us posted. This is ultra-cool !!!

  2. Looks like you tried this a long time ago; sounds super cool.

    How did this turn out? If you've got a moment; shoot me an email at