Sparrowscope’s goal is to let you easily take stunning aerial photographs. It hooks on to a kite line and is controlled from the ground with an intuitive interface. With a Sparrowscope, you can capture anything from a picnic at the beach with friends, a natural landscape, or a rec-league sports game—all like you’ve never done before.

The Sparrowscope

The Sparrowscope

Mount a smartphone on the Sparrowscope, hang it on a kite line, pair with another device on the ground via wifi, and take pictures from the sky! It's like a drone… except it's quiet, visually pleasing, legal to fly in more places, and can stay in the sky for far longer.

Mount a smartphone on the Sparrowscope, hang it on a kite line, pair with another device on the ground via wifi, and take pictures from the sky! It's like a drone… except it's quiet, visually pleasing, legal to fly in more places, and can stay in the sky for far longer.

Just after take-off

Just after take-off

Casa Loma as seen from a kite

Casa Loma as seen from a kite

Aerial photo of a dilapidated barn

Aerial photo of a dilapidated barn

Stepping up to the plate

Stepping up to the plate

I worked on Sparrowscope starting in 2012 and for a large part of 2013. It was a fun project to learn about Kickstarter and to design a product for manufacture without a client, which is what I usually do as a robotics and interface design engineer for hire. It didn't get to the target on Kickstarter, which I expected part way through prototyping (in a nutshell, the price point was going to be too high without quality compromises I wasn't willing to make), but it seemed worthwhile to go through the rest of the process to learn more about Kickstarter and marketing around it from the other side. I've backed a lot of crowdfunding projects and given advice to several as well—I believe crowdfunding is a brilliant use of technology to make it easier to bring products to the market.

Making a great Kickstarter video without breaking the bank

The Sparrowscope has been an engineering project for most of its life, but for the past few weeks, horizons have expanded. I’ve decided to put the Sparrowscope as a product on Kickstarter, which has involved filming, audio recording, product photography and video editing. I’ve done none of the usual programming, soldering, finite element analysis, control loop tuning, or any of the other engineering tasks I got used to, which has been a nice artistic break. [Read More]

Circuit boards are in

I got the printed circuit boards (PCBs, in electronics speak) mid-week for my production prototypes, and finally soldered everything yesterday.

[Read More]

Sketching in metal

I’ve been busy lately preparing a production model of the Sparrowscope. A production model not only functions in the same way as the final product, but it’s made in the same (or close to the same) way as the final version will be as mass-produced, from the same materials. I have several components being machined, laser-cut, bent, welded, and 3D printed, all of which will make it to this blog soon. [Read More]

Smart phone, meet microcontroller

As promised in the last post, here’s a look under the hood of how the Sparrowscope works. The motors are controlled by a smartphone, but of course smart phones don’t have motor outputs. So how will this work? The smart phone will communicate with some intermediary electronics, which in turn will drive the motor. And of course, the standard connector across all phones is… the headphone jack! I didn’t want to limit devices to only an Apple connector (and then it’s a pick between Lightning and the older 30-pin connector), or USB for Android devices. [Read More]

An early test video

You might enjoy this little clip I filmed from the skies, one of the first times I attached an iPod Touch to a kite line. I used a 4th generation iPod, hence the poor video quality—the new ones are much better. Anthony and Mai, my former lab mates from my grad school days, took some pictures of the Sparrowscope while it was filming them. The movie climax is definitely when Anthony lies down on the grass and waves. [Read More]

Kite testing

All kites are not created equal. It’s important to me that only great kites are used to lift the Sparrowscope; cheaply-made kites are an avoidable risk to your equipment. Even if a kite flies, it may not move around too much in the sky for stable camera positioning, and a kite that does unexpected acrobatics can be quite stressful. For that reason, I plan on including a kite with the Sparrowscope. [Read More]

Progress so far

I’m going to be posting my progress regularly here on the Sparrowscope Blog, and you can also sign up for email updates, but this post will tell you what I’ve been up to until now. Business I’ve created a business, set up a tax account, opened accounts with various suppliers, got a logo… I even made this website that you’re reading right now. It’s all important, but not very glamorous. I thought I’d mention it anyway. [Read More]

Softball and Windfest

Here are a few photographs I took while testing out a Sparrowscope prototype. The first bunch of pictures are from a softball game at Trinity Bellwoods park, and the second set are at Toronto WindFest 2012 at Woodbine Beach.

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Hello

I’ve (finally) got a web site up! While I’m out testing prototypes, “do you have a website?” has been the second most frequently asked question from passer-bys—right behind “what is that thing attached to your kite?” I’m going to fix up the appearance and then start posting updates on Sparrowscope progress.