Kite power changes face of Google Earth

BY LOUISA HEARN
Last updated 13:57 15/10/2010
google kite

Aerial images for Google Earth captured by Frank Taylor's kite.

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It has built up a massive global empire on the back of its high-tech credentials, but Google is enlisting the help of a small orange kite to capture some of the more remote regions featured on its popular Google Earth application.

A pair of sailors on a five-year odyssey around the world are taking the aerial images of coastal regions with their home-made kite on behalf of the technology giant, which has traditionally used satellite images on its maps.

As well as posting images to Google, husband and wife team Frank and Karen Taylor have also been plotting the progress of their journey on their Tahina Expedition website.

"Before we left on our sailing adventures, I made arrangements to provide Google with aerial photography using the kite so they could put the imagery in Google Earth. So, after taking the photos, they are processed and made part of the base imagery you see in Google Earth," writes Frank.

"My primary objective is to take straight-down photos just like you see in Google Earth."

Frank, who has been blogging about Google Earth for several years, is taking images using a combination of kite aerial photography and remote controlled aircraft.

"I have a special rig that hangs from the kite string below the kite to hold the camera. There is also a remote control that lets me control the orientation of the camera," he writes.

The most recent images to be added to Google Earth site are shots from the Manihi atol in French Polynesia. Kite images from BBQ Island, near Panama already feature in the application.

Getting kite strings entangled in palm trees and poles, and having images spoiled by sunsets are just some of the obstacles Frank has had to overcome, but he said he hoped many aspects of the Tahina's voyage around the world be chronicled within Google Earth and Maps.

The Taylors departed North Carolina on November 14 last year and headed to the Caribbean. They are currently in Tonga, and plan to spend six months in New Zealand, from November 2010 to avoid the cyclone season in the south Pacific.

"Then we want to return to see more Pacific islands before heading to Australia. We also currently plan to visit Indonesia and Singapore, and Thailand," he writes.

Frank said his kite photography was inspired by a series of high resolution aerial images taken by National Geographic in Africa that have now become a permanent part of Google Earth.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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