AUTOKITE: Experimental use of a low cost autonomous kite plane for aerial photography and reconnaissance

Patrick McGarey, Srikanth Saripalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


An experimental kite-plane capable of autonomous aerial imaging is introduced as a viable low-cost small-scale civilian UAV imaging platform ideal for field use. The AUTOKITE fulfills a need currently unmet by other fully automated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), resulting from ease of operation, extended flight time, and overall reliability. The AUTOKITE is outfitted with an off-the-shelf autopilot system, and has demonstrated fully autonomous flight in field deployments while collecting high-resolution (∼12 cm/pixel) images. The AUTOKITE has been used to map regions historically prone to earthquakes along the Southern San Andreas Fault in California. Comparative image methods enabled by photogrammetric software, like Agisoft's PhotoScan, are then used to discern Structure-from-Motion (SfM) from a multitude of aerial images taken by AUTOKITE (Fonstad, Earth Surf. Process. Landf. 38:421-430, 2013). Processing SfM data from overlapping images results in the creation of Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) and Orthophotos for geographic areas of interest. In addition to sample data sets illustrating the SfM process, The AUTOKITE is compared with three alternative UAV systems, and payload integration/automation details are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-370
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems: Theory and Applications
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Autonomous
  • Digital elevation modeling
  • Kite plane
  • Mapping
  • Robotics
  • UAV
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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