Different Kite Designs Serve Different Purposes
By: Martin Hunt
A kite is actually a specialized form of aircraft that is still tethered down by a rope or string. Even though it weighs greater than air, flight is possible when air is flowing under and over the wing. Lift and drag forces are opposed by the line tension on the tether. Flying them is a popular pastime for people of any age and all cultural backgrounds but various kite designs are also used for practical and other recreational purposes.
The people in China were using kites crafted from silk and bamboo nearly 3,000 years ago. They were crafted from paper by 549 AD and were being used to deliver messages. They were also used for various practical applications like wind testing and calculating distance. Marco Polo introduced this item to Europe toward the end of the 13th century. By the eighteenth century they had become important tools for scientific research.
There are many different designs but the most elementary will be made up of a sail and one or more spars. Paper or silk were traditionally employed to create sails while some type of flexible wood like rattan or bamboo was used with the spars. They were tethered with ordinary twine or string.
Modern versions are manufactured with more sophisticated materials and even the string has been replaced with dyneema or dacron. Sails are now made out of nylon or more exotic synthetic fabrics and stretched across carbon fiber or fiberglass spars for the epitome of lightweight strength and durability.
The box kite is a traditional design that does not seem to be at all aerodynamic before you look closely at the position it takes when flying. The attitude the thing assumes offers the maximum level of exposure of the sail area to the wind as well as the boxes are angled just right to be pushed upward. The style is completely symmetrical with only the placement of the tail and bridle ring to tell apart one end from the other. A tail is mandatory for any type of box design. It could be a chain constructed from rings of paper or a string with ribbons tied at regular intervals.
Stunt kites are acrobatic models that are designed to perform tricks and maneuvers. The form resembles a bat and the pilot controls the movements of the sail with a pair of lines mounted on straps or handles. The basic principles of doing stunts are easy to learn but it takes a lot of practice to master the different tricks.
Stunt models made for beginners are stable and rugged enough to endure the crashes that are sure to happen during the early stages of the learning curve. Ballet models are built for competition. They are extremely agile and capable of performing any acrobatic trick that is thrown at them. They present excellent precision for the pilot and will accommodate a wide range of wind speeds
Prism produces a high end stunt model that has a wingspan of 93" and will deliver optimum performance in wind speeds of three to twenty miles-per-hour. They offer an optional weight system that allows the user to adjust the center of gravity for customized flight. Additional weight can be added as the wind speed increases. This technique is best suited for the flying enthusiast that takes kiting very seriously.
A power model has a rigid frame and is large enough to pull the person along the ground, water and snow. The phrase traction is sometimes used instead of power when describing the unit that it is utilized to pull a buggy, landboard, snowboard or surfboard. The pilot maintains control through steering because there are no mechanical brakes. There are different control system options that are included with handles or a bar with two to five lines.
These are usually created using an aerofoil shape but additionally, there are top edge inflatables and supported leading edge models. High end fabric is used and bridles are employed to support the weight of the sail. The pilot must control the bridle in a method that the angle in the wind provides ample power and speed.
Slingshot makes a leading edge inflatable C shape that includes cutting edge technology. This model has progressive power steering, reinforced struts for toughness and durability and surf tough seams that lessen the risk of tears in the canopy. The single point inflation system is patented and the ergonomic nipple placement means less drag and no possibility of it getting accidentally snagged. Flutter is reduced by the scalloped trailing edge.
Slingshot also makes a variation with the hybrid delta canopy that has long range and is simple to relaunch from the water. It offers instant depower capabilities in a five strut design which is extremely stable and maximizes canopy shape integrity for a smooth and safe ride.
Prism produces power designs in three different sizes that are suitable for traction sports that are land based. This design has a safety leash, quick release and a dual line control bar. The more advanced flier can convert the bar system to quad-line handles for added control and maneuverability. Multiple safety systems allow the user to kill power instantly by letting go of the controls. It has three bridle settings for adjustments to different wind speeds.
Styles have evolved over the centuries to the point that specialized tools and production techniques have taken performance to a whole new level. Modern inventions will fly in a broad range of wind speeds and will not lose their shape over time. Composite materials used to build the frames are chosen since they're ultra lightweight, strong and respond instantaneously. Individual fittings are computer modeled and built with materials that are flexible and lightweight and provide maximum performance in a wide temperature range.
Kiting is not just for kids any more. You will find styles and activities to fit all age groups and individual interests. Whether learning to do tricks and fancy stunts or experiencing and enjoying the rush of traction kiting, there's always something new to learn for beginning and advanced pilots alike.