Did You Know?
Kites were flown even before paper was invented. They were made out of leaves.
Next time someone tells you to go and fly a kite, you can actually take the advice on a serious note! Flying kites is a fascinating activity that has been around for thousands of years. Today, there are different kinds of kites available in different shapes, sizes, and forms.
Kite flying began thousands of years ago in China. Even today, it is popular in many Asian countries, it is even a popularly sport called 'kite fighting'. Paper kites had different functions to perform rather than just being a medium for leisure and entertainment. They have also been used for military purposes and aerial photography. Their popularity is such that today, one can see so many varieties available in the market. Such was the beauty and functionality, the Wright brothers used its basics to create the very popular gliders. People of all ages can be seen flying kites over cities, fields, and beaches.
Common Types of Kites* Click on the arrows to view the next slide, and hit F5 to reset the slideshow.
- Flat Kite
- Box Kite
- Sport Kite
- Parafoil Kite
- Delta Kite
The flat kite is the simplest of them all. It consists of a single sheet, which has a box and a bridle to provide support. For this, one needs to add the tail, keel, and vents. These are also available in a variety of shapes. The classic diamond shape is the most common of all. The Della Porta has a rectangular sail. This is also one of the oldest kites from the Western region. The English Arch top is on the similar lines of the diamond kite, the only difference being the rounded top.
They are easy to identify, and have a flat and swept back profile. Due to their instability, they have a slightly convex surface to enable it to face the wind in a better way. They are very popular for sport activities such as kite surfing. It is their unique shape that gets it all the prominence.
Cellular kites are available in a variety of shapes as well, though the base is same. The traditional box kite is very common and can be great to fly on a moderately windy day. The design involves four parallel lines. The ends of the box are left open. They are formed from many sections, and give a 3D appearance. It would be interesting to note that most of the records have been with the use of the box kites. Lawrence Hargrave developed a flying machine with the help of the principles used for the box kites. Triangle, star, and snowflake are among the popular designs of box kites.
The Rogallo was the first kind of a sled kite that was developed in the late 40s. This relies completely on the wind similar to a parachute. The basic sled design has two sides to which the bridle is attached. The tail may be needed for such kites for added safety. It can be flown without a frame that is needed for support. However, the larger sled kites do consist of supporting rods.
The shape of this kite resembles that of a triangle. It has two lines to control and is also known as stunt kites. At times, one can find the four-lined one available as well. In such cases, the lines are controlled with a pair of handles. With the development of kite flying into a sport activity, they are designed to fly in a variety of conditions.
Domina C. Jalbert invented the parafoil kite. He was completely engrossed in designing kites for a long period of time. Made of ripstop nylon, these can lift considerable amount of weight if designed in a larger size. He was also awarded a Gold Parachuting medal for this invention. They are also very useful for a variety of wind sports, which can include skydiving, paragliding, etc. Inflatable kites also fall under this category. They are also used for advertising purposes. These use synthetic fabrics that help it hold the three-dimensional look. The shape is retained because the pressure of the air, which is inside the kite, is higher than the air pressure outside.
The types of fighter kites differ as per every region. They are single-line flat kites and broadly used for the sport of kite fighting. Lightweight paper is used for the body and sometimes they are also made from synthetic materials. The lines used for them are coated with finely crushed glass. This is used mainly in contests to cut the opponents lines or strings. Most Asian countries have many such kite fighting contests. Kite fighting also has had its share of controversies as well since these deadly lines have affected and injured many birds in flight.
It is designed with keeping speed and maneuverability in mind. To make it more stable, a keel is often added to it. It is often recommended to beginners. It is easy to launch in the air, can fly even in light breezes, and can fly in steep angles. The most basic type of delta kite is the plain triangular keel without a tail.
Uses and Facts
- China mainly used kites for sending military signals during the 6th and the 8th centuries. Leaflets were dropped with the help of kites during the peninsular war.
- They have also been used to secure fantastic aerial photographs. Today, it is still used although one can use an aircraft or a balloon for aerial photography as well.
- The early days of war saw the kites being used for target practice. Here, the diamond kites were mainly used to act as a potential enemy.
- They have also been used for smuggling goods such as liquor across city borders.
- The smallest kite in the world is 5 mm in height, and it actually flies.
- The Chinese believe strongly that by looking at a kite flying high in the sky, one can improve vision.
- East Germany banned the use of very large kites for it was feared a man could get through over the Berlin Wall with this method.
- The kite was used by Benjamin Franklin to prove that lightning is electricity.
- Kites were used to train falcons and hawks for hunting. The bait was attached to the kites as they could reach those heights, which the hawks would generally never bother to reach. With the bait attached, they were used to lure the hawks to a high altitude.
These were some mind-blowing facts about kites. Their designs often imitate the shape of birds, animals, insects, etc. Make sure to be very careful while flying a kite. Watch out for any electrical power lines that may strike or tangle with it.