Kite Flying: A Rundown On The Popular Activity

Kite Flying: A Rundown On The Popular Activity

Kite flying is an excellent way for your child to have fun outdoors. In an age where you usually only see kids playing video games, a kite is a great way to get your kids interested in having fun outside and getting a little bit of exercise while they have a good time.

Over the course of this article, we will cover several subjects related to kite flying, including the different designs of kites, materials, benefits to using a kite for fun and many other aspects of this hobby. There’s no reason to delay further, so let’s just jump right into it!

What Is A Kite?

A kite is a lightweight toy which consists of a thin material stretched over a light, yet sturdy frame. The purpose of a kite is to soar on wind currents under no power of its own. Though the most common definition of a kite is a children's toy, there are many other uses for kites around the world.

A colorful kite in the air.

These kite uses can range from traditional to professional. Even hobbyists exist, who try to get the most lift and airtime out of their kite designs. This is part of the beauty of owning a kite. You are not restricted as to what you wish to do; you may even modify it to improve its performance.

Brief History

The first kites in history were designed in China around the fifth or sixth century. The reasons that kites were first created in China was because they were the only place on Earth that had simple access to materials which made kite making simple.

Due to kites being invented in China, they have many traditions and festivals which reflect this. While kite flying is seen as a bit of a niche hobby in other countries, it is considered to be more of cultural activity in China.

Once other countries saw kites in use in China, they too adopted the technology. Kites during this time were used much like we use present day aircraft. These kites were used for signals and communication during military actions and measuring distances more than anything. Though they did have many secondary applications.

As can be seen, even in the present day, kites from China were and are highly stylized, with many of them resembling creatures and characters from Chinese mythology. Part of the art of building the best kite meant making it look as impressive as possible while still retaining excellent flight characteristics.

Though kites managed to spread relatively quickly to countries which immediately surrounded China, such as Japan and Korea, they managed to spread quite far as well. The other countries they spread to include India and even New Zealand.

It took kites a surprisingly long time to spread to Europe, however. Until the 17th and 18th centuries, kites were rather rare sights in European countries since they were not brought back from countries such as China and Japan until that time.

Once kites were introduced to the western world, however, they were used for all manner of scientific research. There is, after all, the famous story of Benjamin Franklin flying his kite in a thunderstorm to prove that lightning is related to electricity.

Benjamin Franklin flying a kite.

Kites greatly paved the way for powered, manned flight. Many experiments conducted throughout the 1800s led to people’s greater understanding of aerodynamic forces and how they interacted with heavier-than-air bodies.

Though it may seem surprising that a kite could somehow lead to the development of the airplane, you will find that there are many scientific principles which are closely related to aviation. Being able to prove them through a kite significantly reduced the amount of risk that was involved in human testing.

Kite Uses Other Than Recreation

There are many possible uses for a kite besides simple fun. As we have proven in our short history of kites, they could be used for anything from military operations to proving scientific theories. This section will go over a combination of historical uses and present-day uses for kites.

Meteorology

Kite flying used to be quite important when it came to proving scientific theories about both meteorology and aerodynamics. Many early kites were used to prove the ideas of scientists who had long wondered about the interaction between altitude and temperature.

Many of the experiments which were meteorological in nature were primarily based on proving that the air temperature does, in fact, get colder the higher you go. This indirectly managed to prove that the air gets thinner the higher you get. As you can see, kites paved the way to some rather important realizations.

Besides proving that the air does, in fact, get colder the higher you go, there was also Benjamin Franklin's famous experiment involving lightning and electricity. While it has not been proven whether or not Benjamin Franklin did, in fact, undertake that fateful kite flight, it did have quite some influence.

Kite used in meteorology.

Tales of Franklin's flight led to many of his contemporaries wondering the same thing: does lightning truly have some form of relation to electricity? While the question may be silly today, one must put themselves in the mindset of someone who has not been raised with the innate knowledge that lightning is not only related to but consists of electricity.

Radio Aerials

Kites may be used as radio aerials due to their excellent flight characteristics. They have been used as aerials throughout history for many applications, including military needs. Besides their historical applications, kites continue to be used as aerials for amateur radio operators since they provide a simple and affordable way to erect your antenna without any long term setup.

Historically, kites have provided an excellent way to create a radio antenna without a minimum of effort. While kites are certainly dependent on good weather conditions, it is preferable to use a kite than to spend days building an aerial that has sufficient build quality to resist said weather conditions.

In historical military applications, there has been quite a bit of use of a hybrid of kites and balloons for raising radio aerials. This hybrid is known as the kytoon, and it manages to take advantage of the aspects of both kites and balloons to make for an effective aerial.

Since balloons do not work well when they are being towed behind a target such as a ship, a kytoon incorporates several aerodynamic features of kites to stabilize them. The reason that pure kites were not used in this application is that a kite is not very effective when there is no wind current to keep it aloft.

Many navies made use of kytoons to erect radio aerials for ships during the early days of military radio use. Since a kytoon can typically make it higher than the highest antenna mast on a ship, they will have better performance in comparison. This makes it so that radio waves will have an easier time connecting to each other due to higher transmitters.

Besides historical military uses, kites are still used as radio aerials for amateur ham radio enthusiasts since they are cheaper and less time consuming than building a tower type aerial. Using kites as radio aerials require quite a few safeguards due to the inherent danger in high voltage wires and a non-grounded position.

Sport

Sports kites are also known as stunt kites due to their very high degree of maneuverability and effectiveness regarding performance. Stunt kites are typically controlled using two different lines, allowing the operator to perform many more actions using the two control lines as opposed to a single line.

Sports kite flying is usually done in competition with other kite fliers. There is typically a group of judges involved or some other form of gauging the performance of the involved fliers. When it comes to flying a sports kite, there are many ways to accomplish stunts and to prove oneself in the competition.

Typically, stunt kite flyers must accomplish a set group of tricks, which they are graded on according to how they should be accomplished. Once this phase of the performance has been completed, they are then free to move onto more open ended parts of the performance, including performing a routine to a certain style of music.

A sport with a kite.

These guidelines result in a spectacle which is both rehearsed and somewhat open-ended, meaning spectators will get to enjoy a combination of improvised and planned maneuvers. Flying a sports kite requires quite a bit of practice and training, many fliers practice their whole lives to improve their flying skills.

Kite Types

There are several different types of kites, depending on the material or wing types and shapes.

Material

There are many materials that kites can be made of. Each of these materials features its advantages and disadvantages, allowing you to pick and choose the material which works best for your own needs.

Plastic (Styrofoam)

Plastic and other plastic-derived materials such as styrofoam are often used in the manufacture of kites. For the body of the kite, light plastics can be used to provide a good aerodynamic form. One of the best parts of plastic as a building material is that it is both affordable and commonly available.

Besides its relative commonality and affordability when used for the manufacture of kites, plastic is also lightweight and surprisingly resilient. However, plastic is not only used for the manufacture of the bodies of kites, as it can also be used for the frame. Plastic can be used in the manufacture of frames, but Styrofoam tends to be more common.

Styrofoam is very effective when it comes to building kite frames due to its very low density. This means that you can make a substantial yet lightweight frame with ease when compared to other materials. Styrofoam is also highly affordable when compared to other materials which are typically used in the construction of frames such as carbon fiber.

Styrofoam kite.

Many people consider styrofoam to be a fragile material since it does not do well when subjected to torsion and bending forces. In the case of kite frames, Styrofoam is an excellent choice of material due to its ability to flex without breaking. This makes your kite much more resilient when it is landing and when it is being affected by the wind.

Organic Materials

If you would like to ensure that your kite is as ecologically friendly as possible, you have fewer better choices for construction materials than organic options. Organic materials which are typically used in kites are types of wood. Wood is not often used in the construction of the bodies of kites, as it is usually reserved for the frame.

The most ecological choice you have when it comes to your kite’s building materials is to make use of recycled wood for your kites. Reclaimed wood, when combined with recycled paper results in a kite which is very green to manufacture. The best part of a kite manufactured from these materials is that it can then be recycled once more and used again.

As for the performance advantages of using wood in the construction of your kite, there are quite a few reasons why it is advantageous as a building material. The first is that wood has excellent flexion properties. This means that the frame of your kite can flex quite a bit due to outside forces without the risk of snapping.

A material which has a good deal of flex ensures that you will be able to use your kite without having to worry about it snapping when it lands or when it is subjected to very strong winds. Additionally, wood is rather strong when you take into account how light it is.

Paper

Paper is one of the traditional materials which are used during the manufacture of kites. This material is so common when making kites since it is simple to use and it is so inexpensive. More often than not, if you are making a homemade kite, you will use paper for the body since it can be cut and sized with few tools besides scissors.

Paper is also an ecologically friendly choice as long as you decide to recycle your kite once you are done using it. This is only the case if you have used recyclable glues when building your kite, though.

Textiles

Another traditional choice when it comes to building the bodies of kites is the use of textiles. The first kites ever manufactured were made of textiles, including silk and other fabrics. While silk is too pricey to make all but the most expensive kites today, there is still a large market for canvas and other fabrics.

Kites made out of textile.

Canvas is an excellent choice of material for kites due to its relative resilience when compared to other types of fabric or textiles. Canvas is also much more accessible than other types of fabrics, being affordable and easy to find. If you are making your kite, this will be one of your first choices for the body, along with the paper.

Wing Types And Shapes

There is a large selection kite types and shapes which can have a large effect on the performance of your kite. Kite flying often greatly depends on the type of flight characteristics you would like out of your kite, and few aspects have as much of an effect as your wing shape.

Dragon Kite

One of the more stylized forms of kite type is the Dragon Kite. Believe it or not, this is one of the oldest types of stylized kite. Chinese dragon kites are widely seen as works of art as opposed to simple kites. There are still many festivals in which Chinese dragon kites are featured as the main attraction.

Besides traditional dragon kites, which take many hours of work and effort to build, there are also mass produced dragon kites of a more modern type. These are typically designed for children as they sacrifice flight capabilities for colorful, attractive exteriors.

Delta

Kites which feature delta wings tend to be some of the more high-performing types of kites. The most common application for delta kites tends to be as sports or stunt kites. The delta shape allows you to more easily perform tricks and stunts due to the high degree of the aerodynamic performance featured by the wing.

Delta kites are also ideal for stunt kites because they tend to be a balanced design which can easily be controlled with two separate cords. Since two cords are necessary for the proper execution of stunts, this leaves very few options when it comes down to the number of designs which can be used.

Octopus

Octopus kites tend to be some of the more impressive types of kites. These kites are known as some of the largest commercially available models. Due to the combination of their large size and unorthodox design, octopus kites aren't the most impressive types of a kite when measured regarding aerodynamic performance.

Octopus kite.

Regardless of their performance, you will find that octopus kites are a very impressive sight when they are flying. The combination of their large bodies and the trailing tentacles leaves an impression on you that few other kite types can. While they are more expensive, few kites can leave such a lasting impression.

Kites As A Perfect Kid Toy

There are many reasons why a kite is an excellent toy to buy for your young ones. In this section, we will outline some of the more common reasons why parents decide that a kite is an excellent choice.

Assembly

Assembling a kite with your child is an excellent way to get them primed on aerodynamics and DIY activities in one simple package. Since it takes at least a basic knowledge of how the air interacts with your kite to properly assemble it, you will find that kite assembly is a fun and educational experience for your child.

It will also help instill a spirit of handiness in your child if they get hands-on experience building their toys from a young age. Building their first kite may make your children realize a lifelong love for building, as well. There are few better ways to enrich your child than to participate in enjoyable activities such as building with them.

Outdoor Activity

Unlike video games and many other forms of entertainment that children enjoy today, kite flying is an activity which promotes physical exercise and going outside. If you struggle to get your kid unglued from the TV, buying a kite may be one of the best ways to ensure that they get the fresh air that they need.

Flying a kite is both fun and educational since your child starts to learn more about aerodynamics and flying objects simply from the use of their kite. In addition to this, a kite is an excellent choice if you would like to improve the amount of exercise that your child is getting since it takes quite a bit of physical activity to fly a kite.

Social Activity

Flying a kite is something which is not only a single activity. You will find that kite flying is an excellent opportunity for your child to socialize and make friends. For example, if you and your child are flying a kite at the neighborhood park, you will find that the kite can attract a large number of fellow children who will be interested in trying it out.

Flying a kite with friends.

This makes for an excellent opportunity for your child to meet and make new friends. This is a chance which is not quite so simple with many other forms of toys.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is more to kites than first meets the eye. Whether discussing the long and storied history of kites or the differences in separate kite designs, you will find that they are fascinating aircraft which can make for a great toy.

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