is a flying tethered man-made object. The necessary lift that
makes the kite fly is generated when airflow over and under the kite creates low
pressure above the kite and high pressure below it. In addition to the lift,
this deflection generates horizontal drag along the direction of the wind. This
drag is opposed with the tension of one or more lines held by the operator of
the kite. Kites held with more than one line can be steered by pulling the
different lines with different strength.
The history of kites can be traced back thousands of years to when kites
first originated in China. The initial usage of kites was purely military: they
were a communication tool. Different messages were communicated mainly via
different coloured kites during the day. At night, the message communicated was
very limited in comparison to those during the day because the lanterns carried
by the kite could not produce different lights. In extremely rare occasions,
giant kites carrying aerial observers were also deployed in reconnaissance
Gradually, kites became a popular form of
recreation as well as art. With the advent of gunpowder, kites were occasionally
flown for bombing missions after the Yuan Dynasty, delivering explosives to
targets that were out of reach of cannons and arrows, such as those on the
opposite slope of a mountain.
Today, in addition to kites that are mainly flown for recreation, art or
practical use, there are power kites or traction kites. These are steerable
kites designed to generate substantial excess lift and a pull that can be
applied in related activities such as kite surfing, kite landboarding or kite
New Brighton Kite Flying Festival 2006
New Brighton Kite Festival in 2 minutes! Held
at The Dips, New Brighton, on the Wirral, UK. June 2006
Kites typically consist of one or more spars (sticks) to which a paper or
fabric sail is attached, although some, such as foil kites, have no spars at
all. Classic kites use bamboo, rattan, or some other strong but flexible wood
for the spars, paper or light fabrics such as silk for the sails, and are flown
on string or twine. Modern kites use synthetic materials, such as ripstop nylon
or more exotic fabrics for the sails, fibreglass or carbon fibre for the spars
and dacron or dyneema for the kite lines.
Kites can be designed with many different shapes, forms, and sizes. They can
take the form of flat geometric designs, box kites and other three-dimensional
forms, or modern sparless inflatable designs. Kites flown by children are often
simple geometric forms (for example, the diamond). In Asia, children fly dried
symmetrical leaves on sewing thread and sled-style kites made from sheets of
folded writing paper.
Chinese kite designs often emulate flying insects, birds, and other beasts,
both real and mythical. The finest Chinese kites are made from split bamboo
(usually golden bamboo), covered with silk, and hand painted. On larger kites,
clever hinges and latches allow the kite to be disassembled and compactly folded
for storage or transport. Cheaper mass-produced kites are often made from
printed polyester rather than silk.
Tails are used for some single-line kite designs to keep the kite's nose
pointing into the wind. Spinners and spinsocks can be attached to the flying
line for visual effect. There are rotating wind socks which spin like a turbine.
On large display kites these tails, spinners and spinsocks can be 50 feet long
Modern acrobatic kites use two or four lines to allow fine control of the
kite's angle to the wind. Traction kites may have an additional line to de-power
the kite and quick-release mechanisms to disengage flyer and kite in an
A recent addition to the kite family is the rotorkite. This type of kite
consists of a rotor or rotors much like the rotors found on helicopters and
autogyros. In a proper wind the rotors spin and create lift. This type of kite
requires two control lines, one for each hand.
*Warning* Do Not Attempt these manoeuvres or feats in your own backyard. You
could pull a muscle or vital organ and therefore end any dreams of becoming a
Practical & cultural uses
Kites have been used for military uses in the past, both for delivery of
messages and munitions, and for observation, by lifting an observer above the
field of battle, and by using kite aerial photography.
Kites have also been used for scientific purposes, such as Benjamin
Franklin's famous (but dangerous) experiment proving that lightning is
electricity (See The MythBuster Season 3 Episode 48 for alternative
interpretations of this experiment). Kites were the precursors to aircraft, and
were instrumental in the development of early flying craft. Alexander Graham
Bell experimented with very large man-lifting kites, as did the Wright brothers
and Lawrence Hargrave.
Kites can be also used for radio technical purposes, either by kites carrying
antennas or by using a kite, which carries up an antenna wire ( for MF, LF or
VLF-transmitters). This was done sometimes in the past, for example for the
reception station of the first transatlantic transmission by Marconi. However
captive balloons may be more convenient for such experiments, because kite
carried antennas require sometimes running when there is no wind, which may be
not always possible with the heavy equipment and a ground conductor. It must be
taken into account at such experiments, that a conductor carried up by a kite in
the sky can lead due to the earth's electrostatic field a high voltage toward
ground, which can endanger people and equipment, if not suitable precautions
(grounding through resistors or a parell resonant-circuit tuned to transmission
frequency) is done.
Kites can be also used as light effect carrier, for example by carrying
light sticks or battery powered light effects.
Kite Flying Demonstration
Brookings Oregon kite flying festival.
Kite flying is very popular in the People's Republic of China, Korea, Japan,
Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, and many other Asian countries. In all of
these countries 'kite fighting', in which kite fighters try to snag each other's
kites or cut other kites down, is popular. In Afghanistan this is known as
Gudiparan Bazi. Some kite fighters pass their strings through a mixture of
ground glass powder and glue. The resulting strings are very abrasive and can
sever the competitor's strings. However, this practice is dangerous since the
abrasive strings can also injure people. During the Taliban rule in Afghanistan,
kite flying was banned, among various other recreations.
In recent years, multi-line kite flying has developed into a sport, with
competitions for precision flying and for the artistic interpretation of music.
Kite surfing has developed into a competitive sport with several professional
Kite festivals are a popular form of entertainment throughout the world. They
include small local events, traditional festivals which have been held for
hundreds of years and major International Festivals which bring in kite flyers
from overseas to display their unique art kites and demonstrate the latest
The Indian festival of Makar Sankranti is devoted to kite flying in some
states where it is a public holiday. This spring festival is celebrated every
January 14 (or January 15 on leap years), with millions of people flying kites
all over northern India. The cities of Ahmedabad and Jaipur are particularly
notable for their kite fighting festivals. Highly manoeuvrable single-string
paper and bamboo kites are flown from the rooftops while using line friction in
an attempt to cut each other's kite lines, either by letting the line loose at
high speed or by pulling the line in a fast and repeated manner. The activity is
not without risk as the line is treated to be abrasive and flyers can, and
occasionally do, fall from the rooftops. In some Indian cities kite
flying/fighting is an important part of other celebrations, including Republic
Day, Independence Day, Raksha Bandhan, and Janmashtami.
Bermuda Good Friday Kites as seen on LookBermuda.TV
In Greece, flying kites is a tradition for Clean Monday, the first day of
In Pakistan, kite flying is a ritual for the spring festival known as Basant.
However, kite flying is currently banned as some kite fliers engage in kite
battles by coating their strings with glass or shards of metal, leading to
injuries and death. Kite battle is a very popular sport in Pakistan, mainly
centred in Lahore people spend thousands of dollars in preparing different
types of kites and threads best suited to battle. The kites that are
manufactured for battling are very different from the conventional kites as they
are especially designed and made for this purpose. Kup, Patang, Guda, Nakhlaoo,
etc are some of the kites used in the battle and they vary in balance, weight
and speed through the air. Threads for kite battling are manufactured using
especial glues, chemicals and crushed glass and are numbered based on their
ability to cut other threads and to handle kite's weight. Kite Battle is an art
and the more experienced a person is in this art the more likely he is to win
the battle. It is a very popular social event in Pakistan that happens once a
year and the festivities are worth seeing.
In Guyana, on Easter Weekend thousands turn out for mass kite flying. In the
capital city of Georgetown the massive sea wall protecting the city from the
Atlantic ocean is filled with throngs of families picnicking and flying kites of
all shapes and colours. Many participate in kite flying competitions.
Weifang (Shandong, China) promotes itself as the Kite Capital of the World.
It hosts an annual International Kite Festival on the large salt flats south of
The world kite museum in Weifang is the largest kite museum in the world, the
building has a display area of 8100 mē. There are several Kite Museums in Japan
and others in England, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA.
Kite Flying in Beijing Tiananmen Square
A youngster having fun kite flying with his
mommy and grandpa on Christmas Eve 2005
Never let a kite fly in the
neighbourhood of power lines and radio stations, especially those using mast
radiators. Be careful with experiments with conductive ropes, because these can
lead high voltages toward grounds due to the earth's electric field. Of course
such kites are especially dangerous, when running into a power line or a mast
radiator. Never let a kite fly during a thunderstorm or in the neighbourhood of
an airport. Never let small children hold a big kite on a windy day by
themselves. There have been cases in which children were lifted into the air.