Kite Shapes

by Cheryl Hsu
(Houston, TX, USA)

Q:

Why do kites have different shapes? I wonder whether it is anything related to the history.

A:

What a huge question :-) I guess the simplest answer is... 'because every human being is different' That includes every kite designer of course.

But, for a more satisfying answer, let's have a look at some factors that affect kite shape.

1) Tradition.

Yes, this is close to your idea about 'history'. Various cultures have discovered, over hundreds of years, shapes that worked as kites. The most successful of these tended to stay much the same, getting passed on through the generations. The Sode Dako, or Kimono kite from Japan is an example.

So, some kite shapes are tied closely with a particular culture of the world.

2) Purpose.

Parafoils, and other types that look like a big 'C' generate lots of pulling power. So they are used for extreme sports like snowboarding and kite-surfing.

Simple flat kites such as the Diamond. Their purpose is to be quick to construct and reliable in the air for a beginner to fly. Another example that suits this purpose well is the simple 2-stick Sled.

Complex art kites, where the shape (and color usually) comes first. The purpose is purely for the kite to be a thing of visual beauty. Then, the designer has the challenge of tweaking the design so it actually flies properly!

3) Human Creativity.

This gets back to my initial point about all kite designers being human, and thus unique! Some people create a kite of a particular shape simply to do 'something different'. It's a challenge to make it fly stable. It's satisying to create something new!

Never has this factor been more evident than now. Just go to a big kite festival and check out the immense variety of kite shapes! So many designers, so many different shapes. Or clever variations inspired by more traditional shapes.

--------------------------------------------

Well Cheryl, I hope that gives you something to think about. It was a simple question, but quite a wide one really.

If anyone wants to comment, perhaps to add another category or 2 to my answer, please go ahead!

Click here to post comments

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  1. Flight Report:
    KAP Mystery Solved

    Aug 25, 14 03:57 AM

    Last week I came home from a KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) session down at Brighton beach, here in Adelaide, South Australia. The photos were a disaster, being totally washed out. Over-exposed, to be a little more technical. At the time I thought the problem was purely the position of the sun, relative to the direction of the camera...

    Well guess what. Down at the same beach today, the photos had the same problem - and this time it definitely wasn't the sun. Camera damage seemed a small possibility since the rig had hit the sand at some speed last time, during a white-knuckle experience with the kite in rough air! Which turned out OK, but that's another story.

    Anyway, once back home today, I did a little investigating with the camera, taking some test pictures from the back yard. It was a great relief to find the explanation for the bad images...

    It seems that setting a fixed ISO is not a good idea for this camera in very bright lighting conditions. It can cause the camera to run out of adjustment room for other parameters, like shutter speed or aperture. When the camera was allowed to set ISO automatically, the exposure problem disappeared. Whew!

    The Tyvek-sailed Carbon Diamond performed wonderfully today. It was, for the first time, hoisting the KAP rig into the air. Never has the rig been so steady for so long. Sway was almost non-existent. But whenever I handled the line the camera twisted back and forth due to the rather steep line angle from the rig to the kite. Without enough horizontal separation, the suspension lines do not provide the maximum resistance to twisting. It might be an idea to separate the attachment points even further, on the flying line.

    The 2 meter (7 ft) Diamond was struggling to lift the camera in the fairly light winds coming off the ocean. At times, people on the beach had to duck under the line from me to the camera! The camera was behaving as a sort of aerial tether point, with the kite flying at a steep line angle from there.

    Measured at shoulder height, the on-shore breeze was about 4.5kph gusting to just under 7kph. More of a day for the Multi-Dowel Sled really, which hardly feels a 280g weight on the line!

    "Simplest Dowel Kites": A free but very useful kite-making e-book. Make a super-simple Sled, Diamond and Delta - step-by-step with photos. Sign up for the e-book and get an emailed series of messages called "MBK Tips'n'Ideas". If you don't need the e-book, consider signing up anyway... You won't believe what's on offer in that message series!

    Read More








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