Rotating Kite With Airfoil Drum

by Rich
(Centennial, CO, USA)

Q:

You have a wonderful and fantastic site. I just discovered it while seeking info on a kite design that I saw nearly 25 years ago while walking the beach in Vancouver, BC. I have never found a description of it nor any reference to it.

The kite was shaped like a barrel with the end rings connected by what looked to be precision airfoils with a constant chord from end-to-end... ring-to-ring. The bridle was connected to a dowel the pierced the hub of each ring.

The kite achieved lift by the wind passing over the airfoil and causing entire assembly to rotate around the dowel with sufficient speed to rise the kite aloft. The overall effect was ungainly... yet it worked.

Have you heard of such rotating kites designs? Any info on this curious kite will be greatly appreciated.

A:

The kite you saw was in the class of Rotor Kites, which is sometimes included in the broader class of UFO Kites. So named because they tend to confuse and puzzle people seeing them for the first time! Typical UFO kites have flat flying surfaces, often oval in shape, with a central disk instead of one on each end.

Going broader still, there are also other rotating kites. For example:


  • Helicopter-like Gyro kites

  • Airplane kites with long thin rotors for 'wings'

  • Rotating box kites, where the rotation plays no part in keeping the kite airborne



Rotor Kites In Particular...

The earliest example I can find was from the 1940s, and it was called the Rolloplane. Like many model aircraft of the day, this kite was constructed almost entirely from balsa wood. The central 1 foot long 'wing' had an S-shaped section, which caused it to rotate smoothly and rapidly.

Somebody later had a novel idea for replicating this idea using foam packaging. Hence the classic Meat Tray Kite was born! A large styrofoam tray was cut down the middle and the halves switched around to imitate the S-section wing. With the sides trimmed and foam disks added to the sides, plus a dowel axle, many people had fun knocking up their own working Rotor Kite.

Quite a few individuals today still experiment with variations on the theme. Some of the more ambitious projects end up drawing attention at large kite festivals, as they flicker away in smooth fresh breezes off the ocean. Can't say I've ever seen one myself though!

There's at least one kite company that sells modern versions of kind of kite, such as the Prism Flip Rotor Kite. Customers generally seem happy with it, although it does require a reasonably fresh breeze to fly consistently.

Thanks for the nice comments about my site, by the way!

Comments for Rotating Kite With Airfoil Drum

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May 27, 2013
My Childhood Kite
by: Larry

Found an old picture of my Grandfather and me sitting on the front steps with the kite he gave me.

It was a styrofoam rotating kite with dual drums. I remember it sitting in our basement in the original box it came in. It had a wide u-shaped steel rod that hooked into plastic cups at each end of the kite.

Would anybody know what brand of kite that was? I would like to research it and find out if I could locate one.

I was born in 1961 and it looks like I was around 3 years old at the time.

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Get the e-book for making a range of bamboo or dowel designs. Down to $7 from the usual $9.95, for this month.

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Wind Speeds


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1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

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4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2    

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8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3    

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13–18 mph
11–16 knots
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19–24 mph
17–21 knots
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25–31 mph
22–27 knots
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32-38 mph
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