Kite Design Factors

Q:

What are the factors that influence kite design and construction?

A:

What a broad question! It has some similarities to one of the very first questions asked here, about 'Kite Shapes'. Anyway, here are a list of factors that I believe cover nearly all aspects of kite design (of which 'construction' is a part). Of course, more than one of these could be involved in any given kite design.

Firstly, some factors that influence every kite design done by a competent and experienced designer...

Wind Range. The designer always has some idea of what strength winds the kite will successfully fly in. Modern kites using high-tech materials have large wind ranges if accurately constructed. My MBK Dowel kites prefer very light through to moderate wind strengths. Some kites designed for ocean fishing are made for fresh to strong winds. For lighter winds, the fisherman would switch to another kite design.

Stability. Some classic designs are stable without tails, others need a certain length of tail to successfully stay in the air. A creative designer might have to go through considerable trial and error to get an unusual new design to fly stable! By the broadest definition, any kite that stays in the air is 'stable'.

Performance. Certain designs have an associated level of performance, in general. For example, you can expect a Delta to fly at a higher line angle than a traditional square Box kite. Designers sometimes strive to improve an existing design so it looks much the same but acheives slightly higher line angles in flight.

I have also seen the following factors at play, either in kites we have seen or in kites I have read about...

Artistic Expression. This is very obvious in those giant inflatable show kites that are seen at kite festivals. However, a multitude of flat-sailed designs these days show evidence of talented artistic design. Not only in the form of pictures painted or printed on areas of sail, but also sometimes in the structure and configuration of the kite itself. Even without fancy graphics, a flying kite can still be an absolute work of art, through form and motion.

Age Group. Some kites are specifically designed to appeal to young children. They range from art creations that don't actually fly like a true kite, through to durable, colorful small designs that can take a fair amount of punishment being towed around enthusiastically! The emphasis can be on the child's involvement with creating the kite itself, with decorating the kite, with flying the kite or a combination of all 3.

Economic Benefit. Kites are big business, with millions of sales occurring all around the world each year. So, some designs which are known to be popular, such as Diamonds and Deltas, are manufactured in great numbers. Artwork which is colorful and bright is known to help sales too, so graphic artists are employed to make the kites look as appealing as possible.

Specific Purpose. Post-millenium, most kites are used simply for recreation. This includes a very wide range of types, sizes and number of flying lines used to control them. However, other uses include Fishing, Aerial Photography, Ham Radio and even some experimental systems for large ship propulsion.

Tradition. This is a big influence in many Asian kite-flying cultures. Various types of kites have different names. For a new kite to qualify as an example of a particular traditional type, its structure and decoration must conform to a particular list of attributes. In some countries, kite-making competitions help to keep this system alive.

Personal Preference. This relates to your average week-end flier who just 'likes' a particular class of kite. For example, he or she might decide to make a big Genki from plans they find online. With a few personal touches and modifications, the resulting kite design is a one-of-a-kind. No other Genki looks exactly like it, or uses exactly the same list of materials in its construction.

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Although I've kept the comments on each factor fairly brief, I hope this answer gives you some measure of satisfaction :-)

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Wind Speeds

Light Air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2

Gentle ...
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3

Moderate ...
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4

Fresh ...
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5

Strong ...
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7

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