In February 2009 we visited Singapore on holidays. The main purpose of
the visit was to catch up with relatives and of course show off 3
year-old Aren to the adoring throng!
However, the opportunity to see radio controlled
kites in action and perhaps do a casual interview with Mr Lim himself was not to
be missed. I hope you enjoy the account I give below...
When the weather's good and you have the time, it's great to get out with a kite or 3. But what about on bad weather days? Then it's time to pull out...
"Kites Up!" - my downloadable kite-flying board game! Apart from towing indoor kites, doing a spot of imaginary flying is the next best thing :-)
Lightning And Thunder
Electrical storms and squalls have swept across Singapore every few
days since we arrived in late February. Tonight was typical, so I wasn't
confident of catching any RC kite action. However, my brother-in-law,
his wife and I were pleased to see some flying as we approached. Eerie
really, like levitating neon signs! Not to mention utterly silent. This
contrasts with electric RC planes which often have a fair amount of prop
As we walked up, 8 or 10 fliers were out in the large park,
flying about in a small block of airspace above the wet grass. A number
of suitably impressed tourists and onlookers had gathered at the
perimeter of the park.
Mr RC Kite - Michael Lim
Mr Lim makes a point of 'always being there' at the regular flying
sessions, so he wasn't hard to track down. Transmitter in hand, he was
busy answering people's queries and doing demonstrations. What ensued
was a kind of cross between an interview, a sales pitch and a short but great flying demo!
It wasn't much of an interview, since my laid-back approach got swamped by an intense dose of RC Kite passion! Here's 2 of the questions I managed to insert...
Q: Is that a Lithium Ion battery powering the kite?
A: Lithium Polymer. Good for 20 minutes of flight, compared to 5 - 8 minutes for RC planes.
Q: Are those sails made of rip-stop nylon?
In no time, Mr Lim had rattled off a sales pitch covering all the essential points about what makes these amazing kites so unique and desirable! Here's a few samples.
- are almost fully crash resistant, thanks to a replaceable front
protection rod, and flexible motor mounts which prevent prop or motor
- require no runway at all
- are easy to fly at a basic level
- are also capable of fighter-like performance and extreme low-speed flight, in the right hands
- have a range of around 1 kilometer (more than 1/2 a mile) with standard RC gear
- come with simulator software which can be plugged straight into the transmitter, providing valuable help for 1st-time RC fliers
Interestingly, Michael Lim did not attempt to stress RC kiting as a
replacement for other RC flying. Rather, he spoke up RC kites as an
ideal introduction to more general RC flying. Would-be RC pilots are a
large market indeed!
Finally, there was the brief but impressive demonstration flight. This consisted of...
- A take-off directly from his hand.
- A general fly around, just a few meters away.
- Some basic aerobatics such as loops and rolls - these look so good at night, with the craft lit up like a Christmas tree!
- A slow but vertical climb to several hundred feet straight
overhead. With all the rain-clouds around, I was half expecting to see
it pass into cloud-base and disappear!
- A somewhat faster vertical descent, all the way back to near where
we were standing. The kite was in a tight spiral, under full power I
- Finally, when close to the ground, Michael slowed the kite right
down and flew it around to where we were standing. Nose-high and slow,
'hanging on the prop', the kite wafted straight into Mr Lim's waiting
hand. Very cool!
Bear in mind that all of this was on the most basic beginner's
model, worth around $600 for the kite, RC gear, simulator software and
Rain Stops Play
To put it in sporting terms. We were fortunate to see what we saw,
since we had only been at the park for 1/2 hour or less. People started
heading back to the GoFlyKite shop, which was on a floor of the nearby
Rather than rattle on about the contents of the shop (yawn) I might just mention a couple of highlights.
Firstly, I had a good chat to a staff member over the counter. It
transpired that the main development over the last year or 2 is the
continuing RnD (research and development) of a relatively large
wing-span RC kite. Several prototypes were hanging from the ceiling,
each with minor differences in the sail so the flight characteristics
could be compared. One day this advanced high-aspect-ratio kite
will be available for sale. To my slight surprise, one reason mentioned
for the long wings is so you can mount an even more dazzling array of
lights for spectacular night flying. Fair enough, it's probably a good
Secondly, my brother-in-law and I had fun for quite some time, doing some simulator flying
with the software used for training. As an ex-RC flier I had no trouble
keeping the kite in the air, but trying to land on the small strip sure
exposed my rusty skills! The basic setup for RC kites is exactly the
same as for RC planes. That is, elevator on the left stick, ailerons and
throttle on the right stick. Actually, the kites have elevons, 2 flaps at the rear which combine the function of elevators and ailerons.
Hope you enjoyed this 'up close and personal' glimpse into the world of RC kites!
As mentioned earlier, there's another alternative to towing indoor kites if it's just not possible to fly outdoors...
"Kites Up!" is my downloadable board game. It's a PDF file which has all the documentation for the game plus images for all the components. Tokens, cards, the board itself and so on. Anyway, just click that link to see more info :-)