More Than Fun Flying Toys: A Look At Unique Applications For Kites

The evolution of kites from silk and bamboo creations of ancient China and leafy fliers of Indonesia have given way to a wider variety of sizes, colors, shapes, materials, and applications than any one person could ever have imagined. Modern kite supplies include special straps, handles, and bars that transform a simple toy into a mode of transportation, a communication device, or a world class competitor.

Benjamin Franklin’s key-in-the-lightening-storm story, true or not, was only the first of countless scientific and athletic applications. They are used as power sources for sports such as snow kiting, bugging, landboarding, and surfing. Tourists thrill to be hoisted into the air behind a boat, cradled in the arms of a giant kite. However, there are other uses which many people are surprised to learn. Even in the days of ancient China, tethered sheets of silk and bamboo were used to test the wind, lift people, send signals, and for strap

Science & Meteorology

Whether you are studying electricity, flight, or the weather, kites are useful tools. In addition to providing the design, theoretical applications, and testing opportunities necessary to eventually develop the modern day airplane, these flying devices were and are used to lift scientific instruments and cameras, to test atmospheric conditions, and to generate power. They can measure wind strength and direction, carry meteorological testing and measuring equipment, and they can serve as signal beacons.

Radio Aerials

Kite supplies can even include radio aerials, assuming there is strong and consistent enough wind available. They are used to carry MF, LF, and VLF transmitters. The inventor of the radio, Guglielmo Marconi, used them to carry the first transatlantic transmission. Caution, however, must be taken to ensure proper grounding, as the conductor being carried can involve dangerously high voltage.

Traction Devices

Traction is rarely a word people associate with kites, but they are a useful tool when people or vehicles must be pulled downwind. Acting very much like the sail on a sailboat, they capture the force of the wind and make it usable by man. There are even ship-pulling fliers that assist cargo ships in reducing fuel consumption by as much as 30 percent.

Clearly, there is far more to this than the local five-and-dime paper, dowel, and string variety. They have long been a source of enjoyment, communication, and celebration. They can be made to carry flutes, whistles, lights, messages, and gifts, and they come in every size, color, and shape imaginable.

While childhood is certainly made more magical with these colorful flights of fancy, the truth is that these flying devices are now being looked into as sources of environmentally sound, renewable energy. Both in the air and underwater, they are used to provide aid in search and rescue missions, and to photograph regions inaccessible to people.

While the cultural events and artistic genius associated with these tethered flying devices, such as aerial ballets, kite fighting, and numerous festivals, are certainly appealing and enjoyable, the services modern day kites provide to humanity make it far more than a child’s playtime toy.



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