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A kite is a tethered heavier-than-air or lighter-than-air craft with wing surfaces that react against the air to create lift and drag forces.[2] A kite consists of wings, tethers and anchors. Kites often have a bridle and tail to guide the face of the kite so the wind can lift it.[3] Some kite designs don't need a bridle; box kites can have a single attachment point. A kite may have fixed or moving anchors that can balance the kite. The name is derived from kite, the hovering bird of prey.[4]


The lift that sustains the kite in flight is generated when air moves around the kite's surface, producing low pressure above and high pressure below the wings.[5] The interaction with the wind also generates horizontal drag along the direction of the wind. The resultant force vector from the lift and drag force components is opposed by the tension of one or more of the lines or tethers to which the kite is attached.[6] The anchor point of the kite line may be static or moving (e.g., the towing of a kite by a running person, boat, free-falling anchors as in paragliders and fugitive parakites[7][8] or vehicle).[9][10]

Kites have a long and varied history and many different types are flown individually and at festivals worldwide. Kites may be flown for recreation, art or other practical uses. Sport kites can be flown in aerial ballet, sometimes as part of a competition. Power kites are multi-line steerable kites designed to generate large forces which can be used to power activities such as kite surfing, kite landboarding, kite buggying and snow kiting.

Kites were invented in Asia, though their exact origin can only be speculated. The oldest depiction of a kite is from a mesolithic period cave painting in Muna island, southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, which has been dated from 9500 to 9000 years B.C.[13] It depicts a type of kite called kaghati [id], which are still used by modern Muna people.[14] The kite is made from kolope (forest tuber) leaf for the mainsail, bamboo skin as the frame, and twisted forest pineapple fiber as rope, though modern kites use string.[15]

In China, the kite has been claimed as the invention of the 5th-century BC Chinese philosophers Mozi (also Mo Di, or Mo Ti) and Lu Ban (also Gongshu Ban, or Kungshu Phan). Materials ideal for kite building were readily available including silk fabric for sail material; fine, high-tensile-strength silk for flying line; and resilient bamboo for a strong, lightweight framework. By 549 AD paper kites were certainly being flown, as it was recorded that in that year a paper kite was used as a message for a rescue mission. Ancient and medieval Chinese sources describe kites being used for measuring distances, testing the wind, lifting men, signaling, and communication for military operations. The earliest known Chinese kites were flat (not bowed) and often rectangular. Later, tailless kites incorporated a stabilizing bowline. Kites were decorated with mythological motifs and legendary figures; some were fitted with strings and whistles to make musical sounds while flying.[16][17][18]

Kites were known throughout Polynesia, as far as New Zealand, with the assumption being that the knowledge diffused from China along with the people. Anthropomorphic kites made from cloth and wood were used in religious ceremonies to send prayers to the gods.[20] Polynesian kite traditions are used by anthropologists to get an idea of early "primitive" Asian traditions that are believed to have at one time existed in Asia.[21]

Kites were late to arrive in Europe, although windsock-like banners were known and used by the Romans. Stories of kites were first brought to Europe by Marco Polo towards the end of the 13th century, and kites were brought back by sailors from Japan and Malaysia in the 16th and 17th centuries.[22][23] Konrad Kyeser described dragon kites in Bellifortis about 1400 AD.[24] Although kites were initially regarded as mere curiosities, by the 18th and 19th centuries they were being used as vehicles for scientific research.[22]

Kites were also instrumental in the research of the Wright brothers, and others, as they developed the first airplane in the late 1800s. Several different designs of man-lifting kites were developed. The period from 1860 to about 1910 became the European "golden age of kiting".[25]

In the 20th century, many new kite designs are developed. These included Eddy's tailless diamond, the tetrahedral kite, the Rogallo wing, the sled kite, the parafoil, and power kites.[26] Kites were used for scientific purposes, especially in meteorology, aeronautics, wireless communications and photography. The Rogallo wing was adapted for stunt kites and hang gliding and the parafoil was adapted for parachuting and paragliding.

The rapid development of mechanically powered aircraft diminished interest in kites. World War II saw a limited use of kites for military purposes (survival radio, Focke Achgelis Fa 330, military radio antenna kites).

Designs often emulate flying insects, birds, and other beasts, both real and mythical. The finest Chinese kites are made from split bamboo (usually golden bamboo), covered with silk, and hand painted. On larger kites, clever hinges and latches allow the kite to be disassembled and compactly folded for storage or transport. Cheaper mass-produced kites are often made from printed polyester rather than silk.

Tails are used for some single-line kite designs to keep the kite's nose pointing into the wind. Spinners and spinsocks can be attached to the flying line for visual effect. There are rotating wind socks which spin like a turbine. On large display kites these tails, spinners and spinsocks can be 50 feet (15 m) long or more.

Modern aerobatic kites use two or four lines to allow fine control of the kite's angle to the wind. Traction kites may have an additional line to de-power the kite and quick-release mechanisms to disengage flyer and kite in an emergency.

Russian chronicles mention Prince Oleg of Novgorod use of kites during the siege of Constantinople in 906: "and he crafted horses and men of paper, armed and gilded, and lifted them into the air over the city; the Greeks saw them and feared them".[30]

In the modern era the British Army used kites to haul human lookouts into the air for observation purposes, using the kites developed by Samuel Franklin Cody. Barrage kites were used to protect shipping during the Second World War.[33][34] Kites were also used for anti-aircraft target practice.[35]Kites and kytoons were used for lofting communications antenna.[36] Submarines lofted observers in rotary kites.[37]

Kites have been used for scientific purposes, such as Benjamin Franklin's famous experiment proving that lightning is electricity. Kites were the precursors to the traditional aircraft, and were instrumental in the development of early flying craft. Alexander Graham Bell experimented with very large man-lifting kites, as did the Wright brothers and Lawrence Hargrave. Kites had a historical role in lifting scientific instruments to measure atmospheric conditions for weather forecasting. Francis Ronalds and William Radcliffe Birt described a very stable kite at Kew Observatory as early as 1847 that was trialled for the purpose of supporting self-registering meteorological instruments at height.[43]

Kites can be used for radio purposes, by kites carrying antennas for MF, LF or VLF-transmitters. This method was used for the reception station of the first transatlantic transmission by Marconi. Captive balloons may be more convenient for such experiments, because kite-carried antennas require a lot of wind, which may be not always possible with heavy equipment and a ground conductor. It must be taken into account during experiments, that a conductor carried by a kite can lead to high voltage toward ground, which can endanger people and equipment, if suitable precautions (grounding through resistors or a parallel resonant circuit tuned to transmission frequency) are not taken.

Kites can be used to pull people and vehicles downwind. Efficient foil-type kites such as power kites can also be used to sail upwind under the same principles as used by other sailing craft, provided that lateral forces on the ground or in the water are redirected as with the keels, center boards, wheels and ice blades of traditional sailing craft. In the last two decades several kite sailing sports have become popular, such as kite buggying, kite land boarding, kite boating and kite surfing. Snow kiting has also become popular in recent years.

Kite festivals are a popular form of entertainment throughout the world. They include large local events, traditional festivals which have been held for hundreds[clarification needed] of years and major international festivals which bring in kite flyers from other countries to display their unique art kites and demonstrate the latest technical kites.

Kite flying is popular in many Asian countries, where it often takes the form of "kite fighting", in which participants try to snag each other's kites or cut other kites down.[47] Fighter kites are usually small, flattened diamond-shaped kites made of paper and bamboo. Tails are not used on fighter kites so that agility and maneuverability are not compromised.

In Pakistan, kite flying is often known as Gudi-Bazi or Patang-bazi. Although kite flying is a popular ritual for the celebration of spring festival known as Jashn-e-Baharaan (lit. Spring Festival) or Basant, kites are flown throughout the year. Kite fighting is a very popular pastime all around Pakistan, but mostly in urban centers across the country (especially Lahore). The kite fights are at their highest during the spring celebrations and the fighters enjoy competing with rivals to cut-loose the string of the others kite, popularly known as "Paecha". During the spring festival, kite flying competitions are held across the country and the skies are colored with kites. When a competitor succeeds in cutting another's kite loose, shouts of 'wo kata' ring through the air. Cut kites are reclaimed by chasing after them. This is a popular ritual, especially among the country's youth, and is depicted in the 2007 film The Kite Runner (although that story is based in neighboring Afghanistan). Kites and strings are a big business in the country and several different types of string are used, including glass-coated, metal, and tandi. Kite flying was banned in Punjab, India due to more than one motorcyclist death caused by glass-coated or metal kite strings.[48] Kup, Patang, Guda, and Nakhlaoo are some of the popular kite brands; they vary in balance, weight and speed. 041b061a72


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