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A kite is an unmanned structure, grounded by a string and held aloft through its interaction with the air.

Use in scientific research dates to experiments by Alexander Wilson in 1749; Benjamin Franklin's electricity experiment occurred in 1752.[1]

Early researchers were circumspect in their activities due to the public perception of kites. Pocock, 1827, Aeropleustic Art, p. 9:

So invariable has been its general association with puerility, that a general impression has been made of its uselessness; its practical and scientific character, it is hoped, will now redeem this mechanical agent from this unworthy stigma.

Alexander Graham Bell was a serial kite patenter. See Patent US-1904-757012, Patent US-1904-770626, and Patent US-1907-856838.

Baden-Powell, 1897, New Suggestions for Aerial Exploration recommends using kite power for transit on an "aerial highway" such as the one headed to the North Pole. (Getting back from the Pole is a separate issue.)

Abbott Lawrence Rotch popularized the use of kites for meteorological observations, and developed the technique of launching kites in calm weather from a moving boat.[2] Kits could be added in series to the same wire to achieve greater and greater height (and force).[3]

Power of kites:

The power of a kite twelve feet high, with a wind blowing at the rate of twenty miles an hour, is as much as a man of average strength can stand against. With a stronger gale, such a kite has been known to break a line capable of sustaining 200 lbs. The surface spread by this sail is forty-nine square feet, and it should be noticed that these serve as standing ratios, from which, by the rule of proportion, the power of larger kites can be calculated. We must not, however, suppose that a kite of thirty-six feet in length has only three times the power of a kite twelve feet in length; for, in fact, it has three times the power in length, and three times the power in breadth, which will make the multiple nine; so that it would lift or draw nine times as much as a kite of twelve feet. Two kites, one fifteen feet in length, the other twelve, have power sufficient to draw a carriage with four or five persons when the wind is brisk.[4]

Expense of kites:

There is a general impression that ascents with kites are much cheaper than those with balloons, but this is not the case. Anyone who has done practical work with kites will know that they are cheaper in the first instance, but the cost of maintenance is greater. A kite is often smashed to pieces by the wind, and the instruments are either destroyed or rendered more or less useless. Even if great care is taken, the wire holding the kite may be broken, and several miles are either lost or unfit for further use. Consequently the cost of maintenance is so great that kites are not less expensive for this form of work than balloons.[5]


  1. Gibbs-Smith, Aviation, 1970, p. 14–16. "The kite first came into its own as a vehicle for scientific research—a role it was thereafter to fulfull for more than a hundred and fifty years—in the year 1749 when the professor of astronomy at Glasgow University, Alexander Wilson, measured the temperature of clouds at about 3,000 feet by means of a thermometer attached to a train of four or five paper kites: Wilson also seems to have antedated both Franklin and Jacques de Romas in the utilisation of kites for the study of atmospheric electricity. It was in 1752 that Benjamin Franklin made his celebrated experiment with a kite in a thunderstorm, in which he was nearly killed by the current."
  2. Hugo Hergesell, "Report on the Proceedings of the International Committee for Scientific Aeronautics", Report of the International Meteorological Committee: Southport, 1903; Published by Authority of the Meteorological Council; London: printed for His Majesty's Stationary Office by Darling & Son, Ltd., 34–40, Bacon Street, E; 1904; pp. 26–34; p. 29.
  3. Shaw, 1926, Manual of Meteorology, p. 229.
  4. Pocock, 1827, Aeropleustic Art, pp. 11–12.
  5. Hildebrandt, 1908, Airships Past and Present, pp. 259–260.


Enclosing categories Aircraft
Subcategories Chinese kite
Keywords Airfoil, Fun, Meteorology, Frame
Start year
End year

This wiki has 187 patents in category "Kite". Other techtypes related to Kite: CH 129e, CPC A63H27/08, CPC A63H27/087, CPC B64C31/06, CPC G09F21/10, DE 77h, GB 4 aëroplanes, IPC B64C31/00, IPC B64C31/06, Kite (for human transport), USPC 244, USPC 244/154, USPC 244/155R, USPC D21/445

Patents in category Kite