Kite Science

In the United States, perhaps the one universal “kite fact” is that Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in 1752 to prove that lightning was “electrical matter.” Speculation that the experiment never happened is immaterial, Franklin and his experiment are commemorated on coins, postage stamps, beer mugs, lithographs, and paintings.

From the mid-1890s kites began an important role in early meteorology. Dines, DeBort, Assmann, and Rotch all played roles in using kites for atmospheric research. The US Weather Bureau had 17 kite stations in the early 1900s and weather data from kite ascents was shared worldwide.

Kites have been used recently for environmental air sampling, bat research, and environmental aerial photography. There is a recent move to harness the power- generation potential of high-flying kites, in which kites flown as high as the jet stream could generate power onboard and transmit it to ground stations, or kite systems’ tethers would generate power on the ground.

The World’s Largest Kite – The world’s largest kite was commissioned by the Al Farsi Family of Kuwait and was designed by Peter Lynn. The kite had a lifting area of 1,250 meters square (4,101 square feet) and when laid flat had a wingspan of 65 meters. The kite was flown at the Kite Festival Berck sur Mer in 2011 and is so finely balanced, that even when the kite is pulling with over a ton of weight, just one person on the nose line can bring it down.