KINDS OF KITES
WHAT KIND OF KITE IS THAT?
The variety of shapes and sizes for kites is nearly endless, from giant flying creatures to miniature wonders, high-speed stunt kite formation flying to elegant and windless indoor flying; there is a style of kite out there for anyone.
Here are some very broad, commonly recognized types of kites:
Single-line kites offer amazing canvases for works of art, stable or dynamic, a single tethered string holding these kites aloft – perfect for paint the sky displays, competitive kite fighting, relaxing, or many other kinds of enjoyment.
Multi-line sport kites are highly controllable in flight, flipping, stalling and racing through the sky, sometimes in team formations or ballet performances to music.
Indoor kites cover the whole spectrum, including single line, dual and quad line, designed to be light enough for zero-wind flying indoors with nominal effort and a high degree of control. The zero-wind indoor kite category also includes miniature kites.
Multi-line power kites are highly controllable. They are designed to generate and direct enormous amounts of power for activities like kite buggying, landboarding, and kite surfing.
Single Line Kites
Specific Kite Families
There are hundreds of kinds of kites; their appearances are different, and they fly differently. Many authors have created their own lists of “kite families” to distinguish different groups of kites. Still, different kite types often overlap, making it hard to construct an exclusive classification scheme. But here’s some useful information about kite families.
Two fundamental questions can help distinguish kite types:
1. What does the kite look like?
2. What is its purpose?
WHAT DOES the kite LOOK LIKE?
Kites have Different Designs or Appearances.
Since kites are objects that fly with lines that control their flight, a good FIRST QUESTION to start with about a kite’s design is how many lines control the kite’s flight? This gives us a distinction between kites controlled by one line and kites controlled by multiple lines. Which gives us two categories:
- Single-line kites
- Multi-line kites
SECOND KITE DESIGN QUESTION: How many kites are being flown at the same time? One kiteflier will be controlling either
- a single kite or
- multiple kites (typically referred to as kite trains, trains, stacks, centipedes, or arch trains and ribbons).
THIRD KITE DESIGN QUESTION: How many surfaces does the kite have, and how is it structured? Shapes are either a single simple surface or multiple surfaces. Multi-surface kites are always three-dimensional and may resemble creatures or cellular structures. Single surface kites can be flat or have a 3-dimensional aspect if they are bowed. A key structural distinction is having or not having spars to give the kite its structure.
WHAT IS THE KITE’S PURPOSE?
Kites have many possible purposes. They can be used for artistic displays or performances, aerial photography, lifting and propulsion, military observation, leisure and family fun, competition, education, science, fishing, and other purposes. Some kites are designed to be flown in no wind at all. Some of these purposes require kites with very specific capabilities.
KITE TYPES IN DETAIL
Considering a kite’s design and its purpose, here are the major categories of kites:
Individual Single-Line Kites by Shape
For single-line kites, these considerations give us the following categories of kites:
- Flat kites — are flat when laid on the ground when ready for flight
- Bowed kites — are bowed by use of a fixed or variable dihedral or bowed spar, so they are not flat when laid on the ground; the lifting surface is a single plane
- Cellular or dimensional kites — have spars that provide a rigid 3-dimensional structure
- Flexible kites — have spars in only one plane and are flat when laid on the ground
- Soft kites — have no spars but use the force of the wind to form their structure, and
- Compound kites are those that have some attributes of several of the other kinds of kites.
Individual Single-Line Kites by Purpose
- Fighting Kites — Kitefliers in numerous cultures compete to have their kite be the last one in the sky by “cutting” or “grounding” opposing kites.
- Fighter Kites — Highly maneuverable small kites often made of inexpensive materials
- Rokkakus — Larger Japanese 6-sided fighting kites flown by individuals or teams
- Figure Kites — Kites shaped to represent persons, animals, or other objects.
MULTIPLE Single-Line Kites
- Kite Trains — Multiple kites of any shape or structure that are connected by lines to each other.
- Arch Trains — Multiple kites linked end to end with a common line and tethered or held in place at both ends of the line.
multi-Line Kites by Purpose
- Sport Kites — Kites that use more than one line to launch and control the flight patterns of the kite or kites.
- Dual Line — Two-line sport kites
- Quad Line — Four-line sport kites
- Power Kites — Kites that are designed to generate enormous amounts of pull. They should be handled with extreme caution.
- Power Foils — Parafoil designs that have been adapted with dual- or quad- line controls, power and performance enhancements, as well as a number of safety features.
- Framed Power Kites — These kites are specially designed power kites with spars and can sometimes provide power in lighter wind ranges when other power kites cannot.
- C & Bow Kites — C-kites are typically made with inflatable plastic bladders that span the front edge of the kite and fill perpendicular cells. Bow kites were developed with features that allow the kite’s angle of attack to be more easily altered and thus adjust the amount of power being generated.
indoor and zero-wind kites
- Indoor / Zero-Wind Kites — These kites are meant to be flown in a windless environment, either indoors but also outdoors, when the light wind would render traditional kite flying impossible.
- Indoor performance kites — These kites, either single- or multi-line, are extremely light-weight designs that are flown by using the relative wind provided by the motion of the kite flier, pulling the sail against still air in a room or outdoors.
- Miniature kites — Miniature kites are extremely small and light.
& Other Kite-Related Delights
There are lots of other items that make kiteflying possible and so enjoyable.
- Flying lines: the great necessity for kite flight
- Reels and other flying line holders: lots of opportunities for variety and functionality here
- Tie-downs / anchors for flying lines: devices to hold the flying line if you don’t hold it
- Kite luggage: bags and carriers to take your kites to the field
- “Line laundry”: flags, banner, figures, or other items attached to a kite’s flying line
- Line climbers: items designed to travel up the kite line and back down again
- Items to drop from a kite in the air: candy, parachuting teddy bears, other items
- Banners to decorate the kite field
- Bols: round spinning parachute-like constructions to be used for decoration or races
- Tents to shelter the kitefliers from the sun and wind (even rain!)
- Art installations and displays to further enhance the kite festival experience.