Kite Flying Equipment

Beginning with items attached to the kite itself, the tail is an important option (see figures above). Tails generally increase the stability of kites, but at a price of increased weight and drag, which could make the kite fly at a lower angle. Under light, steady wind, the tail may not be needed, particularly for the rokkaku. However, a tail may be essential for strong, gusty, or turbulent wind conditions. When to use a tail is based on experience; test flying the kite without a camera rig is a good idea to judge the wind conditions and possible need for a tail.

Kite line is the next critical component. Having broken a 200-pound line early in his KAP career, JSA now typically uses 300-pound (135 kg) braided dacron line for most kites and 500-pound (225 kg) line for some larger kites. The line is wound on a simple hoop or reel, which is firmly anchored (Figs. 8-28 and 8-29). For the large rokkaku kites used by IM and JBR, where the kite line also serves as the rail track for pulling up the camera sledge (see below), even stronger and more rigid lines made from PE-coated Dyneema are used. Dyneema is a light, extremely strong polyethylene fiber with low elongation and twist and high breaking strength. Some kite flyers prefer Kevlar line, which is strong, thin, and light; however, we consider it rather

FIGURE 8-23 The Sutton flowform is a wind-inflated airfoil that flies well in moderate to strong winds. This side view shows the kite with two 4.5-m streamer tails, which greatly improve kite stability. Flowforms come in several sizes; this one has about 1.5 m2 of surface area and weighs about 0.3 kg (without tails). Photo by JSA.

FIGURE 8-23 The Sutton flowform is a wind-inflated airfoil that flies well in moderate to strong winds. This side view shows the kite with two 4.5-m streamer tails, which greatly improve kite stability. Flowforms come in several sizes; this one has about 1.5 m2 of surface area and weighs about 0.3 kg (without tails). Photo by JSA.

FIGURE 8-24 This SkyFoil measures 3 m wide by 2.6 m long giving it nearly 8 m2 surface area. It is a powerful lifter; in a moderate wind it can pull a person off the ground. It must be flown on a 500-pound (225 kg) line. Photo by JSA.
FIGURE 8-25 Giant delta has a wingspan of 5.8 m and a total surface area of 8.2 m2. It flies beautifully on 300-pound (135 kg) line in a gentle breeze and has excellent lifting power. Seen here with a 6-m-long tube tail; it folds into a 1.2-m-long case and weighs ~2.25 kg. Photo by JSA.
FIGURE 8-26 This Sun Oak Seminole delta-conyne is flying with two 4.5-m streamer tails. At 1.4 kg weight, it is sturdy and reliable, but heavy, which reduces its KAP lifting capacity. It folds into a 1.2-m-long case. Photo by JSA

dangerous because of its ability to cut through gloves, skin and clothing like a knife.

Whenever handling the kite line or reel, gloves are highly recommended to protect the hands. Some kite flyers use Kevlar gloves, but the authors have found leather to be most practical (Fig. 8-30). For securing kite line, as well as tether lines for blimps and balloons, several knots, bends, and hitches are particularly useful (Fig. 8-31; Pawson, 1998; Budworth, 1999; Jacobson, 1999).

• Sheet bend: An excellent knot for joining two lines of equal or unequal diameter. The knot has moderate strength (55%) and is highly resistant to slippage. It is recommended in preference to the square knot. Note both free ends should be on the same side of the knot.

• Fisherman's (English) knot: Each line is tied in an overhand knot around the other line, and then the two knots are pulled tight. The fisherman's knot is one of the strongest and most resistant to slippage of all bends for tying two lines together.

• Lark's head (cow hitch): A simple knot created by passing the line through a loop around the anchor. This knot is used to tie a ring into a line. The lark's head is easy to tie and untie, moderately strong, and resistant to slippage.

• Anchor (fisherman's) bend: Two half hitches in which the first half hitch is locked by an extra round turn. This is the authors' favorite means to attach kite-flying

FIGURE 8-27 Rokkaku kites for SFAP. (A) Large rokkaku used most often by JSA. Kite is 2.3 m tall by 1.8 m wide; shown here with a 6-m-long tube tail. This kite weighs <0.8 kg and folds to a compact 0.8 m length. Photo by JSA. (B) Still larger rokkaku of IM and JBR. This kite, designed for lifting an SLR camera with sledge-type rig (see Fig. 7-12) even in lighter winds, is 2.5 m tall by 2.0 m wide. Photo by IM.

FIGURE 8-27 Rokkaku kites for SFAP. (A) Large rokkaku used most often by JSA. Kite is 2.3 m tall by 1.8 m wide; shown here with a 6-m-long tube tail. This kite weighs <0.8 kg and folds to a compact 0.8 m length. Photo by JSA. (B) Still larger rokkaku of IM and JBR. This kite, designed for lifting an SLR camera with sledge-type rig (see Fig. 7-12) even in lighter winds, is 2.5 m tall by 2.0 m wide. Photo by IM.

FIGURE 8-29 Above: large Strato-spool reel for handling 300 m of 135kg dacron kite line. The blue strap locks the handle. Below: disassembled components of the reel. A, main shaft; B, reel with kite line; C, brake lever; D, axle and wrenches. Tape measure is extended ~ 30 inches (75 cm). Photos by JSA.

FIGURE 8-30 Gloves for kite aerial photography. These are so-called roper gloves that have an extra patch of leather across the palm of the hand. Photo by SWA.

FIGURE 8-29 Above: large Strato-spool reel for handling 300 m of 135kg dacron kite line. The blue strap locks the handle. Below: disassembled components of the reel. A, main shaft; B, reel with kite line; C, brake lever; D, axle and wrenches. Tape measure is extended ~ 30 inches (75 cm). Photos by JSA.

line to snaps and rings. Among the strongest knots, its breaking strength is 70-75% of rated line strength.

• Bowline: A moderately strong knot for making a loop that will not slip. Its breaking strength is about 60% of the line's rated strength.

FIGURE 8-30 Gloves for kite aerial photography. These are so-called roper gloves that have an extra patch of leather across the palm of the hand. Photo by SWA.

• Cleat tiedown: Proper cleat tiedown involves overlapping the line in a figure-eight pattern. Note the free end (lower right) is tucked under itself on the final wrap to lock the line.

How to attach the camera rig to the kite is a question with many solutions. Nearly all modern KAP is conducted with the camera rig secured to the kite line, some distance down the line from the kite itself (see Fig. 8-22). The purpose of this arrangement is to remove the camera from line vibrations and sudden movements of the kite. Two basic methods are the pendulum and Picavet suspensions (see Chapter 7.3.3).

Finally, a simple gadget made from nylon straps attached to a pulley with pivoting sides may prove extremely helpful for redirecting the kite line (see below) and helping in landing the kite at the end of a survey. Being busy with getting a camera-burdened kite to fly, one tends to forget that

FIGURE 8-31 Knots and hitches for kite aerial photography. A, sheet bend; B, Fisherman's (English) knot; C, Lark's head (cow hitch); D, anchor (fisherman's) bend; E, bowline; and F, cleat tiedown. Knots by JSA.

it might be even more difficult to get it down again, a task that may require several people in strong wind (Fig. 8-32).

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