Box kite

Last updated
Diagram of a box kite Boxkite.svg
Diagram of a box kite
Hargrave (left) and Swain demonstrate the Hargrave box kite, November 1894. The skin is drum-tight, a consequence of the unique tensioning system devised by Hargrave. A collapsed kite, rolled up for transport, lies on the ground. Hargrave-demo.jpg
Hargrave (left) and Swain demonstrate the Hargrave box kite, November 1894. The skin is drum-tight, a consequence of the unique tensioning system devised by Hargrave. A collapsed kite, rolled up for transport, lies on the ground.

A box kite is a high performance kite, noted for developing relatively high lift; it is a type within the family of cellular kites. The typical design has four parallel struts. The box is made rigid with diagonal crossed struts. There are two sails, or ribbons, whose width is about a quarter of the length of the box. The ribbons wrap around the ends of the box, leaving the ends and middle of the kite open. In flight, one strut is the bottom, and the bridle is tied between the top and bottom of this strut. The dihedrals of the sails help stability.


The box kite was invented in 1893 by Lawrence Hargrave, [1] an English-born Australian, as part of his attempt to develop a manned flying machine. Hargrave linked several of his box kites (Hargrave cells) together, creating sufficient lift for him to fly some 16 ft (4.9 m) off the ground. [2] A winged development of this kite is known as the Cody kite following its development by Samuel Franklin Cody. Military uses also involved a kite/radio transmitter combination issued to pilots during World War II for use in liferafts. [3]

Large box kites are constructed as cellular kites. Rather than one box, there are many, each with its own set of sails.

Most of the altitude records for kite flying are held by large box kites, with Dacron sails, flown with Spectra cable. However in 2014 Robert Moore and a team of kite experts flew a 12 sq metre DT delta to 16,009 ft above their launch point. The location of the flights was near Cobar in Western NSW, Australia. While this was primarily a triangular winged delta kite, it has a triangular box centre cell for additional stability. [4] [5] . Future attempts on either the single kite record or multiple kite record (trained), may use Hargrave box kites or a variant. Before Dacron, Spectra, and Kevlar were available, high performance box kites used oiled silk, linen or hemp sails, and were flown with steel cable. Silk, linen and hemp were used because they could be spun finer than cotton and stretched relatively little when wet. Steel had the highest available strength for its weight. After Hargrave invented the box kite, weather stations from around the world saw the potential for his design. Blue hill observatory and the German weather station at Lindenberg [6] [7] used kites routinely until weather balloons took over in the 1920s and 1930s.

See also

Related Research Articles

Kite tethered aircraft

A kite is a tethered heavier-than-air craft with wing surfaces that react against the air to create lift and drag. 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. 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. One technical definition is that a kite is “a collection of tether-coupled wing sets“. The name derives from its resemblance to a hovering bird.

Fixed-wing aircraft Heavier-than-air aircraft with fixed wings generating aerodynamic lift in the airflow caused by forward airspeed

A fixed-wing aircraft is a flying machine, such as an airplane or aeroplane, which is capable of flight using wings that generate lift caused by the aircraft's forward airspeed and the shape of the wings. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft, and ornithopters. The wings of a fixed-wing aircraft are not necessarily rigid; kites, hang gliders, variable-sweep wing aircraft and airplanes that use wing morphing are all examples of fixed-wing aircraft.

Kite aerial photography

Kite aerial photography (KAP) is a hobby and a type of photography. A camera is lifted using a kite and is triggered either remotely or automatically to take aerial photographs. The camera rigs can range from the extremely simple, consisting of a trigger mechanism with a disposable camera, to complex apparatus using radio control and digital cameras. On some occasions it can be a good alternative to other forms of aerial photography.

Lawrence Hargrave Australian engineer

Lawrence Hargrave, MRAeS, was an Australian engineer, explorer, astronomer, inventor and aeronautical pioneer.

Rogallo wing

The Rogallo wing is a flexible type of wing. In 1948, Francis Rogallo, a NASA engineer, and his wife Gertrude Rogallo, invented a self-inflating flexible wing they called the Parawing, also known after them as the "Rogallo Wing" and flexible wing. NASA considered Rogallo's flexible wing as an alternative recovery system for the Mercury and Gemini space capsules, and for possible use in other spacecraft landings, but the idea was dropped from Gemini in 1964 in favor of conventional parachutes.

Kite types, kite mooring, and kite applications result in a wide variety of kite control systems. Contemporary manufacturers, kite athletes, kite pilots, scientists, and engineers are expanding the possibilities.

Sail components Features that define a (ship) sails shape and function

Sail components include the features that define a sail's shape and function, plus its constituent parts from which it is manufactured. A sail may be classified in a variety of ways, including by its orientation to the vessel and its shape,. Sails are typically constructed out of flexible material that is shaped by various means, while in use, to offer an appropriate airfoil, according to the strength and apparent direction of the wind. A variety of features and fittings allow the sail to be attached to lines and spars.

Airborne wind turbine

An airborne wind turbine is a design concept for a wind turbine with a rotor supported in the air without a tower, thus benefiting from more mechanical and aerodynamic options, the higher velocity and persistence of wind at high altitudes, while avoiding the expense of tower construction, or the need for slip rings or yaw mechanism. An electrical generator may be on the ground or airborne. Challenges include safely suspending and maintaining turbines hundreds of meters off the ground in high winds and storms, transferring the harvested and/or generated power back to earth, and interference with aviation.

Sailcloth strong fabric of the type used to make ships sails

Sailcloth encompasses a wide variety of materials that span those from natural fibers, such as flax, hemp or cotton in various forms of sail canvas, to synthetic fibers, including nylon, polyester, aramids, and carbon fibers in a variety of woven, spun and molded textiles.

History of hang gliding

Hang gliding is an air sport employing a foot-launchable aircraft known as a hang glider. Typically, a modern hang glider is constructed of an aluminium alloy or composite-framed fabric wing. The pilot is ensconced in a harness suspended from the airframe, and exercises control by shifting body weight in opposition to a control frame.

Peter Lynn New Zealand kite maker

Peter Lynn is a New Zealand kitemaker, engineer and inventor. He is notable for his construction of the world's largest kites, giant inflatable (sparless) display kites, the popularisation of kite buggying and contributions to the development of power kiting and kitesurfing. He spends much of the year travelling worldwide and displaying his kites at International Kite Festivals.

Airborne wind energy (AWE) is the generation of wind energy by the use of aerodynamic or aerostatic lift devices. This technology is able to harvest high altitude winds. In contrast to wind turbines, which use a tower to hold a rotor at a given height above the surface.

Orbiting Solar Observatory series of American solar space observatories

The Orbiting Solar Observatory Program was the name of a series of American space telescopes primarily intended to study the Sun, though they also included important non-solar experiments. Eight were launched successfully into Low Earth orbit by NASA between 1962 and 1975 using Delta rockets. Their primary mission was to observe an 11-year sun spot cycle in UV and X-ray spectra. The initial seven were built by Ball Aerospace, then known as Ball Brothers Research Corporation (BBRC), in Boulder Colorado. OSO 8 was built by Hughes Space and Communications Company, in Culver City, California.

Ballooning (spider) behaviour in which spiders and some other invertebrates use air-borne dispersal to move between locations

Ballooning, sometimes called kiting, is a process by which spiders, and some other small invertebrates, move through the air by releasing one or more gossamer threads to catch the wind, causing them to become airborne at the mercy of air currents and potentially electric currents. This is primarily used by spiderlings to disperse; however, larger individuals have been observed doing so as well. The spider climbs to a high point and takes a stance with its abdomen to the sky, releasing fine silk threads from its spinneret until it becomes aloft. Journeys achieved vary from a few metres to hundreds of kilometres. Even atmospheric samples collected from balloons at five kilometres altitude and ships mid-ocean have reported spider landings. Mortality is high.

Man-lifting kite type of kite

A man-lifting kite is a kite designed to lift a person from the ground. Historically, man-lifting kites have been used chiefly for reconnaissance and entertainment. Interest in their development declined with the advent of powered flight at the beginning of the 20th century.

In kiting, a line is the string made of cotton, nylon, silk or wire, which connects the kite to the person operating it or an anchor. Kites have a set of wings, a set of anchors, and a set of lines coupling the wings with the anchors. Kite lines perform various roles: bridle, control, tug, or special duty.

Kite applications

The kite can be used for many applications. Air kites, water kites, bi-media kites, fluid kites, gas kites, kytoons, paravanes, soil kites, solid kites, and plasma kites have niche applications that are furthering the interests of humans in both peace and conflict. Non-human-made kites have applications; some spiders make use of kiting.

Kite types liquid force spectrum 2

Kites are tethered flying objects which fly by using aerodynamic lift, requiring wind for generation of airflow over the lifting surfaces.

Wing configuration Describes the general shape and layout of an aircraft wing

The wing configuration of a fixed-wing aircraft is its arrangement of lifting and related surfaces.

William Abner Eddy American accountant and journalist

William Abner Eddy was an American accountant and journalist famous for his photographic and meteorological experiments with kites. The scientific significance of Eddy's improvements to kite-flying was short-lived, due to the advent of Lawrence Hargrave's rectangular box kites. Nevertheless, in the year following Eddy's death, a train of ten Eddy kites reaching an altitude of 23,385 feet (7,128 m) set a height record for several years.


  1. "The Powerhouse Museum".
  2. W. Hudson Shaw; O. Ruhen (1977). Lawrence Hargrave: Explorer, Inventor and Aviation Experimenter. Cassell Australia. OCLC   4466434.
  3. Meulstee, Louis; Bloom, G & J (October 2002), "The Gibson Girl transmitter and kite" (PDF), The Kiteflier, The Kite Society of Great Britain (93), pp. 19–23
  4. "Highest altitude by a single kite". Guinness World Records.
  5. "Records".
  6. "History".
  7. "Kites, Blue Hill (MA) Observatory; Equipment, Meteorograph. [photograph]". National Air and Space Museum. 12 May 2016.