Those flown by American children are often shaped like a geometric kite.
Kite flying is very popular in Japan, India, and many other countries. In those countries, Thailand, and some other countries 'kite fights' are held, in which many people gather and fly kites and try to snag each other's kites or cut the other kite down. Some kite "fighters" pass the string through a solution of ground glass powder and glue. The resulting strings are abrasive and able to sever the competitor's kites. Such practice is dangerous since the abrasive strings can catch on people.
Kite flying depends on lightweight, but strong twine. It also depends on the ability to produce paper or tightly woven cloth. Kites typically consist a one or more spars (sticks), that hold a sail of fabric taut.
Classic kites use bamboo, rattan or other strong but flexible wood for the spars, and paper or light fabrics such as silk for the sails. Modern kites are made with synthetic materials: nylon or more exotic fabrics for the sails, and fiberglass or carbon fiber spars.
Kites are designed with different shapes, forms and sizes, from historic flat geometric designs, through box kits and other aerodynamic forms, to modern sparless inflatable designs.:
|These kites shaped like giant squids
are more than 40 feet long.
|These kites are about 50 feet long each.
The rainbow color wind sock near the bottom
of the picture spins like a turbine.
Modern acrobatic kites use more than one line to allow fine control in the kite's angle to the wind. In recent years, multi-line kite flying has developed into a sport, with competitions for precision flying and artistic interpretation of music.
Kites have been used militarily in the past, both for observation by lifting an observer above the field of battle, and for delivery of munitions. They have also been used for scientific purposes, for example Benjamin Franklin's famous electrical experiment. Kites are the precursors to aircraft, and were instrumental in the development of early flying craft.
Kite festivals are held where kites from around the world are displayed in the sky. The above picture was a Chinese dragon kite over a hundred feet long which flew in the annual Berkeley, CA kite fest in 2000.