DISCOVER

# How Does a Kite Work?

Updated February 21, 2017

Kites fly because of two things: the flow of air around and over the frame of the kite; and the kite's resistance to that wind, which is provided by the string that is held by the person flying the kite. When kites fly, they are changing the normal air flow. They are blocking it, forcing the air to go around the kite. The air changes direction and speed as it moves around the kite, sending the kite up into the air. When a kite first meets the air, it deflects the air downward, which creates an upward force and lifts the kite. The air passing over the top of the kite is actually going faster than the air going under it. This fast air is creating less pressure than the air underneath the kite, which forces the kite upward.

## The Basics

Kites fly because of two things: the flow of air around and over the frame of the kite; and the kite's resistance to that wind, which is provided by the string that is held by the person flying the kite. When kites fly, they are changing the normal air flow. They are blocking it, forcing the air to go around the kite. The air changes direction and speed as it moves around the kite, sending the kite up into the air. When a kite first meets the air, it deflects the air downward, which creates an upward force and lifts the kite. The air passing over the top of the kite is actually going faster than the air going under it. This fast air is creating less pressure than the air underneath the kite, which forces the kite upward.

## Balancing A Kite

Kites contain bridle lines, which are attached in two places: the bottom of the centre stick, and the front, or nose, of the kite. Kite lines are usually made out of kite string, which is stronger than yarn or basic string. The line the kite flyer holds is called the towline. This line should be attached to the bridle line at the exact point where the kite is balanced. Usually, this is in the middle of the bridle line. This is called the tow point, and it allows the kite to fly because it divides the airflow up evenly around the kite. Because the towline forces the kite to stay in one place, it has to go up, not forward.

## Flying Higher

The length of the towline directly affects how high the kite will fly, and how stable it will fly. The higher the kite, the more resistance, or drag, will be created. The longer the length of the towline, the higher the kite will fly. The shorter the length of the towline, the lower it will fly.

## The Tail's Job

Although tails are not necessary for kites to fly, the tail of a kite allows the kite to fly in a more stable manner. The tail creates drag, slowing down its sideways movements and showing more of the front of the kite to the wind. When the tail creates drag, it lifts the front of the kite, allowing more air to get under it and lift it up. Tails are also used for decoration.

## Why Kites Fall

To stay aloft, the air pressure flowing under and over the wings needs to be equal on both sides. If it becomes unequal, the kite will begin to wobble, and if it is not equalised quickly, the kite will fall. A kite-flyer can equalise the pressure by keeping the kite level into the wind most of the time.