New Kite, Old Park

I had been thinking about making a new kite for a little while. The Mini Dopero has a nice wind range, but it struggles to stay in the air (much less lift a rig) in light winds, and of course it has an upper limit too, of about 20 mph. So the question was whether to make a new kite for light winds or for strong winds. Well, my frustrations over the last month of trying to KAP at St. Mary’s College convinced me that the light wind end of the spectrum would be more worthwhile to take care of first. Thus, the Barn Door kite was born!

This is a big kite, standing over seven feet tall and over eight feet wide, with a sail area of 41 square feet (almost 4 square meters), nearly twice that of the Mini Dopero. It is also light, weighing in at 18 ounces, only 5 more than the Mini Dopero. That combination of big and light should allow it to lift a rig in a very light breeze. If you want to read more about the kite itself, including tips and links to get you started on building one, see this page.

I surprised myself with how fast I built the kite. I guess having one under your belt helps, because this one only took a few weeks of my spare time at night before going to bed. After a couple successful short test flights around the open area in my neighborhood, it was time to try it out in a KAP session. I headed back to Lancaster Park again, which is a good place for test flights, being the biggest park around. Also, since my last KAP session at this park resulted in promising views to the north, I wanted to try again but hopefully with more altitude this time.

When I reached the park, the wind was blowing a little stronger than I had hoped for a first KAP session with this kite. Branches were swaying, and the wind seemed firmly into the Mini Dopero’s territory, so it definitely wouldn’t be a light wind test. At the same time, it’s not like it was at the top of the Mini Dopero’s wind range, so it might be a good opportunity to probe the upper range of this new one. Worst case scenario, if the kite seemed to be pulling dangerously hard, I would just bring it back down right away and switch to the other one.

Since the wind was on the stronger side, I attached a drogue to the kite before launching. I flew it for several minutes on 100 to 200 feet of line, just to get a feel for how it would handle the wind. It definitely had some pull, and the long carbon fiber spars flexed quite a bit, but it didn’t seem to be overpowered by the wind. The flexing of the spars and billowing of the sail seemed to allow it to “shed” some of the force of the wind, whereas a completely rigid kite would have pulled too hard. It’s good to know that this light wind kite can hold its own in somewhat stronger winds too! One thing I did notice about it was that if it faced a stronger wind over a sustained period, the increased drag from the flexing and billowing would cause it to fly at a low line angle. One could imagine that if the wind were strong enough, it would pull the kite right down to the ground (or worse, get it stuck in a tree or the line caught on something). That is probably the main factor that determines this kite’s maximum wind speed.

With the kite now flying steadily, I brought it down to about 100 feet, attached the rig, and started the intervalometer script. It was a fun flight, and I did end up with some nice views of Lexington Park and the Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge to the north. That bridge really adds a unique element to aerial photos taken around this part of Southern Maryland. I will have to find a spot to fly closer to it one of these days for closer photos of the bridge and surrounding area.

A couple of the pictures I liked from the session are shown in the gallery above. In addition to being close to the upper end of this kite’s wind range, the wind direction was also changing periodically, and I found myself walking back and forth over the width of the soccer field to try to keep the kite away from the trees on one side and the parking lot on the other. In the second picture above, you can see me far below standing right at the edge of the field — the wind must have been coming more from the west at that point. The leaves on some of the trees were just starting to turn colors, too, adding some character. Maybe in another week or two they will be brighter.

While bringing the kite down, I took the opportunity to secure the winder to my big-ol’-bag-o’-rocks(TM) by wrapping it around the strap a few times and take some pictures of the kite from the ground. This was not an easy task, because the kite was directly in front of the sun most of the time! I managed to get a few decent ones, even one with the rig in view. As a bonus, the airborne camera took a picture of me at the same time, so I came away with the twin perspectives below!

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