What are the safest kites to use?

edited September 2012 in KAP Gear Sources
One thing I'm interested when starting out in Kite Aerial Photography is that the kite won't crash and I'd lose hundreds of dollars worth of camera and rig equipment. I've read of stories of kites crashing before. What are the safest and most reliable kites to use in KAP, especially when starting out?


  • In my experience it is all horses for courses. I would say it is based upon the wind conditions and the environment you are flying in i.e. beach, field or urban environments. I generally use flow form or sled type of kites. These require a good steady draft of wind to keep them nailed to the sky and we have plenty of that in Scotland. The flow form is spar-less and therefore is akin to flying a stable shopping bag. This reduces the possibility of injury or damage to anyone or anything if the kite takes a sudden nose dive, but does not reduce the possibility of the rig causing/getting damaged. The basic sled type of kites have simple ridged spars to give it a little more lift in lower wind conditions and again performs pretty much as a flow form does, except it will fly at a higher angle in lower wind conditions. If we move onto sparred kites, then there is a distinct possibility of the kite shearing out of the sky under a sudden gust of strong wind and heading violently towards the ground. The skill of the pilot can pull most kites out of a dive, well more kite line anyway. I have had numerous crashed over the years, with most of the crashes due to too higher wind conditions for the chosen kite. I would buy both a sparred and spar-less type of kite and learn to fly them well before attaching an expensive rig. Above all, have fun.
  • I would agree with Jym, practice flying first with a water bottle on the line. I started with a Giant Delta conyne which lifted a home made rig and a Fuji Bridge camera. This camera barely survived a drop on one of my earliest flights. Inexperiance and impatience where the main cause! However, I've not dropped a rig since but have had to recover a few dives from one or two of my kites, the trick is not to take your eye off the kite, but also keep a keen eye on your suroundings. Don't hang anything off the line for at least 10 minutes after putting the kite up, because if the winds are iffy they will show up in those first 10 minutes.
  • It's almost as if you are asked which woman is the safest. };)
  • What others said.

    Generally, see what kites people use. Kites typically used for KAP are among the most stable and thus are generally OK. Of course some are better at one things while other at others. Some short characteristics of some kites I know / seen:

    1. Rokaku -- flies reliably in weak and moderate winds and in case of lulls behave like a falling leave which allows for relatively soft landing for a rig (if only there is a sensible landing place -- i.e. not a body of water, tall tree, roof, etc). In strong winds (it depends on particular model, it's setup, stiffness, etc) kite could get overpowered and do power circling - power dive. Sensitive for missetup (if you don't bow it properly it could get unstable -- smaller variants of Rokakus are used for kite fights where unpredictable behaviour is a bonus). But even sloppily built kites will fly properly if setup correctly (apropriate bowing byt significant amount, more bow in a lower spreader).
    2. Rhombus (aka rhomboid) box -- flies reliably in moderate and strong winds, in case of lulls falls very gently and stably, tolerates gusts, twisting winds, etc. Great for difficult conditions (for example mountain KAP). Sensitive for poor build precision (i.e. must be symmetric with all longerons parallel). Misbuild kite will tend to power circle and power dive in stronger winds.
    3. Good quality sparless (wind inflated) kites like PowerSled, FlowForm, etc. -- are stable in moderate and depending on variant even strong winds. In case of significant turbulence or serious lulls could deflate and then fall out of the sky.
    4. Deltas, Delta Conynes and so -- if build properly fly reliably and often have wide wind range and some have extreme wind capabilities (like Nighthawk fishing kite which could fly in gale force winds). Build quality is important. Often main spreader breaks if kite is overpowered.
    5. Dopero -- typically good for light and extremely light wind, but BlueKiteTeam made a (smaller) variant for moderate to strong winds. Those available in shops will simply pull too strongly and might even break in case of too strong winds. But will stay aloft when allmost all other kites are grounded due to lack of wind.

    Some general advices for flying:
    1. Kite must fly stably -- oscillations, wobbling, circling and stuff are a big no no.
    2. When you launch a kite watch if it flies straight (i.e. does not tend to lean to one side). Leaning means something is asymmetric or twisted -- and upper wind range is compromised (often seriously!).
    3. If winds seems close to upper end of wind range of your kite try to pull it in strongly for a few seconds (to temporarily increase wind speed "felt" by the kite) and see if some bad behavior would emerge.
    4. Unless your kite is sparless and likes to deflate, too strong wind is much worse than too weak.
    5. If kite gets momentarily overpowered don't pull but let more line out quicly. Then, if you can, anchor it (or give ground end of line to somebody else) and walk line down (that way you won't significantly increase wind speed acting on the kite)

    PS. Expect that crash will happen one day.

  • Thanks for the info and advice. I am using a Didakites Explorer and should get any day right now a Rokkaku that I ordered. About the Rokkaku, I read that it has something adjustable, and that adjustable thing is what can affect its stability. Anyone care to elaborate.

    Also, could lulls be often so sudden? In my experience with the Didakites explorer the few times I've flown it, just simply pulling rapidly can keep it from falling if it starts falling.
  • I'm thinking its easier to pick the right kite than the right woman @bluekiteteam but i expect we all have the kite we would like to fly all
    the time if conditions allowed. I would only tie a kite down if i was bringing it down, mother nature seems to treat a tied kite as unattended and open for some fun in a very short time, having a stretchy cord at your anchor can give you a little time but never take your eyes off it. We forget how good our grip controls the kites behavior. i'm picking the Rokkaku as the easiest to control and as mentioned above can fall like a leaf at times, giving you time to run with out up the line and save your rig.
  • Speaking on this topic, is it a bad idea to fly a kite so far across a river (like enough kite line to have the camera in the air about 200 ft) if your not very experienced?
  • edited September 2012
    Very poor and weak winds are treacherous, it's easy to break down rig. You need to check the weather forecast and know little about the thermals. After one year you will learn everything. };)


    >25mph delta Kiwi
  • edited September 2012
    Wrt. Rokaku...
    This kite has one spine and two spreaders (upper aka front and lower aka rear). To make it stable you have to bow both spreaders, and rear spreater have to be bowed about 20-25% more. For example 6.5' (198cm) Rokaku needs about 8" (20cm) bow in front spreader and about 10" (25cm) in rear one.

    Wrt. Lulls...
    They could be sudden sometimes (once had an experience when nice and steady 7knot (3bft) wind turned to null as if someone turned a switch - I flew rhombus box so it was a non issue, except that days KAPing was definitely over). Right reel (one designed for fast action) or quick hand over hand pulling or even running can help with lulls. Lower wind kites are easier to handle in lulls as they need lesser apparent wind so slower line action could keep them aloft.

    But in my experience graceful degradation in lulls is an important & desirable feature of a kite low wind or not. Rokakus are good. Doperos are supposed to be excelent. Rhombus box is excelent as well (its a higher wind kite).

  • The safest kite is the one you've flown the most and have the most experience with. It's also the kite you're most willing to walk away from when conditions are wrong.

    This boils down to flying every kite you have as often as you can in as many wind conditions as you can pull off. Every kite has a wind range. When the wind is inside that range, the kite will fly. Crashes happen when conditions are such that the kite you have in the air is no longer in its wind range. At that point it's coming down.

    Kites that have a wide wind range are more forgiving than kites with a narrow wind range. Hanging weight on the line tends to compress a kite's wind range at the low end, and may cause new behavior at the high end. While learning your kites, it's important to fly with a dummy load so you can see how that affects the wind range.

    I've had only a small number of crashes, but I can describe each one in terms of what I wrote above:

    My first KAP kite had a narrow wind range. It needed a lot of wind to launch, but quickly over-powered if the wind continued to rise. I crashed my first rig with this kite because I tried to launch in wind with gusts. On the advice of the people on this forum I retired that kite and bought two Flow Forms, which have much wider wind ranges.

    I almost had my second crash when the Flow Form over-powered. Flow Forms do a couple of different things when they over-power: They can rip your arms off, they can pop their bridle lines, or they can invert and fly straight at the ground. Most kites that exhibit that diving behavior can be recovered by letting out line. This de-powers the kite, slowing the apparent wind acting on the kite. It also puts the kite further away from you, so you have even more line to take in before you can land it.

    I almost had my third when my rokkaku broke its lower spreader. It continued to fly, but was considerably de-tuned. Again, this happened because I put it up in too much wind. I should have used the Flow Form. If the upper spreader had snapped, I have no doubt the kite would have plowed a new hole in the ground.

    My most recent crash was because I was flying in the wind shadow of a mountain. The wind was inherently turbulent and gusty. During a lull I almost lost my rig. Then the kite over-powered in the next gust and flew straight into the ground. The rig followed the kite into the ground.

    In EVERY SINGLE CASE I either did not have enough experience on the kite, or I failied to recognize crummy flying conditions and failed to walk away. Hurting others or yourself, or losing your gear is not worth the shot. The safest kite is the one you're not willing to risk until you're certain it'll stay where you put it in the sky.

  • Simple delta kite with no tails and a big safety box.

  • I had to google this to find your own definition :o)
    I selected a launch area with a good safety box (a safe area where the kite could come down if trouble showed up during flight).
  • One thing no one has mentioned about the rokakku (and some other kites) is the adjustable tow point. Adjusting this correctly for the wind conditions will allow the kite to lift a load, float on thermals, or stay nailed to the ground :( . Fly the kite from the hand, holding the pigtail at the tow point. Adjust using small increments (say a quarter inch). If the kite flies at too high an angle, move the tow point back towards the rear of the kite until it just manages to lift, then move it forwards a quarter inch to get flying at a good angle.
  • edited September 2012
    The only one resistant to mistakes in flying, and changing weather conditions, it is dopero. This kite a lot of forgiving, you can learn many without the risk of an accident. It is not popular, for difficult assembling.

  • I feel that the Delta Conyne does not get enough recognition in the KAP community. I have used the Rocky Mountain DC for most of my KAP and find it to be very stable and great for lifting. Easy to set up and simply moving the tow point and adding tails makes it very tunable to the wind conditions. I have purchased ITW Dan Leigh Trooper Delta to broaden my choice of lifting tools but it does not preform as well as the DC in side by side test. The ITW Triton is my favorite in light winds. It looks great in the air and is just fun to fly. A long fuzzy tail helps “over flying” in nearly all conditions.

    But “knowing when to walk away” is the most profound advice we should all consider and the “safety box” should always be monitored once in the air.
  • The trooper has a higher top wind range than a DC. The trooper is best flown with a good length of fuzzy tail. It's advantage is its light pull in very heavy winds which would overpower the DC.
    I love DC's too but I wouldn't compare them in a side by side test with a Trooper as there is little overlap of effective wind range. I'd be getting out the Trooper when I was putting the DC away.
  • I agree with BlueKite Team about the dopero being a stable platform which flies at a high angle. The one in the above photo looks like the 2m dopero drone. It doesn't take me long to assemble the kite as I always leave the vertical spars in place (it's less than 1.5 m high) and just remove the horizontal spars. I use 5.5mm horizontal spars and find that they bend and spill wind if the kite gets a gust. I also test the angle of the kite before launching like Pitprops does, then send it up a short way to see if it flies properly. If it's a bit twitchy I bring it down and bend the spars a bit more (More at the bottom than the top) It flies in winds up to 20mph but not for very light winds. It needs its big 3m brother for that (I'm thinking of making one as I've had a few no no days recently.)
  • There's something worth mentioning that Brooks brought up in the past when we were discussing the bridle on the Fled: I agree that the Dopero and the Rokkaku make for very stable KAP platforms. But their bridles are non-trivial. Get the bridle out of whack on either kite, and they're anything BUT stable. Fairly minor tweaks in a Rokkaku bridle can render the kite unable to fly.

    Kites with simple bridles (Fled comes to mind, as does the Flow Form) are safer to fly for someone who's new to kiting. Safer still are kites that don't have bridles at all (various deltas come to mind.) Each has their quirks, of course. Every kite does. But there's not much you can do to a delta that would make it look ok but no longer fly.

    In the spirit of the question being asked, it looks like cityaerials is looking for a good first-time KAP kite that won't bite the hand that flies it. Much as I love Rokkakus, I can't suggest them for that purpose. That goes for the Dopero as well. They make a great second or third KAP kite. But as a first KAP kite they can be discouraging.

  • I would like to add that it is important to understand the wind - what makes it unstable, such as upwind obstacles, landscape, thermic conditions etc. I usually fly a Fled in low wind and deltas in higher winds. These have the advantage over soft kites that they act as gliders in a lull and the rig is not in danger unless it comes down in water or other inhospitable surface faster than you can reel in the line.

  • SueSue
    edited October 2012
    Yes Tom, I agree about using a simpler kite to start with. As I have said in other discussions, I started with a Power Sled 24 and added a Power Sled 14 later for higher winds. They just open up when you take them out of the drogue/bag and launch easily single handed. I still use them sometimes for ease of use and also for walking to KAP site or carrying on my (electric powered) bike.
    Here's me in France with kite in one pannier, reel & Pendulum rig in the other, KAP cameras + downlink & viewer on the top, packing up and drinks in the front bag - good to go..... just add wind......but the wind was too light to KAP.

    The Power Sled 24 which I carried around that day
    The smaller Power Sled 14 (1m high)

    P.S. in 6 years of KAPing, the sleds have only collapsed twice. The first with a rig on at Flamborough Head lighthouse (UK) when, I think, I took the kite into it's wind shadow and when I looked up from securing a carabiner to a post 'in case', it was floating gently down half folded, missing a barbed wire fence and gently depositing the rig between two very prickly bushes. The other time it was the smaller one in gusty conditions before I attached the rig so I 'walked away'

    Fly High

  • I agree with Sue about the usefulness of the Powersleds, which seem to be greatly under-rated. They are so light and easy to transport, can be launched almost instantly, and fly quite stably in most conditions. The 14, with only two inflated cells, is probably not as stable as the bigger ones with three cells, but still useful. These kites are practically indestructible, and having one in the back of the car as a stand-by is a great idea.

  • Although the OP has now had a number of opinions, all of which reflect the members own preferences, what has not been mentioned yet is the role of the kite flyer. No kite can be described as safe if the person in charge of it is not safe. Being a safe kite flyer is all about common sense and experience. If you don't know your kite and how and when to fly it you will have crashes, but that's also how we learn a kites limitations. Then you have to factor in the environment around you. Flying from a small patch of grass in an urban area surrounded by buildings has very different conditions and risks to consider than a deserted beach or farmers field. Also be aware of unpredictable variables. Sudden changes to the wind is an obvious one. An invisible vortex can appear from nowhere and slap your kite to the ground. Other commonly encountered variables are people and animals. Its amazing how often people, with children and dogs, will walk under your kite and rig, usually when you are either launching or retrieving. Both times when risk increases.

    Some food for thought.

  • I totally agree with Martin, and as the original poster has apparently already bought two kites we are all wasting our time giving opinions anyway. I tried to point out in another of his posts that experience and patience (lots of it) is necessary, but I doubt that any such advice will be heeded in this case.

  • I remember reading some sage advice from Wind Watcher when I was starting out about establishing and maintaining a safety box. Having flown airplanes for decades, this kind of thinking resonated with me and has served me well many times. Regardless of the kite in use, my own rule is that I absolutely must have a safety box under the kite and camera (and for some distance downwind) during launch and recovery. A field or open area, minimal danger of coming down on people, traffic, anything that might be harmful or costly if damaged, or cause complications for recovery. If the kite and rig are established in the air and stable for a period of time, I then make a decision as to how much risk to take in positioning it in/over areas of higher risk. For me, the kite has to be "nailed to the sky" before moving it over people, traffic, water, etc. Common sense.
    In my own experience I've also found that, just like flying airplanes, the vast majority of crashes and issues are caused by "pilot error" and not by equipment failures and external conditions. Be careful, plan and think ahead, exercise common sense, minimize risk.
  • Pilot error includes wrong kite + wrong wind + wrong place!

    Fly High
  • I find the cheap kites in grocery stores to be extremely safe.
    They rarely fly and won't lift anything.
  • Ric, that just made me laugh! Thanks!

    It's funny, though, the even cheaper grocery store kites - the Gayla deltas - have a nice wind range and are pretty stable fliers. I wouldn't hang a DSLR from one, but I wonder if one of those would lift a GoPro in a reasonably safe fashion.

    I think I just found a new challenge...

  • My suggestion on the whole thread is to use the search button above.

    There are three possible search engines. At this point I have the best luck by doing advanced searches on the old site. I'd guess that each kite mentioned here has one or more threads dedicated to it. Rok tuning is discussed on at least 10 of them. If you still have questions you can revive an old thread so the basics don't have to be repeated.
  • I just remembered that I had the perfect picture to show KAP safety. Might just be a bit over the top though.

    Kite Aerial Photography, the safe way
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