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Star shaped dragon
Large kites at a Japanese kite festival
Lots of different kites in the sky

A kite (for Chinese, as Dragon images executed dragon), Kite or kite (English) is a play and sport device with wind is operated. In its simplest form, it consists of a sail , which is usually stretched by a rod, and a line attached to the rod, which holds the person who lets the kite fly ( pilot in kite sports ). The kite is placed in the wind in such a way that the flow of air against the kite sail creates dynamic lift and the kite rises upwards.

There is also hang-gliding without wind , in which the air flow is only achieved by moving the pilot, for example by walking or running. In this way you can fly in calm conditions or in closed rooms.


A kite draws its lift energy from the wind, which is directed over the sail surface. It does not catch the wind like a parachute, but instead directs the wind over its lift surfaces and lays on the current or allows the negative pressure to pull itself up over the sail surface. To do this, a kite must define a direction of flow and turn in the appropriate direction in the wind. Boxkite achieve this with the vertical faces of the box, the back of the kite in the direction with the smallest resistance. Flat kites divert the wind flow from the center outwards by bending under the pressure of the wind, i.e. bending the outer tips of the sail backwards. In order to achieve stable flight positions even at low wind speeds, the crossbars are usually already angled.


Origin of the Dragons

The origin of the kite is very difficult to determine today. There is evidence that the dragons as early as the 6th century BC. Were invented. The first historical mention of dragons as a flying object comes from China in the 5th century BC. However, the latest finds in the Indonesian area leave the possibility open that dragons as flying objects could be much older.

Dragons in Asia

Chinese dragon - centipede

The first dragons found in China in the 5th century BC. Appeared mainly from bamboo sticks and silk . Because the latter was expensive, the kite spread only slowly. That changed when the first paper was developed. It is believed that the dragons were introduced by Buddhist missionaries and through the paper trade in the 2nd century BC. Finally reached Japan and Korea.

The Centipede kite shown in the picture was originally a traditional kite, which was only built from silk and bamboo for the emperor, and which only he was allowed to fly. It was considered a symbol of good luck and was flown as high as possible in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) to then cut the line and leave the kite to the wind. The Chinese believed that with it all worries and dangers would fly away.

Over 300 different types of kites are known in Japan. The various models often differ depending on geography and material availability. The painting and construction have changed little since the beginning of the 19th century.

In the course of time, many folk festivals were created in which dragons were of central importance. An example here is the Japanese New Year celebrations .

In Afghanistan, too, kites play a major role, especially in autumn and the winter months. But the highlight of kite flying is during the traditional New Year festival, Nouruz , which has always been celebrated at the beginning of spring.

Dragons in the west

Rider with kite in Konrad Kyeser's Techniktaktat Bellifortis (c. 1405)

The Romans let colorfully decorated wind socks fly on special occasions such as military victories or public festivals . The military used from 300 n. Chr. As ensigns the Draco standard consisting of a stylized dragon head was and fluttering in the wind cloth tube. This is also where the etymological roots of the (toy) dragon with a long tail lie .

However, the real kites did not come to Europe until the 16th century via Dutch, Portuguese and English merchants who traded with the Far East. Giambattista della Porta describes in 1589 in volume 20 of his work "Magia naturalis" the construction of a fettered kite.

At the beginning of the 18th century, dragons were finally common as children's toys across the West. Only now did science recognize the research possibilities offered by the kite. The experiments initially concentrated on meteorological investigations. For example, Thomas Melvill (1726–1753) and Alexander Wilson used a kite to study temperature differences between the individual altitudes. A well-known experiment of this time was carried out by the American diplomat and scientist Benjamin Franklin . Franklin used kites to study the effects of electric lightning. During this time, the kite floating in the sky contributed greatly to the constant desire of mankind to be able to fly, and thus significantly influenced the development of the first flying machine.

In present-day Greece , letting home-made paper kites fly is an integral part of Kathara Deftera , the Monday on which Lent begins and Carnival ends. On this public holiday, hundreds of thousands of kites stand over the whole of Greece if the wind is suitable, and according to popular belief, a kite that has reached a great height promises good luck for the coming year.

Military operation

Cody's shortcoming when working as a manlifter

The kite was also used in the military. The following procedures have been handed down from the early days and the Middle Ages: In ancient Japan, military leaders used dragons for psychological warfare . They attached devices to the kites to generate noise and let them soar over the enemy troops at night. The warriors believed they were being attacked by evil spirits. There are records of huge dragons carried by archers.

In Korea, medieval battles were coordinated with signal dragons, the drawings of which represented direct orders to the troops. The dragons were easy to spot even from wooded positions, so that the illustrated instructions could quickly reach the various troops.

In Europe, the distance to the enemy positions was measured during sieges with dragons. The kite was dropped and the length of the line issued was measured.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the American Samuel Franklin Cody experimented with his man lifting system - which became known and patented in 1903 as Cody's Mankite - for the British Army. The aim of the experiments was to construct a kite that could lift a person into the air.

During the World Wars, kites were mainly used in aerial surveillance and marksman training, but were soon replaced by newer technologies. The Steiff company survived the war with its successful Roloplan kite, which was ordered by the military as an anti-aircraft target. Kites were also widely used to ward off attacks from low-level aircraft (Saul's anti- aircraft kites ) . The aim was to disrupt the attacker's flight path.

The Gibson Girl kite was used during World War II . It was part of the sea rescue equipment for flight crews who had to make an emergency landing. The kite carried a thin emergency antenna that was connected to a radio into the sky. A hand-operated generator allowed the flight crew to transmit SOS .

Fire dragon from the Gaza Strip was fitted with burning objects at the tail tip to fires in the fields of the district Eshkol in the northwestern Negev in Israel South District to create.

Since March 30, 2018, a group of Hamas activists in Israel has been using kites with grenades or other unconventional explosive devices attached to them. So far, more than 800 dragons have been dispatched, lighting over 1,000 fires. Numerous agricultural areas built up in the former desert landscape in the western Negev and the villages east of the Gaza Strip, including grain fields, orchards, forests and scrubland, as well as irrigation systems and agricultural equipment, were burned. Over 400 fire dragons were intercepted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) defense units . Israel is trying to neutralize the fire dragons with the help of drones , which is a difficult undertaking given the crowd.

Civil use

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's meteorological kite
Rotor chain raised by dragons

In addition to being used as children's toys and sports equipment, kites can also be used for transport. One example of this is Skysails , a computer-controlled kite system for reducing the fuel consumption of ships . A stunt kite with an area of ​​up to 600 m² is attached to a ship and thus serves as an additional drive.

Kites can also serve as antenna supports at great heights. So it is possible to implement the kite line in the form of a cable that serves as an antenna for long wave , long wave or medium wave .

A type of photography in which the pulling force of a kite is used to lift a camera has been known for around 100 years. This is known internationally as Kite Aerial Photography (KAP for short).

In aerology , kites were used to transport measuring instruments into the open atmosphere . On August 4, 1894, Abbott Lawrence Rotch and William Abner Eddy (1850-1909) succeeded in transporting a thermograph to a height of 436 meters by kite. At the aeronautical observatory in Lindenberg , the height record for kites of 9,740 m, which is still valid today, was reached on August 1, 1919 under the ladder Georg Stüve (1888-1935). A kite chain made up of eight umbrella kites was used.

In the early 1920s, Hans Seehase constructed a kite parachute in Berlin, which he tested for the first time on April 23, 1923 on the  Tempelhof field . He also experimented with person-carrying, collapsible kites, which, for example, were to be dragged by boats to find military use.

Since there are better wind conditions at high altitudes, there have been attempts to use them. For example, wind generators for generating electricity were brought up to altitude with kites and held there. One example of this are prototypes by Wubbo Ockels from 2011. In his case, a stunt kite, controlled by computers, moves in eights in the sky. A battery on the ground was charged by constantly changing the length of the line. The Skysails towing kites that have been tested as additional propulsion for seagoing vessels also rise to greater heights.


A kite usually consists of a rod that is covered with cloth; The lines that lead to the pilot are attached to the scales .


As a material for the rods, rods made of bamboo, wood , aluminum , glass fiber or carbon fiber reinforced plastic in different profile shapes can be used as building material. To connect the rods, short pieces of plastic hoses are often used as sleeves ; industrially manufactured kites mostly use suitably manufactured plastic parts.


The covering can be paper , canvas (made of ripstop nylon or polyester ), cotton / hemp cloth , Tyvek (also called paper pulp), silk , natural materials ( leaves , leather ), foils made of polyester or aluminum, etc. a. serve.


The kite scales, also called scales for short, connect kites and leashes with one another. The scales are responsible for the position of the kite to the wind and determine the flight characteristics of the kite. There are different types of scales, which are characterized by different adjustment options and purposes. Basically, the balance is used to determine the ratio of pulling force to lift force when dividing the wind power ( angle of attack ). The steeper the kite, the more it is converted into pulling force, the flatter the more into buoyancy.


The kite is connected to the pilot via the line. A line usually ends in a reel on which it can be wound. Single line reels sometimes have two handles so that they can be held with both hands and, above all, wound up. With stunt kites, on the other hand, the lines are wound onto handles (reels) or ring spools, which can be held with one hand each. Alternatively, stunt kites are steered with steering loops (which are placed around the wrist) or with a handlebar; In the case of very powerful kites, the pilot can also wear a trapeze that absorbs the pulling force; the pilot then only has to steer with his arms without having to compensate for the pulling force with them. Single line liners are often not held directly by the pilot, but attached to a ground anchor. If the kite is to climb very high, a pulley , winch and cable winch are used . Kite lines for stunt kites are usually made of Dyneema , polyethylene or Kevlar today . In contrast to the lines of unguided kites, no horizontal bar is used with stunt kites . For this reason, nylon is not used in stunt kites because it elongates under tension, which would make the kite more difficult to control.

For the lines of single-line, unguided kites, the more elastic nylon or polyester is used . It elongates under tension, which means that the line can compensate for wind fluctuations. Traditionally found flax - and hemp cords used.

Kite lines can have a cutting effect due to their small diameter, combined with the strong pulling force on them. Therefore, no spectators are allowed to stay in the quarter sphere (also: wind window ), which kites and pilots can describe together with the lines; even the kite runners avoid holding lines under tension with their bare hands. The lines are usually connected to the holding eyelets by means of a splice and in a protective sheath.


Some dragons have a tail ; this can consist of fabric straps (streamer), a tube or, for example, a small wind sock. With many kites, the tail is used for stabilization (similar to a sea ​​anchor on a ship ) - without it the kite behaves very nervously and constantly breaks to the side.

Dragon types

Single line kites

Single line kites: Flat kites for light winds:
DoPeRo on the left and Genki on the right

Single line kites are the basic form of kites. They are usually unguided. In Europe, flat deltoid kites are the most common type. The construction of the single line kites is quite demanding, as it is hardly possible to influence the behavior of the kite during the flight.

One exception is the so-called fight dragons , in which is einleinige kite. If the line is left loose, the kite breaks sideways. By pulling on the line, he stabilizes his flight path in a straight flight. Due to the rod construction (cross brace thicker in the middle than outside), the sail surfaces are bent backwards by the higher wind pressure, so that the rigid central brace creates a so-called keel, which stabilizes the kite.

In Asian countries, kite fighting has been a tradition for many centuries. The winner in the kite fight is the one whose kite is the last one in the sky while the opposing kite has been pushed to the ground or cut off. Recently, kite fights have also found their way into European kite festivals. Here the Rokkaku is the most widely used fighting kite model.

Other single line kites are z. B. Box kites , Roloplan , glide kites, Cody Warkite , Sauls Naval Barrage kites and Markoni.

Kites - from a bird's eye view

Multi-line kites

Multi-line kites are usually steerable. They usually have two lines that can be pulled differently. One line is connected to each end of the kite. Usually there is a left and a right end, each with a leash attached.

A delta kite

Since kites have the property to rise by themselves when there is enough wind , if z. B. is pulled harder on the right line, in this case the left part of the kite ascend faster. As a result, in this case it rotates around its right-hand part, as seen from the pilot, clockwise. The vector of wind power and the vector of tensile force are not exactly opposite each other. As a result, the left part of the kite turns slightly backwards (to leeward ) so that the kite points further to the right from the pilot's point of view. As a result, the kite flies further to the right. With the pull on the left leash it behaves mirror-symmetrically.

By pulling on the lines, pilots can let the stunt kite fly loops , screws , angles and other figures. Depending on the lines, up to 15 loops and thus twisting of the control lines to one side are possible. This also works as a team sport, usually four pilots form a crew and fly together in competitions.

The delta kite is the classic stunt kite. In addition to the rhombus kite, it was the first to be used as a stunt kite.

The delta consists of a V-shaped sail , which is spanned by a slightly narrower V in the rod construction. The wind arches the sail surfaces upwards and forms the profile. At about a third of the rod length of the V and at around two thirds, a scales line is attached. A third line is led to the lower end of the central strut (three-point hitch). This gives you two attachment points for the steering lines.

Delta kites come in many different versions. In the example shown on the right, the sail area is pretensioned by small stands, so-called stand-offs .

Basically, small dragons move faster, while large dragons move more slowly. Large kites develop significantly higher pulling forces than small ones.

Several stunt kites can be coupled one behind the other. The current world record is 301 kites (August 21, 2010 in St. Peter-Ording ).

Mat kite

Illustration of a so-called steering mat without rods

Matt Dragon (also: airfoils , Parafoils , soft kite , steering mat or simply mat called) are rodless dragons similar in flow to an airfoil a paraglider develop. Since they are made entirely of fabric and linen, they can be folded to save space and transported without the risk of bars breaking.

The mats consist of an upper and lower sail, which are given a wing profile by connecting webs. The resulting chambers are all or partially open on the upstream side. The chambers are interconnected so that pressure differences inside can be compensated.

When the flow hits the front edge, the chambers fill with the dynamic pressure, which is higher than the pressures on the outer surface around which the flow occurs. This stabilizes the profile of the mat. The buoyancy created by the negative pressure on the upper side is diverted from the underside to the two pulling lines by a complex multi-line scale.

Mats are steered by different lengths of the two pull lines. Three-line mats have an additional line that makes starting easier, regulates the pulling force and ends the flight in a controlled manner at any time. In addition to the two steering lines, four-line mats have two additional lines - brake lines - which act on the rear edge of the profile. Brake lines support steerability. By pulling both brake lines at the same time, the buoyancy of the moving mat can be increased or the mat can be slowed down and landed. Quad lines can also launch backwards from the ground. The use of all four lines is preferred in sporting use because of the more precise maneuverability and controllability of the tensile forces. Some steering mats can optionally be flown as two-line or four-line.

A mat must always be flown with a pull on the lines. If there is insufficient flow, it becomes depressurized and collapses. A hybrid design can be found as Flexifoils and their successors, the Airfoils. Instead of the pipe, a very flexible GRP rod is installed that spans the mat even when there is little flow. One advantage of the Flexifoils / Airfoils is that these umbrellas can be hung together without any problems. With the so-called Stacker6 from Flexifoil, the speed record was set with an astonishing 180 km / h.

Areas of application: kite buggy riding , kite surfing , snow kiting and kite land boarding


Four-line kite "vision / ksf"

The increase in the stunt kite can be found in the four-line kite . With the four-line system, the two usual steering lines are supplemented by two additional brake lines attached to the rear edge of the sail. With these two lines, the angle of attack of the two sail surfaces can be variably adjusted. This allows the kites to fly backwards, stand on the spot or turn (propeller spin) and gently touch the ground.

Towing kite

Towing kites are usually four-line mat kites (see above) or multi-line so-called tube kites (kitesurfing), exceptions are two-line, large delta kites and two-line mat kites used as towing kites. Modern towing kites are manufactured with great technical effort, knowledge from paragliding is incorporated into the design and construction .

Towing kites are used for various kite sports, such as kite sailing . Kitesailing is the generic term for sports such as: kitesurfing, snowkiting, kite buggy riding or power kiting .

In the shipping sector, there are systems for using towing kites as propulsion support ( skysails ), but these have not yet become widespread.

More typical stunt kites

  • Nasa Wing Powerkite / Parachute
  • Four-line ballet kite
  • Rhombus kites, Eddy stunt kites

The sporty aspect

Usually the kite is simply let fly. As a word for flying a kite, the Anglicism kiting has spread, especially for the sporty variant. Depending on the wind, kites can develop such power that they can drag the pilot along or even pull them into the air. The conscious play with the forces of the kite is called power kiting .

Another form of sporty hang gliding is kite sailing. Kitesailing includes driving a kite buggy ( buggy kiting ), kitesurfing and snow kiting. Here you can usually be pulled by large, powerful mats.

Trick flight

The trick flight or ballet flight is widespread. With delta kites, certain tricks, which are determined by the level of difficulty, are flown in a choreography. There are currently around 155 official figures that are flown in competitions. The competition fields have defined sizes, which are presented as follows: The area between the marked borders should at least correspond to the dimensions given below:

  • For team and pair disciplines: 110 m × 110 m (360 feet)
  • For single pilots, two-line disciplines: 90 m × 90 m (295 feet)
  • For single pilots, multi-line disciplines: 75 m × 75 m (245 feet)

Well-known tricks are, for example, the Lazy Susan, in which the kite rotates 360 ° on its back. Or the backflip, with the kite lying on its back.

Indoor kites

Indoor stunt kite Amazing

Indoor kites are ultra-light stunt kites that do not need wind. The pilot's backward movement is enough to fly these kites. This ability is achieved through extremely light construction using carbon poles and lightweight canvas.

The so-called indoor kiting often takes place in sports halls or empty factory halls. When flying a stunt kite outdoors, the wind comes from behind and the kite can be moved left to right and back over a range of approximately 120 degrees. In a hall where wind only comes into the sail through the individual backward movement, on the other hand, there is a wind window of a full 360 degrees.

There are also different types of stunt kites for indoor kiting, which are usually classified by the number of their steering lines. A distinction is made between one, two and four line kites.

Hang gliding events (kite festival)

Large kite flying festivals take place regularly in the kite capital of the world Weifang (China), Pasir Gudang (Malaysia), Berck and Fréjus (France), the island of Fanø (Denmark) as well as in Lünen , Travemünde and Kamen (Germany). There are other events on Rømø (Denmark) as well as in Cuxhaven and St. Peter-Ording (Germany). In 2015, more than 150 hang-gliding events took place in German-speaking countries.

Until 2015, kite festivals were organized in Vienna by the operators of the Fly High kite shop. Typically in April the family kite festival in Vienna's sky and at the end of September the autumn kite festival Vienna on the upper Danube island near the cherry grove. At the end of 2015, the Fly High kite shop, which had existed in Vienna for 28 years, closed with the EKZ Generali-Center.


In Germany, but also in Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and by the EASA - European Aviation Safety Authority - kites have so far been classified as aircraft regardless of the length of the flying lines. Depending on the respective national regulations, there is, on the one hand, strict liability for the kite owner, with which, on the other hand, there is often a statutory insurance obligation under the Aviation Act. In Germany, a holder liability and legal insurance obligation existed before the recent amendment of the Civil Aviation Act (LuftVG) in 2005. Over the usual private liability insurance were therefore not insured very limited dragons rule or. In particular, the insurance clauses were often based on a certain maximum weight and a certain flight altitude of 30 meters. At the same time, liability for kites subject to compulsory insurance was generally excluded in the conditions, so that in the event of damage with such policies, a rejection of the assumption of damage had to be expected. These liability issues were nevertheless controversially discussed between the General Association of the German Insurance Industry , various insurers, the Federal Aviation Office and the Federal Ministry for Transport, Building and Urban Development . At the end of 2011, Section 1 (2) No. 7 LuftVG, which had previously been the subject of discussion, was deleted from the Aviation Act without replacement. The German legislator justifies this with the fact that a kite should be viewed more as an obstacle to aviation than as an aircraft. The German legislature has made it clear with a supplementary amendment to § 31 LuftVG that it regards kites as a device that is associated with particular dangers for aviation without being an aircraft. Since then, it can be assumed that (stunt) kites are no longer considered aircraft in Germany. Whereby, according to the official justification of the law, the legislator apparently assumes that a kite should continue to be subject to insurance, which is a bit confusing, because according to Section 43 (2) LuftVG, insurance is only mandatory for aircraft. It is possible, however, that this is just a misinterpretation by the legislature. The Regulation 785/2004 (EC) looks straight compulsory insurance for dragon yes not before.

Dragons in Fiction

Individual evidence

  1. Kluge 2002, p. 212.
  2. a b magazine high out edition. 1/2001.
  3. DWDS - Dragons - word explanation, grammar, etymology u. v. m. In: dwds.de. Retrieved October 21, 2019 .
  4. John Baptista Porta : Natural magick . T. Young and S. Speed, London 1658, p.  409 ( Draco volans - Latin: Magiae naturalis . Naples 1589. First edition: Naples 1558, translated into English).
  5. ^ Gibson girl kite story. In: www.carnetdevol.org. Archived from the original on August 22, 2007 ; accessed on October 21, 2019 (English).
  6. Hamas Terrorism Against Israel: The Fire Dragons , Israeli Embassy in Berlin, June 20, 2018. Accessed December 4, 2018.
  7. ^ Walter Diem, Werner Schmidt: Weather dragon. From Benjamin Franklin to Rudolf Grund. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2010, ISBN 978-3-8391-7628-3 , p. 29.
  8. ^ The Rucksackflieger Ostsee-Zeitung of October 21, 2006 about the aviation pioneer Hans Seehase
  9. Generators on the kite line , KiteGen
  10. Experiment with stunt kites: Benjamin Dürr: Flying power plants should harvest wind energy , Spiegel Online, Groningen, May 30, 2011
  11. Propeller Spin in the DrachenWiki
  12. Kite festivals in German-speaking countries. Retrieved September 27, 2015 .
  13. https://www.drachen-feste.de/region/wien
  14. tears final in "Generali Center" heute.at, December 13 2015, accessed 16 December 2019.
  15. (BT-Drucksache 17/8098) , draft of a fourteenth law amending the aviation law. P. 14, section on double letter aa (dragons)
  16. (page 14 BT17 / 8098)
  17. (Attorney Wolf-Dieter Czap on the current change)


  • Masaaki Modegi: The Making of Japanese Kites - Tradition, Beauty and Creation. Japan Pubn, 2007, ISBN 978-4-88996-222-2 .
  • Paul May: Stuntkiting : Practical manual for stunt kites, sport stunt kites, freestylers and trick kites. 1st edition. vivita, 2008, ISBN 978-3-00-024222-9 .
  • Günter Wolsing: stunt kites and teams. Vth, 2001, ISBN 978-3-88180-707-4 .
  • Walter Diem: Dragons with a history: Historical models to build yourself. 1st edition. Books on Demand, 2005, ISBN 978-3-8334-2782-4 .
  • Walter Diem: All about kites. Turbines, ferries, cameras and other kite accessories. Hugendubel Heinrich GmbH, 1997, ISBN 978-3-88034-842-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Dragons  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: fire dragon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Dragons  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files