A light frame covered with paper or fabric to which a long cord is attached, a kite is a device flown in the air on festive occasions or for sport.
It is kept aloft by wind or air pressure and the person controlling it reels out the cord as the kite ascends. Varying in design and size, kites were of particular religious significance in ancient China and eastern Asia but did not become popular as a children's pastime in Europe until the early seventeenth century.
In the eighteenth century, kites were used for scientific research and communications.
In 1749 Alexander Wilson and Thomas Melvill measured atmospheric temperatures in Scotland by means of a thermometer tied to a kite. In America Benjamin Franklin demonstrated the electrical properties of lightning by flying a kite during a storm in 1752. The box kite design of Lawrence Hargrave of Australia was used from 1893 as a meteorological aid.
Captain B.F.S. Baden-Powell in 1894 experimented in the field of military observation when he lifted a man 30 meters into the air with a kite 11m long. Alexander Graham Bell of the United States in 1907 built a 94 meter tetrahedral or pyramidal kite of 3393 separate cells which lifted a passenger to a height of 51 meters.
Today kite flying is a popular pastime throughout the world. The most common models are the hexagonal, the Malay or modified diamond and the box kite. Those with a one-plane surface need a flexible tail for lateral stability. Designs are often borrowed from Asian kites, which are highly colorful and made in various shapes such as those of fish or dragons.
Kite flying is a traditional sport in Asia. Indian kites are fixed to two strings. One is used to maneuver the kite and the second, which is coated with powdered glass, is used to try to cut the string of the opponent's kite while in flight. In Thailand a variation involves a battle between a 2 meter wide 'male' chula kite and two smaller, more agile 'female' pakpao kites.