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Bell Kite Project BlogI am building a huge kite inspired by Alexander Graham Bell's historical models.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I'm now back in Toronto and have time to fill in some of the details of the kite fly.
Eileen and I drove the kite out to Baddeck, NS last week. The kite folds up like an accordion, so we were able to make it fit in the back of a rental car.
On Monday we meet the other kite fliers who were attending the Cygnet Centennial. We toured the Bell Museum in Baddeck together and a couple people including Bell's grandson gave historical talks about Bell's kites, especially the amazing Cygnet kite that achieved manned flight a hundred years ago. I noticed that no one pointed out that Bell's kite designs, though beautiful and unique, in fact weren't very successful and that the Aerial Experimentation Association that he formed moved to flying airplanes of much more conventional design.
That evening there was a dinner at the Museum and we socialized with the kite fliers. There were lots of world-famous kite personalities there, so I felt pretty out of place. It's fun to meet people from another subculture, though I felt a little like an impostor. It also felt a little strange that I had been getting all the phone calls from the CBC to do interviews when I knew the least about kites of anyone there.
On Tuesday morning we drove out to the Bell estate to fly the kite. The estate is a picturesque peninsula peppered with the houses of Bell descendants. They range from modest homes, to castles, to remodelled historical workshops. We were instructed to set up the kite in a field that looked lovely but turned out to be a black fly breeding swamp. Our feet were soaked and the blood was flowing from bug bites that morning as we laboured to assemble the kite in time for the short window in which we were scheduled to fly the kite.
After a while the rest of the kite fliers showed up and immediate launched their collection of beautiful kites. I was impressed at how efficient they all were, and how they could fly their kites so close to each other without tangling lines.
Once the telephone kite was finally assembled we were faced with the task of trying to bridal it. Bridling is the tricky process of attaching the kite line to the kite via a collection on intermediary lines. A kite's ability to fly depends in great measure on the soundness of its bridling. I had some vague ideas of how it might be bridled and so we attempted to get it off the ground using my makeshift bridal. The kite flew for a few seconds and I slipped in the muck and fell down while running with it.
Eileen was able to convince some of the expert kite fliers to help us improve the bridle. I should add that this was a mighty imposition, since it meant having to give up a unique chance to fly their own kites on this historic spot. To my surprise, there was considerable controversy and not a little acrimony in the matter of how to bridal my kite. However in the end, Bas Vreeswijk got it working.
Now we were able to achieve a few flights of around 30 seconds to a minute by dint of running and letting out line. Unfortunately there remained the problem of a giant knot in my kite line. The patient Michaela Koch led us through the process of untangling the problem.
We had now fixed most of the serious technical problems with the kite, however most of the other folks had packed up. The wind picked up and we flew the kite a final time with great success. One workers from the Bell Estate who had been helping us manned the line and managed to get the kite well up in the air and keep it there for a couple minutes.
There was an abbreviated trip to the Bell mansion and then we returned to the soggy field to dismantle the kite and pack it back into the rental car.
I should also add that during the entire hectic event there were several TV crews and a number of press photographers shadowing us and impatiently waiting for the kite to take flight. I gave a few interviews, though I'm not exactly sure who I was being interviewed by. By chance, that evening we heard an interview on the CBC radio while driving back. Normally I cringe when hearing myself on the radio, but I was surprised at how decent it sounded and how they were able to convey the humour of the event without ridiculing it.
After a couple days journey I'm back in Toronto. I'm not sure where the kite will go next. There's a possibility of displaying it in a children's museum, as well as flying it at the University of Waterloo. Right now it's resting in my basement.
Amos on TV!
CTV story on YouTube
Cheers! Gary Mark
I know this is a little after the fact, but have you seen the giant floating banana? it is kind of like a big kite...http://www.geostationarybananaovertexas.com/en.html
What a great outcome to a fascinating experiment - not only that, but it's shaped like a f-ing PHONE floating in the sky!? That's a little daring because I would think you're losing a lot of potential lift with those empty cells. I've tried to fly this exact same pyramid shape (with only 4 cells) and could never get it to fly - I think it's all about the bridle.Post a Comment
Well Done! Pop the cork A-man, here's to Alex B.....
Kite Flown at Beinn Bhreagh
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Last night we arrived in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, and this morning we participated in a kite fly at Alexander Graham Bell's estate, Beinn Bhreagh as part of the Cygnet Centennial event.
It took a while to set up the kite, but with the help of some of the kite experts there we were able to get it in the air. The first couple flights lasted only a few seconds, but with an improvement in the wind, some more kite bridling and flying advice, and the help of some of the people who worked at the Bell estate, the kite flew for several minutes.
It was quite exhilarating to finally see the kite fly in the same fields where Alexander Graham Bell's pioneering kites flew a hundred years ago. The flight provided a welcome culmination after so much work and uncertainty about whether the monster would ever fly.
There were several TV crews on the scene to record the event. I also did two radio interviews.
There are many more important details that I'm omitting now, but will try to fill in soon.
Hi, It was a GLORIOUS day, and AGB would be doing his Mohawk war dance with glee! I will post some photos later today at http://mariansbb.blogspot.com cheers!Post a Comment
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Today the kite finally got off the ground. Thanks to the help of Eileen, Catia, Gabe, and Sachiko, I managed to get the kite in the air for a few seconds. The beast that I've been working on so much actually took to the air.
Of course it soon crashed. First I ran it into a basketball backboard, and later when we moved to a soccer field it harmlessly crashed on the grass. A couple bamboo spars broke and covers ripped, but the kite survived mostly intact.
Even though it wasn't able to fly very well I was still quite happy. For one thing, I was able to stand far enough back from the kite to confirm that it looks like a telephone. Also I think with more wind, larger spreaders, and better bridling it might fly reasonably well.
Now the kite's packed up in the back of the rental car awaiting our departure tomorrow morning.
WOW!!!Post a Comment
IT certainly looks like a phone and like a dream too!!!!
Feeling so stupid to ahve missed it!
Why packing? Going where???
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Today I bridled the kite and put on a touch tone keypad. I hope that this makes it look more like a telephone. I'll post more pictures in a few days when I move the kite to a location where it's easier to take pictures.
I plan to perform a test flight on Thursday, then pack it up and leave on Friday.
Comments: Post a Comment
Monday, August 13, 2007
The covers are now on the kite. My student, Catia, kindly helped me with the tedious task of taping them on.
It actually kind of looks like a telephone now. However, it's wedged in an narrow space between two houses so I can't back up more than four feet from the kite to take a look at it.
The kite is basically done now. I need to bridal it and try to fly it in the next couple days before packing it up and departing for Nova Scotia.
Since I'm a complete kite novice, I have no idea if the kite will fly, be torn apart, site on the ground, or lift several people into the air. We have much to discover.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
I think that I've made some progress on framework reinforcement. Instead of using flat shapes made of stiff tubes, why not design the framework as an octect truss? It's strange to feel that I'm rediscovering once again Bell's ideas about how to create lightweight, strong shapes. I think that by using triangular cells, the relatively flexible fibreglass tubes that I have should be able to provide more rigidity to the kite. Of course, this is just a theory until it's tested in the wind.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
I've been out of town for about a week. Now I'm back and it's time to finish the kite. It needs to be done soon, because I leave for Nova Scotia on the 17th.
Today I cut out about 100 covers. The covers are made of polypropylene film. They cover the cells and catch the wind. The film comes on a long roll, and I cut out the covers with a soldering iron using a heat-proof template. A good tip is to work on a sheet of glass and stick the film to the glass by misting water on it. This system was recommended to me by Bruce Lambert. He says that this method of cutting film makes better edges that are less likely to fray. The template I'm using is based on the TetraLite designs.
There are still several big unresolved issues. One is how to reinforce the framework. Currently it is rather flimsy, and I think that the bridal lines would probably tear it apart. I brought back a bunch of fibreglass tubes from the States for this purpose. The fibreglass is quite flexible, making me I think that perhaps I should have chosen carbon fibre tubes instead. There's also the question of how to arrange the reinforcing spars. I haven't yet settled on a design.
The other remaining issue is telephony. I bought a scanner, and I'm currently trying to figure out how to use it. So far I've only been able to hear static and silence. I hope to set up a system for air to ground listening so that you can call the kite and listen to the wind as well as signals picked up by the scanner. It's hard to know at this point whether this will be an interesting listening experience or not.
Right now I'm mired in the details of the project and it's hard to keep in mind the overall grandeur and ridiculousness of the whole endeavour. I am looking forward to that changing when the kite first takes to the air at the Bell homestead in a little less than two weeks.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
One component of the kite project that I haven't talked about so far is telephony. I want the kite to function as a telecommunications devices in addition to looking like one. However, there are still many details that I need to work out.
There are lots of historical precedents for using kites as communication devices. Early kites were used for surveillance, and later kites were used to lift meteorological instruments. In 1901 Marconi used a kite to raise an antenna that received the first transatlantic wireless communication. Alexander Graham Bell did a lot of pioneering telephone work, however, to my knowledge he never combined his kite and telephone work.
As an experiment I've built a simple telephone intercom from this circuit design. It works great. It could be used for ground to kite communication, or ground to ground communication. I'm also thinking about incorporating a light weight radio scanner such as the this one. Scanners can receive many kinds of transmissions including analogue cellphone signals (this is apparently legal in Canada, though not in the US). I have a bunch of other unformed ideas as well.
I have thought about using kites as communication devices as well. I have written on paper and threaded the paper onto the kite's string so the message is pulled up to the kite. I have also let go of a kite's string, sending the message that I lost my kite. I wish I had lost the one with the written message and included my phone number ao i could get my kite back.
wow...the kite's really coming along.Post a Comment
i just came back from a textiles hunt on queen...came across some glittery sequins...i bet alexander graham bell didn't have sequins on his kites...