kite, in aviation, aircraft restrained by a towline and deriving its lift from the aerodynamic action of the wind flowing across it. Commonly the kite consists of a light framework upon which paper, silk, or other thin material is stretched. Kites having one plane surface require flexible tails for lateral and directional stability. Kite making has been popular in China and other East Asian countries for centuries. It is thought that the first use of kites to secure meteorological information was made by Alexander Wilson of Scotland, who in 1749 used them to carry thermometers aloft. In 1752, Benjamin Franklin used kites to study lightning. The box kite was invented c.1893 by Lawrence Hargrave, an Australian, and was used effectively in meteorological and aerodynamic studies. The tetrahedral kite was used by Alexander Graham Bell for making experiments on problems of airplane construction.
See C. Hart, Kites: An Historical Survey (1967); O. Piene, More Sky (1973); T. Ito and K. Hirotsugu, Kites: The Science and the Wonder (1983).