With the advent of recreational sports like kite surfing and buggying, the performance of kites has become a market driven item. Producers increasingly require methods to measure and improve the performance of the kites they manufacture. The Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Canterbury has been working with a local kite producer to develop testing procedures suitable for kite manufacturers. The primary performance measurement is the lift to drag ratio. An early test rig was mounted in the top of a car, but limitations inherent in the design meant that it lost precision as the lift to drag ratio approached that of more advanced kites. This led the investigators to look for alternatives, and resulted in the development of the circular flight method. This method allows the test apparatus to be tuned to the performance of each kite, significantly improving the precision of the results while reducing the time taken for each test. In their raw form, the L/D results are not quite the same as those of the more traditional methods. But they reflect the underlying aerodynamic characteristics, and when used comparatively they can be used in the kite development process. Alternatively, with suitable processing the circular flight results can be converted to the traditional forms.
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