A sight as rare as latinum but it exists. Goths do fly kites. They are out there but you can't see them. Why not make it easier to do with this easy to stow, portable, light up kite that is ready to fly when the urge strikes. And even better, upcycle a broken umbrella to repurpose that lightweight fabric.
Loosely based on a pocket ram-air sled kite, this design adds on Neopixel LED lights driven with a small Adafruit Trinket microcontroller.
Note that I have not taken it for a real test flight yet. There are actually some arcane laws in NYC that prohibit flying of kites. Besides, it really hasn't been too windy with the onset of the hot muggy summer. Maybe I'll rig up a big window fan...
Step 1: Something Old, Something New...
Got a few broken umbrellas lying around that you don't know what to do with? You can use one to make a kite.
The fabric is ideally suited for catching the wind besides warding off the raindrops.
Scavenge the fabric from an broken umbrella, of course you tried to repair those bent struts to no avail. A seam ripper tool or sharp utility knife will cut away those few threads that tie the fabric to the umbrella frame. You might have to pry off the trim cap that is at the end of the umbrella to free the fabric canopy from the umbrella.
The LED lights that I am mounting to the kite is a small Neopixel strip driven with an Adafruit Trinket microcontroller. Because it was so small and light when I built it for the Neopixel Light Up Wedding Garter, I thought the form factor would be good to implement it in other projects requiring something small and light and lights. It is powered by two coin cells.
Look at Adafruit's Neopixel Tiara tutorial to make your own set of flashing Neopixel LEDs.
Of course, you could rig up regular LEDs and a small battery pack to provide the lights.
Step 2: Full of Hot Air...
With the canopy detached, lay it out flat to see what you have to work with.
A regular sled kite is rectangular as the main part of the kite and has short sides which connect to the Y string bridle. The kite will take on an inverted C shape when flown.
I was looking for something about 20 inches square. Since this was a medium size umbrella, I was able to cut the canopy in half and use one side for the kite. Two for the price of one then.
Since I will not be using sticks for support but relying on ram-air or balloon pockets/channels that inflate with wind instead. Cut two panels that will be sewn to the base fabric. More complex kite builds mimic an airplane wing with parafoil designs.
I cut the panels by eye and made registration marks on where they need to be sewn. I had some thin satin white material scrap which I used instead of cutting from the other half of the umbrella fabric.
I used a serger to finish the raw edges of the cut fabric pieces. If using kite nylon, some use a hot knife to seal and cut the edges.
When the ram-air pockets are sewn on, both ends are open and it tapers a bit toward the bottom. You may have to additionally sew to open up the larger opening of the ram-air channel so more air can rush into the pocket. Just pinch back the fabric at the bottom of the opening and tack in place.
The tips of the kite were doubled over and reinforced with sewing. I then attached metal grommets for attaching to the kite string.
Step 3: Add Running Lights and NASCARize...
I taped up the battery pack, Trinket, and wires into a compact package. I then just sewed it to the back of the kite. The lights will shine through the fabric to the face of the kite that you see from the ground. I may have to adjust its placement depending on how the kite flies but I sewed in down the middle of the kite with the heavier balance going toward the bottom of the kite where it might require tails for a more stable flight.
Continually test your lights to make sure you didn't break a connection while sewing it up.
A final touch is to add any other decoration to the kite. Since it will be flown at night, I made use of some glow-in-the-dark fabric paint I had laying around.
There you go, make a kite to fly at night...or day but be sure to put on some sunblock.