Magnetic Kite Lights




To some, the mention of flying a kite might rouse little more than a yawn. Add some bright LEDs, magnets, and an evening with strong winds and you have something far more exciting. It takes the challenge and fun of kiting to a whole new level - Its kind of like remotely piloting a UFO - Its Kind of like driving a super star powered kite -  but what really describes it best is EXTREME KITING!

The idea of attaching lights to a kite is not new, however I wanted to put together a simple package that could be easily made from simple electronic components, attached and detached from any kite quickly and easily (with no alterations to the kite) and be reasonably light weight. 

This is my first revision of the design, and there are sure to be improvements made along the way. So far, they seem to be pretty effective, and robust. If the kite avoids slamming into the ground or other objects, the lights seem to stay put even in strong winds. If the kite slams into the ground in high wind, its a safe bet that the magnets may detach.

I attempted to shoot some video while flying it, however my point and shoot camera doesn't take very good video. I think the long exposure photos turned out great though, and I had a bunch of fun trying different things with it. Eventually I would like to make some RGB models with a slow color fade - I think it would make for some really neat photos (rainbow color cycling exposure trails) 

If you have any suggestions, or if you have any questions, please send me a message or leave a comment. Thanks for checking out my project, and hope you give it a try sometime.

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Step 1: Materials

Materials used - 

LED(s) (preferably ones that operate around 3v)
Small Switch
Solder-able Perf.board
Coin Cell Battery Holder (one that fits the batteries you intend to use)
Coin Cell Battery (I used CR2032's)
Wire (short scraps are all you need)
Magnets (relatively strong ones)

Ideally you will want everything to be relatively light weight, so small components are preferable

Step 2: Arrange the Components

Pop the components into the board and figure out how much spacing you want between the components. 

Step 3: Solder

Once everything is placed, its time to carefully flip the board over and solder the components together with some short bits of wire. 

Step 4: Magnets

Who doesn't love magnets? I've had a set of BuckyBalls for quite a while, and eventually they sat on my desk untouched growing dusty. Since then I have used the little magnets for a number of different projects. I also used them for this project, and they worked quite well. Any reasonably strong, relatively small magnets should do just fine. Two pairs pf relatively strong magnets should suffice, however more can be used if deemed necessary. A single pair of very strong magnets may work as well.

Step 5: Test 'em Out

Install batteries, make sure they work as planned, and then drop them on the floor a few time to make sure they still work as planned :)

Step 6: Attach 'em to the Kite

I have a small two-line para-foil kite, so there are pocket-like cells between two layers of nylon fabric. The lights are bright enough to shine through the nylon, so I put them inside two of the outer cells, and used the fabric as a diffuser of sorts. The lights and circuit are inside the pocket, the magnet strip is on the top/outside of the kite  

Step 7: Paint the Night With Light!

The lights are pretty inexpensive to put together, and many people likely have most if not all the necessary parts left over from other projects. 

Its not much more difficult flying a well light kite at night vs flying in day light, but the effect is very cool, and somewhat mesmerizing. The long exposure photos look really cool in my opinion, and overall its a fun experience. 

Out where I live, windy nights are somewhat of a rare occasion. If you live near a beach, or large body of water, you'll likely have an easier time finding the right conditions to use them.

I tried to capture some of the effect in a video, but unfortunately my efforts were somewhat unsuccessful. I apologize for the less-than stellar clips. I can however promise that it is a lot of fun and definitely worth a try.

Step 8: Fly Safe!

Have fun and be safe - fly your kites in an unobstructed area free of trees and power lines.
On Easter, we had a bunch of cousins and family over - unattended kids have a habit of doing things you warn them against, and the next thing you know you are setting an even Better example 50 feet up in a tree retrieving one of your expensive kites..... such is life

Thanks for reading :)

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    12 Discussions


    Tip 1 year ago

    Use electronic magnets to maximize gravitational downforce.


    4 years ago

    I have done some extensive testing with Blinkys for my stunt kites over the past 15 years, started with glow sticks and then LEDs taken from toys, Stereos, Instrument Panels, Bicycle Flashers, etc...
    The biggest problem I always came Accross was the weight of the power supplied required (AA/AAA/9v) weight and balance of placing said power supplied always seemed to take up the most time preceding launch, crashing, running out of runway, untangling knots and wind expectations by the time I got everything ready to enjoy it myself.
    I will say you will learn a few things about yourself when things don't go quite as you hope:
    when to give up,
    when to keep trying,
    The look of interest on most everyone's face when they stop and watch.
    This one time I was flying a slingshot 2.0 dual line foil at dusk, and was being wrestled accross The Marina Green in SF, I had my IPod playing Genesis Shock the Monkey, getting up a good sweat when I got that hair raised feeling on the back of my neck, I turned around to see about 25-30 people standing 10 feet behind me, ( a Buss load of Russian Tourists) had seen it from the Golden Gate Bridge and had asked the Bus driver to stop and watch.
    Needless to say that scared the you know what outa me, and crashed the kite full power dive into the asphalt! Kite split at the seams, Blinkys went everywhere!
    I got full applause from the group and some invites to stop by if I was ever in Moscow.
    I've got some pics and I'll put them up as soon as I get home but I just had to share with you all sometime soon.
    Got to get some sleep check in with you again soon.


    4 years ago

    I did something like this but the kite was flying for about 4 days and the LED's must turn on at night and switch off in the day. So I attached a small transistor circuit with an LDR


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This project looks great! Can you please tell me exact model number of the LEDs you used, and a good place to order them? Do you think the 2032 battery will be able to power 4 of these per board (put 2 on each side of the board)?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very Cool, I want to try putting some of these in my Paraglider for night-time kiting/flying

    I really like the long exposure photos - how long was the shutter open?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You might want to use more, or brighter lights for a kite that big, but that would be really neat - send me some pictures if you do it

    The photos were a 60 second exposure on my point and shoot - it only has 3 options (15 sec, 30 second, and 60 second) so 60 was the best option

    I've done something a bit similar but with a helium balloon and some glow-sticks.
    Alas my video is pitiful... doesn't do it much justice...
    I also tried a few LEDs... though they're heavier than the glow-sticks...
    My main problem is that the latex balloons (just the cheap party balloons) filled with helium don't provide enough lift....
    Also included in in the video: a rare glimpse of my work area... which always show entropy in action!

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Neat, your balloon and glowstick rigs are like modern day Chinese lanterns :)

    I'm a bit surprised that glow sticks are lighter weight than LEDs of equivalent brightness. Even with the magnets and additional stuff on mine, I thought that a glow stick would weigh more - Although even if the glow sticks are lighter weight, I think that the on-off switch and replaceable battery are pretty important for how I plan to use them.

    Thanks for sharing your project.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Well, my the glowsticks give a more even lighting that the LEDs but at the cost of brightness.... the bigger glowsticks (like the Cyalume ones used for emergencies and signaling) are brighter but more heavier...

    Also in my application since the balloons weren't retrievable... one of the things I thought about was environmental impact.... though I'm not sure which would be worse the chemicals in the glowsticks or the LEDS and batteries...

    I did do a test (though I didn't get it on video) of a short bar of 3 (semi~) high brightness LEDs... which overall could be seen farther away....

    Also LEDs can cost more than glowsticks... esp. if your local dollar store caries them....


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hehe, kite lights are awesome - when you make your RGB version, fly them high and steady and cause a UFO flap!

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    When I was taking the long exposure photos, I was in my front yard - which is fairly close to a semi-main road. Even with just the two small lights, about 1 out of 3 cars going bye stopped or slowed way down to get a closer look.

    Its amazing how easily amused some people are..... including myself ;)