The Stoopid Thing: Kite-powered Personal Flight

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Introduction: The Stoopid Thing: Kite-powered Personal Flight

About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

Do not attempt! Fortunately, the first time I tried this it worked and there was a video camera running, so I've never had to try again.

The video footage is from Nahant Beach, MA in the summer of 2003. Saul, Tim, and I were convinced that using a large kitesurfing kite it would be possible to "fly" a human anchored to some point on the ground. It's not exactly an original idea, and had been used for hundreds of years for military reconnaissance, but when you haven't done it yourself, anything can seem like a new and exciting idea, right?

In 15-20 mph of wind, I flew a 20 sqm kite that I could just barely keep under control when it was fully de-powered. On the back of my harness, attached with a quick-release, was a 100 ft rope with a waterskiing-like handle at the end. Tim held on to me, helping to hold me down, and we waded out into the water. Once I could barely touch the bottom, I powered-up the kite and shot into the air. Tim held on to the handle and wakeboarded behind me.

The initial launch into the air was intense, and I suddenly had a spectacular view of the beach and pretty much all the way to Boston. After some practice, I was able to control my height and speed dipping my feet into the water and then soaring into the sky. It was as close to personal flight as I've ever gotten, and was simply amazing.

Lots of things could have gone wrong, which is why you shouldn't try this, and why I haven't repeated it. Some of the many dangers include falling, getting knocked out, wrapped up in lines or rope, and drowning. After 10 minutes of flight, my arms were so tired that swimming was near impossible and treading water difficult - good thing Tim was right behind me to take the kite as soon as I reached the shore.

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    31 Discussions

    Here's a video of what can happen and how quick http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm5tiw2ICh0&feature=related

    Probably less turbulence over water, but did you have this much control?

    And there is this one...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgAIAfLbcWY&feature=related

    Reminds me of a T shirt I saw once It said..."Everybody needs a purpose in life. Mine is to be a bad example

    I see this done with Kite Boards.

    They don't stay up as long as you did.

    I always saw this kind of thing as trolling for sharks when in the partially water.

    dude that looks so fun! *do not try this at home* classic mythbusters. hey eric i think you should be a mythbuster.

    6 replies

    that would be awesome to see you on tv busting myths with adam and jamie. i guess this is cool my science teacher really like mythbusters and we watch it in class and she let us do a extra-credit mythbusters project.

    oh sorry, i didnt mean for instructables, i will turn it in for school, as it is just a paragraph about the myth they busted and how it works with the scientific method. though if you suggested a myth that is safe to try at home, i might bust (or confirm!) it and make an instructables on how it was done.

    Haha, that looked like something out of the old batman, especially with the hero-y music!

    I've tried paragliding and found that pretty sluggish getting around the skies. I can't imagine how much strength it must have taken to get any control of the kite surfer. I'm used to flying 600lbs gliders made from aluminium (airplanes without engines) and that's bad enough.

    At least you were smart enough to do it over the water. You could die even easier over the land.