Airborne observations using lightweight camera systems are desirable for a variety of applications. This system was contemplated as a method to provide a simple remote sensing aerial platform. Kites have been successfully employed for aerial observations, but have historically required natural wind or towing to become airborne. This new method negates this requirement, and widens the applicability of kites for carrying instrumentation. Applicability is primarily limited by the space available on the ground for launching.

The innovation is a method for launching kites in low-wind or no-wind conditions. This method will enable instrumentation to be carried aloft using simple (or complex) kite-based systems, to obtain observations from an aerial perspective. This technique will provide access to altitudes of 100 meters or more over any area normally suited for kite flying. The duration of any observation is dependent on wind strength; however, the initial altitude is relatively independent. The system does not require any electrical or combustion-based elements.

This technology was developed to augment local-scale airborne measurement capabilities suitable for Earth science research, agricultural productivity, and environmental observations. The method represents an extension of techniques often used in aeronautical applications for launching fixed-wing aircraft, such as sailplanes, using mechanical means not incorporated in the aircraft itself.

The innovation consists of an elastic cord (for propulsive force), a tether extension (optional, for additional height), and the kite (instrumentation optional). Operation of the system is accomplished by fixing the elastic cord to ground (or equivalent), attaching the cord with/or without a tether extension to the kite, tensioning the system to store energy, and releasing the kite. The kite will climb until energy is dissipated.

This work was done by Geoffrey Bland and Ted Miles of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16004-1