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10247Encampment Report (Comparing NPW and OL Kites)

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  • dave santos
    Sep 26, 2013

      For the last few weeks, at the Texas AWE Encampment, we have been intensively flying kPower's single-skin power-kite quiver of three KiteShip OLs and five NASA Power Wings, ranging from 1.5 to 32 m2. If the sport parafoil is a racehorse, the NPW is a rhino, and the OL an elephant. Why these simple powerful wings are so overlooked in AWE is a mystery. They are "technical" to fly, which is kiter talk for "requires mastery" (yet small versions make good trainers).

      Very light wind (3m/s, 5mph) is flyable by the 32m2 NPW, and a surprising power is evident by merely "going big".  The big NPW works wide in its window, sweeping with a deep unearthly moan, and will park overhead at a very high angle, proving high L/D in light wind by very low wind-loading by area. The biggest problem with this ten-year-old Dutch kite is poor bridling, a construction defect, where a bridle-line often hooks short over a stopper-knot, so the kite must be monitored for this. Even pieces of straw and small twigs can foul the lines. Bridles and lines have gotten far better in recent years, but fouling potential is still an issue. The remaining NPW litter of small to medium (1.5-7m2) NPWs are mostly Berlin street-kites, very well made. An unlabeled, maybe homemade, 2m2 NPW fills in the quiver.

      By comparison with the NPW, the typical OL has only three lines, and no bridling, so line-handling is very easy. The utter cleanness of Dave Culp's design allows it to perform comparably (a bit slower, but even lighter) with the NPW. kPower has a ~15m2 OL made extra-strong byKiteShip, for high wind. A small KiteShip 3m2 developmental prototype OL has been flown for six years in mostly light wind. A mysterious four-line OL derivative turned up in kPower's jumbled storage (think King Tut's Tomb), never properly rigged nor flown; now its flying quite well. The four-line configuration seems suited as a pilot-hosted variable-wing concept.

      Persistent calm (with brief gustiness) has prevailed lately, but the Fall weather pattern, with strong Northers (Winter frontal pattern) is setting up. The OL-NPW quiver is ready to drive the power machinery set in the field (A cool DIY hardware detail is the MegaBar, a control-bar made of heavy-duty steel hardware that is far stronger than any sport kite bar). The kites must overcome considerable starting and rolling friction (mostly due to cheap parts and crude details) to then make nominal crosswind power. As we await the big winds, the 32m2 wing at least allows us bursts of power in marginal "sucker wind". We are mostly flying at about 100ft AGL, as "scale-altitude".