Fourth Year Engineering

Aerodynamics of Power Kites
(Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics project, Tristan Smith and Martin Kom)

Tristan Smith & Martin KomFlexifoil International Ltd. is one of the world's biggest manufacturers of performance kites. The company develop and manufacture specialist kites which are used in the rapidly growing sport of kite-surfing. These kites can be launched out of water and generate very large forces, sufficient to pull a person plus surfboard into the air for 'flight' times of up to 7 seconds. Similar kites are also used to achieve high speeds on water (outperforming windsurfers).

The pace of development has been so rapid that many of the fundamental aerodynamic problems of these kites are not understood, and it is this lack of understanding that hampers further progress. Two fourth year students, Tristan Smith and Martin Kom, have been working together on this project in co-operation with Flexifoil to experimentally investigate various aspects of kite aerodynamics. The aim of the project is to gather fundamental aerodynamic information which can be used in the development of future generations of performance kites.

Using a combination of wind tunnel testing, computational modelling and field trials, the students are using their knowledge of fluid mechanics to provide scientific information which can be used by the company's designers.

"It has been a great experience for us, as we not only get to test out the kites but have also learned a lot about how businesses operate by working with our industrial sponsors. It is a good way to apply the knowledge we have acquired during the course of our degree."