Kite Altitude World Record
Dyneema®, the world’s strongest fiber™
September 23rd 2014
A WORLD RECORD OF 16,038 ft.
The 2014 preparation was not much different to previous years. Our effort was the same. There were a few mods and enhancements to our equipment and strategy. The weather has played a big part in our success or failure over the last 40 flights and this time the wind Gods were blowing in our favour. Our adoption of a duel spreader was also a big factor in our success. We were well prepared with 3 backups of every piece of equipment (apart from the winch), kites, lines, telemetry and data loggers. The one ace up our sleeve was the adoption of a second spreader. It gave the kite at least 20% more power in winds over about 10 knots. The extra weight would only have effected the kite's response attitude at the lower end of it's wind range. In these winds the gain in lift far exceeded the weight penalty.
I had tested double spreaders on my 16 sq metre DT delta in 2005. I came to no clear conclusions but it was a strategy we had discussed a few times. After 2012 we decided that we should try the spreader during our next series of attempts. The flight on 22nd September 2014 convinced us that we had to try a second spreader.
On Monday 22nd September 2014 we prepared for flight and as usual this took over 2 hours but we were ready by 10am. A steady 12 knot breeze was blowing from the east. The kite rose rapidly to 6,000 ft then it was a steady climb to 9,000 ft with the tension gauge hovering around 30 - 50 lbs, occasionally dropping below 20 lbs. Unfortunately the local weather station cut back staff and balloon Sonde flights so our information about winds aloft was very limited. The ascent was taking a lot more time than I liked and it looked like at the rate of climb we would run out of time before we needed to reel the line back. The kite struggled to go from 11,000 to 12,778 ft and then it was all done. We reeled in rapidy, bringing the kite in before last light. A frustrating day as we knew the wind was probably good enough to reach our target of 15,000 ft.
For all our record attempts we needed to have an effective means of communicating with air traffic control 1000 km away to activate and close the zone on a daily basis. In October 2004 I had a satellite phone, a half brick device I stuck on my belt. It was cumbersome and expensive to hire for a week. In 2005 I had a CDMA phone which was marginal and I often sometimes to drive 4 or 5 km back toward Cobar to get anough signal strength to open or close the zone. In 2007 there was a switch to the 3g network and unfortunately the mobile phone I had purchased was unable to pick up the signal from the Cobar tower. I needed to purchase a 3g phone with an external aerial connector plus a big aerial and a patch lead. That enabled reliable reception and satisfied the mandatory requirement of the CASA conditions that we have the ability to make and recieve calls while the zone is active. In 2012 I purchased a dedicated high gain aerial as I had forgot to remove from my decommissioned Nissan. I mounted the new (very expensive) aerial to a 4 meter fiberglass mast. This was an very effective setup for reliable communiocation. This year (2014) the mast was also used to attach a Yagi directional aerial to receive the 100mW radio GPS telemetry signal from the kite's onboard GPSFlight unit. With computer leads, power leads, power boards, aerial wires and winch control wiring, we have to careful not to trip over these wires. Unfortunately the GPSFlight Dashboard application was accidently closed, interupting the flight data recording and requiring restarting the software and naming a new log file. However the last 1/3 of the record flight was not recorded on the GPSFlight log. The record altitude was captured and the first 1 hour of decent. A full log of the flight was recorded by the HOLUX data logger. I am very glad I have used a backup GPS unit on flights since 2007. The laptop is setup in the front passenger seat of Mikes 4 x 4 as the laptop screen can't be viewed outdoors. A generator chugs away 30 meters away. This supplies the winch motor, line layering motor, laptop, jugs and cell phone chargers. It is a dry zone and a red clinging dust rises with each step. Everything gets coated with dust after a few days. The Australian outback sun burns quickly and we apply a generous layer of sunscreen. Hats are mandatory. Fortunately the fly numbers are down this year so we don't have to apply repellent or wear face screens dangling from our hats. The temperature on both days was between 20 and 27 degrees. Very agreeable and this is one of the reasons I chose late September for record attempts apart from the prospects of decent wind.
On day 1, Monday 22nd September we launched or big DT delta about 10am then got the kite to a respectable altitude of 12,778 ft above ground level. This took about 8 hours then we had to get the kite back before 7.30 pm. Day light saving started on October 6th, a week after we returned to Sydney. We can only fly from first light to last light each day according to the CASA conditions.
The GPS measures altitude from mean sea level then we need to deduct the ground level to determine height above the launch point. The wind seemed good but the kite seemed to lack the pull required to punch it past the record. Jesse Gerensen, a high flyer from the Czech republic, phoned through wind predictors earlier that day. He has been following our attempts for nearly 2 years. He has his own high flying agendaHis help on wind forecasts is much appreciated but phone reception on day 2 precluded us recieving his call and consequently we had no idea what the winds aloft might be. He has different views on how to reach record altitude using much small kites and lines.
That night we decided to fit a second spreader to power up the kite. Conditions were predicted to be the same on Tuesday 23rd so any differences in performance were likely due to the 2nd spreader.
On Tuesday 23rd after fitting the 2nd spreader we headed off to the air strip to prepare the kite and instruments for launch. It was a test flight for the extra spreader but if it flew better than the previous day then we would just go for it.
At about 8,20 am we launched in a 15 knot wind. The kite rose quickly to 500 ft then it had sufficient grunt to pull line off the reel. It was already pulling much harder and flying at a very high angle. We let the kite have it's head. "Go you good thing" "Throw line at it" was Michael Richard's catch cry. It pulled line off the reel rapidly and went up at 70 - 50 degrees until it hit 10,000 ft in 1 hour 15 min. By then it had flown above the first level of cloud at 6,000 to 7,000 ft. It became increasingly difficult to view the kite because it was obscured by cloud and by 10,000 ft we had given up looking for it with our binoculars and large telescope. The primary method of tracking the kite is GPS telemetry which consists of a GPS receiver and radio transmitter on the kite and a ground receiver connect to a laptop computer. The kite's positional coordinates and altitude are displayed on the laptop screen. A backup GPS telemetry data logger is in the same insulated box as the GPS telemetry unit. The batteries for the telemetry are enclosed in a styrofoam box to insulate against temperatures that may be as low as -20 deg. C. The batteries will last up to 54 hours, The data logger's battery charge is good for 12 hours. The accuracy of the GPS units is within 20 ft for position and 30 ft for altitude and mostly much better than that.
These units were compared and verified against a fixed survey datum by a registered surveyor. A manual log was kept by Roger who also observed the laptop screen, calling out the altitude at regular intervals. Roger kept the log each 10 minutes which recorded, line out, altitude and horizontal distance from the launch point. We also recorded line angle and kite angle where possible. The farm owners were present during the kite's ascent from 15,000 ft through to record altitude and the early stages of retrieval. The time to 16,038 ft was only 3 hour 43 minutes. Getting the kite back took a little more time but up and back was less than 8 hours. The GPSFlight telemetry stopped transmitting about an hour after maximum was reached. Later I found that the radio aerial had worked it's way loose, probably due to the intense trailing edge flutter of the kite wings. Thank Heaven for Holux. In any case we had the critical data in GPS Dash. We were very happy, jumping for joy and cheering. It has been an effort of patience and perseverance over 10 years. We reflected on our efforts that night over beer and wine. We are mighty pleased. What next? Train record, target 35,000 ft or for you Wirt High School boys, 40,000ft. (:
I have a moderate amount of sponsorship including DSM Dyneema in Holland in conjunction with Cousin-Trestec of France, Kite Magic in Sydney, Universal Instruments of Sydney, TECO electric motors and Lewis Pulleys of Sydney.
Since the record I have been busy trying to maximise media exposure for our achievement plus organising the record verification with AKA and Guinness. We are hoping to generate sponsorship so we can properly attack the 95 year old train record.
In the meantime it's back to reality with work and family, lawn mowing, washing dishes. From sublime to mundane. Such is life.
Bob Moore - team leader
Michael Richards of Kite Magic - kite builder
Michael Jenkins, Kite flyer, winch driver and sailor
Roger Martin, Buggy man, laptop man, fisherman
All my team are great men, kite builders, flyers and kite experts.
Without them the record attempts would never have progressed beyond ground level.
Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG_Y9ESbS4c
Track of kite on 22nd Sept.
This is the image from the Holux GPS data logger and when connected to a laptop running Windows 7 is displayed in Holux Ezitour software. It is a horizontal track of the kite on 220914. To give some perspective to this satellite image, the launch point near the centre of the Cable Downs airstrip in the RH top. The strip is 1.2 km long so the horizontal distance to the kite was about 10km. We used about 11.5 km of line.
Above is the vertical track of the kite as recorded by the Holux GPS data logger on Monday 22/09/14. The maximum altitude above sea level was 13408 ft. The altitude for record purposes is above the launch point so that height, 630 ft , needs to be deducted to give 12,778 ft AGL (above ground level). The time is in UTC (Universal Time Clock or Greenwich time) and 10 hours needs to be added to give local time. You can see we ran out of time by 5pm to attempt to work the kite higher.
This a screen shot from the Hoxux GPS data logger which was on the kite during the record flight, September 23rd 2014. The blue track on the satellite image shows the launch point on the right and max altitude with red arrorrow on left.
12620 metres of line was used with about 150 metres left on the storage reel.
The maximum altitude recorded is 16,653 ft above sea level or 16,023 ft above the launch point as the launch point is 630 metres above sea level. Keen observers may note that this is 15 ft lower than the altitude reported from the GPSFlight telemetry in our first record breaking reports in emails and social media. These reports were based on the GPSFlight data and the altitudes claimed are yet to be ratified by AKA or Guinness as of 10th October 2014. Surveyor comparisons to official survey datum points have been performed and GPSFlight or Holux data will be used depending on which unit is most accurate. The differences are very small. Calculations show that the GPS devices used for the record breaking have about 99.9% accuracy over that height.
Above: The same data as above but directly ported to MSExcel and graphed. The altitude data is in meters above ground level as compiled directly in Holux GPS data logger. Note the time in column 7 showing a brief unit test at 7.37 am. The flight start time was around 9.15 am. The different shape of the curve is due to the different aspect ratios of the images between the 2 software applications.
Below: GPSFlight data fortunately recorded the climb to record altitude and 1 hour after. The transmission stopped after an radio aerial came loose. Very glad I included the Holux data logger as a backup.