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Kite Anemometers

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Kite anemometry is the use of a kite as a sensor to measure the wind velocity, vector and turbulence. It is differentiated from other methods of kite meteorological data gathering in that information is obtained by observing the kite and the forces acting on it. This typically means that all substantial instrumentation is on the ground versus being flown on the kite as a payload.

In different configurations a kite anemometer can be used to examine wind speed at altitude, turbulence, and wind shear. The math behind a kite anemometer-- equations relating the pull of a kite to wind speed-- can also be used to determine the payload capacity of a kite in a specific wind speed.

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In the late 70's a number of patents were made regarding a system in which a series of kites were to be used to monitor conditions near airports. This system became known as the Tethered Aerodynamic Lifting Anemometer (TALA) patented under US Patents 3,767,145, 4,058,010, 4,152,933 & 4,221,351. Inspired by this device, further research into it and the general concept of kite anemometry was conducted throughout the 1980's and early 1990's. No other commercial kite anemometers other than the TALA were produced.

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Update 9/2018:

The following website has recently posted a number of papers relating to the use of TALA systems in various wind turbine siting studies:


Papers available for download in .PDF (direct links provided) on the site include:

(Lissaman, 1980): Wind Energy Assessment of the Palm Springs-Whitewater Region

(Zambrano, Walker, Baker, 1980): Wind Energy Assessment of the Palm Springs-Whitewater Region

(Zambrano, 1980): Assessing Local Wind Field with Instrumentation

(Zambrano, 1981-1): Wind Energy Assessment Studies for Southern California vol 2 of 4

(Zambrano, 1981-2): Wind Energy Assessment Studies for Southern California vol 3 of 4

(Zambrano, 1981-3): Wind Energy Assessment Studies for Southern California vol 4 of 4

Most of the following papers treat the kite in a simplified manner, as a flat plane inclined into the wind. Those dynamics are explained in more depth in the book:

Komura, Hirotsugu & Ito, Toshio. "Kites: The Science and the Wonder" Japanese Publications Inc. Tokyo: 1983. ["Tako No Kagaku" Shogakukan Publishing. Tokyo: 1979]

General Tethered Anemometry:

Chow, W.Y, & R.H. Kirchhoff. “Tethersonde and Kite Anemometer Evaluation.” PNL-6708, Pacific Northwest Laboratory. Subcontractor Report for US DOE. Richland: October 1988. Link

Hobbs, Stephen E. “A Quantitative Study of Kite Performance in Natural Wind with Application to Kite Anemometry.” PhD Thesis, Ecological Physics Research Group, Cranfield Institute of Technology. Cranfield: April 1986. Link

TALA Anemometry:

Woodhouse, Charles F. “Tethered Aerodynamically Lifting Anemometer (TALA).” The Boulder Low-level Intercomparison Experiment, NOAA/ERL Wave Propagation Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Boulder: June 1980. Link

Kunkel, Kenneth E. “Evaluation of a Tethered Kite Anemometer.” ASL-TR-0076, US Army Atmostpheric Sciences Laboratory. White Sands: February 1981.

Kullgren, Thomas E. Finley, Thomas C. Boyce, Steven C. “Academy Wind Site Survey: Methodologies for use by the Air Force. Final Report, May 1977-December 1980.” AD-A129 581, Department of Engineering Mechanics and Department of Civil Engineering, United States Air Force Academy. Tyndall Air Force Base: 1983. Link

Daniels, Anders. “Turbulence Assessment at Potential Turbine Sites.” Windpower ’96 - Proceedings of the American Wind Energy Association, p 369-378. Denver: June 1996. Link

Studies conducted with the TALA:

Taylor P.A. & H.W. Teunissen. “Askervein ’82: Report on the September/October 1982 Eperiment to Study Boundary-Layer Flow over Akervein, South Uist.” MSRB-83-8, Meteorological Services Research Branch, Amospheric Environment Service. Downsview: November 1983.

Taylor, P.A. & H.W. Teunissen. “The Askervein Hill Project: Report on the September/October 1983 Main Field Experiment.” MSRB-84-6, Meteorological Services Research Branch, Amospheric Environment Service. Downsview: December 1985.

Snyder W.H, Lawson R.E., Thompson R.S, & Holzworth G.C. “Observations of Flow Around Cinder Cone Butte, Idaho.” EPA-GCC17-SC-150, US Environmental Protection Agency. Research Triangle Park: June 1980. Link

Neal, D. “Wind Flow and Structure over Gebbies Pass, New Zealand.” Thesis, University of Canterbury New Zealand. Canterbury: December 1979. Link

Baker, Robert W. & Hewson, E. Wendell. “Network Wind Power Over the Pacific Northwest, Progress Report October 1979-September 1980.” DOE/BP-58. Bonneville Power Administration. Portland: October 1980. Link

Zambrano, T.G. “Assessing the Local Windfield with Instrumentation.” PNL-3622, Pacific Northwest Laboratory. Richland: October 1980. Link

Further documents unretrieved:


Huang, K.H. ; Shieh, C.F. ; Frost, W. “Analysis of a kite anemometer: final report. REPORT # DOE/ET/20242-81/2” DE82009058 . FWG Associates, Inc., Tullahoma, TN (USA): December 1981. Link

Kirchhoff, R. H., F. C. Kaminsky, and S. D. Pelmulder. "Measurement of atmospheric turbulence using kites." Ninth ASME Wind Energy Symposium- Presented at the Thirteenth Annual Energy-Sources Technology Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans, LA, USA, 01/14-18/90. 1990.

Field Use:

A low level wind measurement technique for wind turbine generator siting. Baker, R. W.; Whitney, R. L.; Hewson, E. W. Wind Engineering, vol. 3, no. 2, 1979, p. 107-114.

The Kettles Hill Project: Field observations, wind-tunnel simulations and numerical model predictions for flow over a low hill. Boundary-Layer Meteorology, 1988, Volume 43, Number 4, Page 309, J. R. Salmon, H. W. Teunissen, R. E. Mickle, Show All (4)

The influence of model scale on a wind-tunnel simulation of complex terrain. D. Neal, Vickers Dawson, Crayford, Kent, Gt. Britain. Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics Volume 12, Issue 2, July 1983, Pages 125-143

Full-scale measurements of the wind regime over a saddle, and correlation with wind-tunnel tests. D. Neal Boundary-Layer Meteorology March 1982, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 351-371

Note: A thermally stable tension meter for atmospheric soundings using kites K. T. Walesby1,a) and R. G. Harrison1,b). Rev. Sci. Instrum. 81, 076104 (2010)

Sherry, B. J. "The Use of a Flagpole in Calibrating Kite Anemometers and also for Observing at Close Range the Behavior of Kites in the Air." Monthly Weather Review 44 (1916): 327.

The Askervein hill project: A finite control volume prediction of three-dimensional flows over the hill. G. D. Raithby, G. D. Stubley, P. A. Taylor. Boundary-Layer Meteorology May 1987, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 247-267

Wake measurements behind a large horizontal axis wind turbine generator. Robert W. Baker, Stel N. Walker. Solar Energy Volume 33, Issue 1, 1984, Pages 5-12

Case study of wind turbine generator siting in complex terrain. Vachon, W.A. ; Downey, W.T. ; Madio, F.R.Proc. Annu. Meet. - Am. Sect. Int. Sol. Energy Soc.; (United States); Journal Volume: 3.2; Conference: American section of the International Solar Energy Society conference, Phoenix, AZ, USA, 2 Jun 1980

EAGAN, RC, L. E. ANNEN-Dames, and Park Ridge Moore. "DATA ACQUISITION AND ANALYSIS FOR WIND TURBINE SITING IN THE UPPER MID WEST." Second ASME Wind Energy Symposium: presented at 6th Annual Energy-Sources Technology Conference and Exhibition, Houston, Texas, January 30-February 3, 1983. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1983.