It seems a good portion of people consider a grown man who still flies kites for his own amusement to be pretty weird. But just about everyone considers a grown man who flies kites with the sole purpose of dropping things from the sky to be a loony, a man with too much time on his hands who should be looked upon with suspicion.
In fact, while not a popular sport, the practice of dropping things from kites attracts a loyal following amongst the self described "dropniks." Thousands of foot-high stuffed paratroopers have landed in farmer's fields and public parks, not to mention the copious numbers of G.I. Joes, Barbies, mints, model aircraft, Blow up dolls, and plenty of Teddy bears that have been scattered from on high. Some kite clubs even offer to parachute your own teddy animal for a small donation.
There are three main devices for dropping your soldier/critter/babe/nighttime companion:
- The pull-line device.
The payload is included with the kite at takeoff, and a separate line is attached to the kite to release the payload. Occasionally the main flying line is used, with a sharp snap of the line releasing the payload. It's really easy to make and implement a pull-line device, but since the payload must be on the kite from the beginning, getting the kite to take off can be difficult with heavy payloads. Another problem is keeping the pull line from getting tangled with the flying line.
- The timer device.
The payload is again attached to the kite on take off, but instead of a pull line, the payload is set to drop with a timer. Similar problem with take off load as the pull line device, but no messy second lines to deal with.
- The messenger device.
The messenger device (or ferry) is sent from the ground to an already flying kite, being pulled by either a sail or a parachute. Once the messenger device reaches a certain height, it hits a stop, which causes the messenger device to drop it's payload. Many messenger devices also drop their sail or parachute once they hit the stop, which causes them to slide back down the line, ready to be reused. This device has the advantage of not burdening the kite; the only modification to the kite on takeoff is a cork on the line. The messenger device can also fly many more times in an hour then the other methods, since you don't need to land the kite between drops. Sometimes a really big sail is needed on the messenger, though, if you have a heavy payload.
Dropniks need a kite with a strong, steady pull. Your flying angle needs will vary: low angles mean easier climbing for messenger devices, but it means your dropnik payload will land farther afield. Depending on how big your field is and how high you plan on dropping from, that may or may not matter. Box kites and stacked delta kites are good choices. If you're having a hard time getting your box kite up with the payload, you might try a French military kite or another winged box kite.
Although some people get into dropniks just for the thrill of seeing something tumble out of the sky, many people get very excited and imaginative about the aesthetics; about the experience from Teddy's perspective. I've seen enthusiasts make custom jump suits, aeronautical goggles, Teddy sized military pins, helmets, gloves and boots. I've seen people with web logs of each jump, detailing the equipment, jump zone, and wind conditions, all written by Ace Bear. Some of these veterans have hundreds of chronicled jumps to their credit.
Okay, maybe we are a wee bit strange. But pulling off a successful jump is strangely exhilarating and satisfying. If you don't care what your neighbours think, you should give it a try some time. Join a local kite club and ask whether they'll give you a hand.