Public Lab Research note


Determining wind direction with a kite and compass

by mathew with gretchengehrke , marlokeno | | 342 views | 0 comments |

Read more: publiclab.org/n/14148


During PM hotspot monitoring, we launched a small kite to take wind direction measurements above the tree height. These measurements were usually about 10-15° off of our measurements at ground level.

This activity requires at least two people and the following equipment:

  • a kite (any kite)
  • a sighting compass
  • a notebook

Launch the kite

One person can launch a kite, but it works best with two.

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Read the wind direction

Wind is usually recorded in the direction it comes from, while we're going to measure the direction the wind is going & pushing the kite. I.E. a wind out of the Northeast will push the kite Southwest. We will therefore read the compass and then reverse the reading.

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Sight down the line of the kite, observing the needle in the mirror. Turn the dial until the north arrow (red) is in the red orienting arrow box.

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Now look at the compass from the top, and note where the sight indicates the wind's bearing on the dial. This is the direction the wind is going.

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Since we are going to record the direction the wind comes from, look at the indicator 180° opposite the sight.

About the kite

While any kite will do, our small octopus kite from Kaixuan Kites is easy to carry, easy to fly and cost $5 at a toystore. These are sometimes sold under the brand Booooom, and are a version of a traditional Japanese octopus (tako) kite. Premier Kites also makes a version.

About the Compass

We used a Brunton TruArc 7 compass, which has both a sighting mirror and an inclinometer. It is very nice and cost about $30. Any magnetic sighting compass with a mirror and dial will do.


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