Can You Fly A Kite Anywhere You Like?

It’s the stuff of rosy childhood memories – but did you know you might have been breaking the law all along?

Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Editor and Staff Writer

Laura is an editor and staff writer at IFLScience. She obtained her Master's in Experimental Neuroscience from Imperial College London.

Editor and Staff Writer

rainbow kite flying in blue sky

Let's go fly a kite – but only once we've brushed up on local aviation laws. Image credit: JDTemp/

Flying a kite: it’s an age-old family tradition, so quintessential there’s even a Disney song about it. Many people will have happy memories of kite-flying on a sunny afternoon; but, did you know that this most innocent of hobbies could actually be a hotbed of law-breaking? There are more regulations around kite safety than you might think!

How high can you fly a kite?

The reason why you might find yourself falling foul of aviation law when flying a kite is that, in some countries, they’re technically considered a type of aircraft. Yes, as ridiculous as that may sound, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has strict rules in place that apply to kites just as much as other airborne objects.


Under their jurisdiction, you can only fly a kite below a height of 60 meters (197 feet). Any higher, and you’d need to seek special permission. Similar rules have been set by the US Federal Aviation Administration, and here you get even less leeway. Kites may not be flown above a height of 46 meters (150 feet), and you can’t scrimp on the decoration either – kites must have colored streamers or pennants on the string, at least every 15 meters (50 feet).

Admittedly, it may be a challenge for your average amateur kite enthusiast to achieve the dizzying heights of 20 African elephants stacked on top of each other

The particular laws and regulations governing kite-flying vary massively around the world. So, before heading out on a windy day, it’s always best to double check the rules in your area.

Where can you fly a kite?

So, we’ve established that you can’t fly a kite as high as you like, but can you at least do so in the location of your choosing? Predictably, no.


Here, again, the UK has an antiquated law that could come into play. The Metropolitan Police Act 1839 prohibits kite-flying in a public place if – and here’s the key point – it’s likely to annoy anyone else. Incidentally, the same clause in the legislation also makes it illegal to slide on an icy pavement, in case you fancied switching to that activity in the winter.

Of course, this is wide open to interpretation – one person’s irritation is another’s aerial spectacle – but it’s worth bearing in mind that, should you be flying your kite in a crowded park for example, you could feasibly fall foul of this rule, and possibly land yourself with a fine to boot.

There’s another, more understandable, factor that also governs where you may and may not fly a kite: other aircraft. In the UK, if you’re within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of an airfield, you have to keep your kite even lower to the ground, below 30 meters (98 feet). You must avoid flight paths for takeoff and landing, and you’re required to take steps to avoid low-flying craft like helicopters and hang-gliders. 

Similar rules apply in the US and elsewhere. As a rule, it’s probably best to head in the opposite direction to the nearest airfield if you’re off for a spot of kite-flying.


Beyond the actual legislation, there are also some sensible precautions that any kite enthusiast should take to avoid personal injury. Flying a kite anywhere near pylons or overhead cables is definitely not recommended, and even tall trees if you can avoid them. Should you accidentally get your kite entangled in a power line, don’t try to remove it yourself: instead, call the electricity company. And, in general, it’s best to be aware of your surroundings to keep yourself and others safe.

Flying a kite might sound like the most benign of activities, but there have been cases where this sport has turned downright nasty, and even deadly.

The darker side of kite-flying

Earlier this year, six people were killed and at least 176 injured during the annual Uttarayan kite festival in Gujarat, India. A banned practice involving coating kite strings in powdered glass was blamed for the deaths – it’s been reported that the ban is rarely enforced, and the coating transforms the strings into a razor-sharp weapon.

worker applying pink powdered glass mixture to kite string
A worker prepares manja by applying pink paste containing powdered glass to kite string. Image credit: Parikh Mahendra N/

The glass-coated string, called manja, is sometimes used in traditional kite-fighting competitions to allow one fighter to cut through an opponent’s kite string. These competitions are a popular feature of kite-flying festivals in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and similar practices exist in the Middle East and South America too. But manja has been banned at the Uttarayan kite festival for good reason: not only does it pose a substantial risk to human spectators, as evidenced by the tragic deaths seen in January, but it’s also a threat to bird life


This may all seem a world away from sunny afternoons in the park; but, whether it’s a huge kite festival or a solo flight, it is worth getting to grips with the law of the skies.


  • tag
  • aviation,

  • kites,

  • aviation safety