Lets keep Ship Kites in mind in the context of speculative scaling by non-power-kite contenders. Ship Kites have the highest power at highest TRL; the current wings to beat.
Soft Kites distribute stresses but rigid kites concentrate stresses, with a brittle-failure mode soft kites do not suffer from. The bigger a rigid kite, the graver the brittle risk, or at best, more parasitic structural mass. Without help, big rigid kites no longer lift-off in a breeze; big power kites do.
The highest theoretic power-to-mass in AWE depends on the strongest polymer unit-mass working closest to its load-limit. Load-distributing power kites are better at this. Current power kites are closely adapted to “most-probable” winds. Rigid kites offer less choices than power kite quivers. Try and wear a quiver out, but one crash, and a rigid kite is done.
Power Kites have the R&D advantage by large sophisticated user subcultures spanning decades and maybe a billion or so in past military R&D. “Power drones” must catch up and pass power kites to be “the answer”. Power kite state-of-the-art does not sit still, but improves daily. Rigid kites will never catch up at large scale, if cited scaling laws apply as predicted.
KiteLabs and kPower have long designed and flown rigid-soft combos, and even recommend them at small length-scale (<2m), but rigid structure starts to suffer >3m in length-scale, in normal wind conditions. Power kites rely on rigidities of air pressure, and sometimes spread anchors, at no serious weight-cost aloft.
Large soft kites, pilot-lifters, can hold up fragile rigid airframes from crashing, but even this soft solution does not make rigid kites essential to AWE. It may duly prove best to just let giant power kites work groundgens directly, without compounded complications. KIS, as engineers are taught.