Watch this cargo ship fly a giant kite to save fuel and cut emissions

Authored by and submitted by Ok_Champion6840
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Ville de Bordeaux joined the wind-blown fleet last December, when Airseas installed its Seawing system on the front of the 500-foot-long vessel.

With the flip of a switch, the kite automatically unfurls and positions itself in the wind to help pull the ship forward. A pod attached to the kite’s tether gathers weather data to optimize the system’s performance. Once towing is no longer needed, the tether retracts, and the kite folds back onto the bow of the ship. The system is intended to fit onto any type of commercial vessel.

For the sea trials, Airseas deployed both a 2,700-square-foot kite and a 5,400-square-foot version. (The startup is also developing a 10,800-square-foot version of the parafoil.)

The first stages of tests successfully validated key steps, such as the automatic folding and unfolding of the kite and its performance at altitude. The processes of takeoff and landing are particularly dynamic, Bernatets told Canary Media.

“We are launching a flying object from a sailing object, compensating for movement on all sides, such as waves in high seas and turbulence at low altitude,” he explained. ​“After the flight, we have to ensure that the Seawing lands smoothly and precisely on a moving target: the ship bow, which is oscillating on waves and generating heavy turbulence and movement.”

Although the Seawing is meant to work without the crew’s intervention, a team of Airseas engineers stayed on board during the pilot runs to test the system and gather data. The group had to schedule tests within narrow windows of time to avoid interfering with Ville de Bordeaux’s busy operations. Engineers also had to create new safety processes for handling the first-of-its-kind system.

“And we have to do all this in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” Bernatets said.

In next year’s sea trials, Airseas will test the Seawing in more varied weather conditions and fine-tune the automated system. The idea is to expand the kite’s ​“flight envelope,” or the range of conditions in which the system can safely fly, a process Bernatets likened to testing a new aircraft. He said tests in 2023 will also confirm exactly how much the kite helps to reduce the vessel’s fuel use and associated emissions.

“Ultimately, the Seawing needs to be automated and easy to use,” he said. ​“This is why, despite the operational constraints, it is essential that these tests happen at sea, in real-life conditions…to make the process streamlined for future users.”

The six-year-old startup already has a major customer lined up. Japanese shipowner K Line has placed orders for five Seawing systems, with additional options to equip 46 additional vessels. The first of those kites is due to be installed this month, Bernatets said.

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videodromejockey on January 24th, 2023 at 14:46 UTC »

Even a couple of percent increase in efficiency is huge. In aerospace, they compete over tenths of a percent. Distribute that across a fleet of airliners and it’s a real cost savings.

To be clear they only care about cost, not about the planet. But it’s nice when those two goals align.

skedeebs on January 24th, 2023 at 14:30 UTC »

Cutting 20% would be huge, but even if it is only several percent and is widely adopted, it will matter while other measures or better fuels are developed. If the system pays for itself in a short amount of time, all the better. I can't help think that this could have been done decades ago.

cayuts21 on January 24th, 2023 at 14:23 UTC »

A sail? What a concept