Autonomous flying wind turbines can generate power at almost half the cost
The German startup Kitekraft develops flying wind turbines that require 10 times less materials to develop than traditional wind turbines. The company has just announced successful flight tests, which it describes as a “major step towards our first 100 kW product”.
On its website, Kitekraft explains that the reduced material requirements for its flying turbine – which uses a tether instead of a huge tower – means it can cut its energy costs to nearly half of those produced. by traditional wind farms at the megawatt scale. Its carbon footprint is also lower than that of standard wind turbines, according to the company, in part due to the fact that large wind turbine towers are typically transported by road.
Efficient renewable energy with a fraction of the infrastructure
To achieve its goals, Kitekraft, which recently visited the Y Combinator technology accelerator, has developed an autonomous hybrid kite plane that generates energy via eight small on-board rotors. The energy produced by the aircraft is sent by a lanyard to a ground station which is connected to the network. The creators of Kitekraft claim that their prototype generates the same energy as the tips of large wind turbine blades – the fastest part of the blade – with a fraction of the infrastructure required.
In an interview with FastCompany last year, the co-CEO of Kitekraft Florian Bauer also explained that the technology can also be adapted for use at sea. “You just need a ground station for the kite like a floating buoy,” he said. “There is no foundation required, like a huge tower that goes to the bottom of the sea.” If the winds get too strong, the kites can simply be lowered to prevent damage to the machines. Images of the company’s recent test flights can be viewed below.
Kitekfrat aims to increase its frequency of test flights
Following the company’s self-contained flight tests last month, Kitekfrat’s other co-founder, Max Isensee, said “we are continuing our work towards the design of the final product.” The tests mean that several new systems, including a custom-designed high-lift multi-element aerofoil, magnet wind vane and industrial Linux flight control computers are now proven in flight. Isensee explained that the company can now increase its frequency of test flights and that, “in the coming weeks, further hardware and software improvements, as well as flight tests, are planned to further push the limits.”
For starters, Kiteraft aims to deploy its machines on micro-grids on remote islands, where transporting massive wind infrastructure is not possible. Its machines are also less unpleasant on the eyes – they’re barely visible from afar – meaning they could also be tested in communities that have opposed big wind farm proposals.
In a September 2020 blog post, Bauer said Kitekraft was taking over from another company called Makani. Makani had been working on a now-abandoned flying turbine project, and he decided to release thousands of pages of technical documents as open source resources once he decided to stop further development of the technology. As Bauer said at the time, it is a “testifies to the mission-oriented nature of the work done by companies such as Makani and now Kitekraft.