Kite-powered ship embarks on voyage to cross Atlantic
Wednesday 23 January 2008
The first cargo ship in the world to be pulled by a giant parachute-shaped kite set out on a transatlantic voyage yesterday in an attempt to prove that wind can once again be used as a viable and "green" source of propulsion for commercial shipping of the future.
The German-owned Beluga SkySails is a 400ft diesel-powered freighter equipped with a 160 sq metre, remote-controlled kite that can be flown 600ft above its bows, thereby cutting the vessel's fuel consumption.
The ship left the German port of Bremerhaven yesterday for Guanta in Venezuela carrying a cargo of chipboard factory parts. "The voyage will take about 18 days and we expect to hoist the kite as soon as we hit easterly trade winds south of the Azores," said Verena Frank, the spokeswoman for the SkySails company.
Stephan Wrage, 34, an industrial engineer who developed his SkySail after dreaming up the idea as a kite-flying schoolboy, said his invention had the potential to be used by at least 60 per cent of the world's 100,000 commercial vessels and could cut their overall annual fuel consumption by up to 35 per cent.
"Only the tough conditions imposed on a ship during a long voyage of this kind can show whether the SkySail is effective and whether the materials can stand up to the stresses and strains it will undergo," Mr Wrage said.
His kite is radically different from the canvas of square-rigged sailing ships which were last used as commercial cargo carriers in the 1950s. Instead of being held in place by spars and ropes as the wind fills it, the "SkySail" performs acrobatics carving a steady figure-of-eight pattern through the air above the ship.
Its movements are controlled by a computer linked to the kite by a cable housed inside the thick synthetic hawser holding it to the ship. While performing its figure-of-eight movements, the kite reaches speeds more than four times that of the prevailing wind. "The effect is to dramatically increase the kite's pulling power," said Ms Frank of SkySails.
The company has already conducted more than 2,000 hours of tests on prototype kites. The voyage of the Beluga SkySails will focus on the ability of the kite and is cables to withstand fabric damage caused by strong sunlight and the chafe resulting from a constant 16-tonne pull on the weaving of the SkySail.
The Beluga Skysails crew also plan to fly the kite on the return trip. Ms Frank said: "The ship is due to pick up a cargo in Boston on its return voyage which will take it north of the Azores. At that point it should pick up westerly trade winds that should blow her back to her home port."
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 4 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...