French firm, Airseas, engineers giant kites to pull cargo ships across the ocean

ByHarshita Bhati
Jul 01, 2023 09:04 PM IST

Airseas, a French company, engineered a seawing that can propel a cargo ship.

We have seen kitesurfers in action, tapping into wind energy to help them glide over the sea.

Airseas, a French company, engineered a seawing that can propel a cargo ship and slash their carbon emissions. (Airseas screenshot/twitter)
Airseas, a French company, engineered a seawing that can propel a cargo ship and slash their carbon emissions. (Airseas screenshot/twitter)

A french company called Airseas, formed in 2016, has now created Seawing, a wing that can propel a cargo ship. The kite will fly 200m above sea level. This technology could assist cargo ships to decrease their fuel consumption, and cut down 10% to 40% of their carbon emissions.

The french company has combined kite technology with an automated system for flight control which comprises automation technology and digital twin.

According to Airseas, Seawing will be initiated at the push of a button and guaranteed that it is 100% automated. It is effortless to use, and the crew can initiate it from the bridge (the commanding room from where crew members operate the ship) and requires little training for operation.

A simple switch commences or recovers the kite, which unravels, initiates, and refolds autonomously. Instantaneously, the system gathers and analyzes meteorological and oceanic data. Seawing adjusts to this data to enhance its performance and to secure maximum safety.

According to the International Maritime Organization, Airseas co-founder and CEO Vincent Bernatets notifies the urgent need for change in the shipping industry, as ships are predominantly driven by fossil fuels, the shipping sector accounts for approximately 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Bernatets argues that the alternative fuels like green ammonia are developing and they are expensive. Further stating that it will take decades to develop such infrastructure for the purpose of deploying them at scale. He questions, “In the meantime, what can we do? That’s where using wind is absolutely paramount.”

For millennia, boats have been powered by wind energy, the Seawing employs innovative technology to make it apt for the 21st century. The kite is a parafoil, similar to surfing kites, and it is set in motion via a foldable mast, which is also employed to retrieve the kite when not required.

Its flight is regulated by autopilot software that runs from a box which is placed beneath the kite. The box is connected to the ship by a 700-meter-long cable that supplies power and transmits data to and from the vessel.

For over a year, a version of the Seawing of 250-square-meter has been examined on a cargo ship which is chartered by Airbus. The ship sailed across the Atlantic. Bernatets said that this May, Airseas team has activated, launched and flown the kite. The French company proudly announced that the kite was successful in towing the ship. In December, it will inaugurate examining its “dynamic” figure-of-eight flights.

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