A roll on-roll off cargo ship chartered by Airbus and operated by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs now boasts an automated kite for wind energy-assisted propulsion. The 500 m2 Seawing system is the first installed by wind propulsion solution developer Airseas on a commercial vessel.

The ship, which transports major aircraft components between France and the U.S., will deploy the Seawing on its monthly transatlantic journeys starting in January 2022. The kite system can be safely deployed, operated and stored at the push of a button, and can be retrofitted on a ship in two days.

The automated sail promises to deliver efficiency and emissions gains. Source: AirseasThe automated sail promises to deliver efficiency and emissions gains. Source: Airseas

Once deployed, the kite maintains a figure-eight trajectory at a speed over 100 km/h (62 mph), monitored and controlled by an automated system programmed to place the kite for maximum traction power. The Seawing computers also interface with the ship's navigation systems, monitoring forward wind conditions and re-routing the ship to take the most efficient path possible without affecting its arrival time.

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The full size Seawing designed by Airseas is a 1000 m2 parafoil that flies at an altitude of 300 m, capturing the strength of the wind to propel the vessel. Based on modeling and preliminary testing on land, Airseas estimates that the Seawing system will enable an average 20% reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com