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What are Kite Ships?

written by: Raunekk • edited by: KennethSleight • updated: 5/25/2009

Harnessing the wind as a renewable source of energy can be a mundane thing to discuss. But the shipping industry has made the wind use in a totally different way. Can parachute like kites or sails help a huge cargo or tanker ship in any way? Difficult to perceive? Let's find out.

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    Sky Sails

    Using wind energy as a reliable source of renewable energy is still perceived as a distant dream by many scientists and researchers. But that cannot be a reason for not making it use in any form. Though it is not a 100 % reliable source, it can easily be clubbed with other systems to make the system more effective as a whole.

    With the same intention, the marine industry has started utilizing the wind energy in a peculiar way. A kite resembling a parachute will be used along with the main propulsion system to drive the ship. This is not like an auxiliary power unit that can propel the ship on its own, but when combined with the main propulsion system, can create wonders.

    In the present market scenario, every single barrel of oil is precious and shipping companies are trying their best to cut off their over head costs, keeping in mind the massive quantity of oil that ships use. From that perspective the Sky sails system is extremely beneficial. It's observed that application of such a system will reduce the fuel consumption by 10% - 35 % depending on the weather condition.

    Let's take a look as to how these kite ships work.

    kite ship in action  

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    How The Kite Ships Work ?

    A large Kite, resembling a paraglider is used as a towing device. The shape of the kite is similar to that of an aircraft wing, which not only enables it to harness the energies of winds coming from all directions but also helps it in getting a better flight. It is mounted at the prow of the ship with the help of a Launch and recovery system.

    The kite is attached with the launching machinery with the help of a strong towing rope. The average height at which the kite is made to operate is 200-300 meters above the surface level. The towing rope is controlled just as a normal kite is controlled, but by a computer located at the control system.

    It is not that the system will work only when there is wind blowing exactly from behind the ship, but the design is such that wind from any direction can be put to use. The system can be used most effectively when the winds are stronger and stable. The kite operates in the winds with the range of 7- 40 knots.

    kite ship  

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    Ships using the System .

    M.S Belunga, a 140 meters long cargo ship was the first commercial cargo vessel that used this system successfully. The ship sailed from Bremerhaven to Venezuala for a 15 days voyage. The computer controlled kite that was used, measured 160 square meters and was made to operate at a height between 200-300 meters above the surface level. The ship used a general propulsion system which was synchronizes with the Skysail system to get the maximum efficient output.

    The Main advantage of Sky sails system is that it can be deployed to any cargo or tanker ship as there is no need of a mast or a similar structure that can be bothersome and hindrance in cargo operations.

    Similar system is being put to another cargo ship named Micheal A and continuous efforts are being made to achive a higher level of robustness and reliability.


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    Image Credits