A German startup is bringing the lightness of kites to green energy production by building small flying wind turbines that use 10 times less material at half the cost of traditional options.
In June, KiteKRAFT hit a major milestone with a 7-foot kite prototype, completing its first figure-8 flight, the motion that will provide the system’s wind power.
The kite has small onboard spinning wind turbines, which are essentially act like regular blade tips. It does not need a tower made of hundreds of tons of concrete and steel or a foundation to hold those blade tips in the air, but instead uses smart algorithms to find the best location in mid-air.
Logistics, installation, and inspections are much simpler and the kite can easily reach stronger winds at higher altitudes. “Cost savings of over 50% compared to other sources are possible,” says the company on their blog.
Another advantage is that a kiteKRAFT system is hardly visible (no towers and no huge blades), which often elicit public misgivings about such structures in their landscape.
“We are proud that we came to this point in just over one year after company foundation,” says the co-founder & CTO Florian Bauer.
He told GNN that their kite system is probably similar to large wind turbines when it comes to interfering with birds. “That’s why we will likely implement an anti-bird-protection system relatively early on. This means, that kite simply goes to hovering (automatically) if there is a flock of birds passing, and continues production right after.”
But competition with massive wind farms is not their goal. Their mission is to provide small energy networks, which are normally powered by diesel generators and/or solar energy.
Every kiteKRAFT system has a number of sensors. The kite computer executes software algorithms and uses the sensor data for autonomous flight and to generate power from the wind efficiently. kiteKRAFT system owners and inspection personnel can access the kite remotely with an app and view the current states or live video stream from the onboard cameras. The app also allows certain commands, e.g. to land the kite for inspection.
At all times, the kite logs important flight and performance data and sends those to kiteKRAFT servers for analysis by company engineers, which enhances future reliability.
As the kite is essentially “a computer with wings”, its performance and reliability is likely to improve exponentially over the years, and we look forward to seeing the company take off to great heights.