Author Options:

Kite-powered ship sets sail. Answered

German container ship MS Beluga SkySails has set sail for Venezuela from Germany, towed in part by 160 square metres of parafoil.

The kite is flown at an altitude of around 200m (depending on exact wind conditions), and is expected to save nearly $1600 in fuel costs every day.

The kite is computer-controlled, flying in a constant figure-eight to maintain traction.

If this trial is successful, kites of up to 5000m2 are planned for future trips.

BBC Story
SkySails site


They could give people rides on the kite and make even more money!! Joking. Or am I?? hehe

towed in part

I guess that makes it economical in one dirction only if wind direction doesn't change :-)

Will any sailors out there please check this post is correct?

Most wind-powered vehicles actually go fastest when the wind is not behind them, but at 90 degrees to the direction of travel. Many can make efficient headway at least partially into the wind, sometimes quite significantly, because the sail isn't blown along, it acts like a vertical wing - the air blowing over the curved surface gives "lift" in the direction of the outer surface of the sail.

So, the direction of motion can be determined by a balancing act between the angles of wind, sail, hull/keel and rudder.

I believe (again, reality check please, sailors) that sailing vessels can sail in almost any direction except directly into the wind, and if they want to go that way they just tack.

In history, we learned that they would zig zag if going straight into the wind.

That is ingenious! I this is as close as we will get to using sailboats for cargo transportation again. I wonder how much the kites cost, but I don't see why any company wouldn't do this because the cost of the kite would be offset fairly fast if they can save $1,600 a day.

You'd have to look into whether this can be retrofitted to existing ships. That's a lot of energy displaced onto an area of a ship that was not designed to. Assuming it can be retrofitted, how long does it take to do so? And how much money does it cost? And finally, container ships are constantly running. If you've ever been to a big port (long beach, CA) you'll see how fast the ships are loaded and unloaded. Massive amounts of cargo are off loaded and taken aboard in hours. So the longer a ship is not operating, the cost of the retrofit, and the possible reduced life of a ship that was not designed to be pulled from the front are real concerns. They make their money by the minute, literally. It would be cool if they did though...The cost of diesel will dictate the success of this technology.

How about some sort of strap or harness that encircles the ship, maybe at the waterline, to spread the load? Or access the keel via a channel engineered through the bulk of the ship?

That would probably work and it wouldn't be too expensive or time consuming either. A set of eye-bolts attached to the frame at set intervals might work too.


10 years ago

I think there's a good article about alternate boat power systems in either Popular Science Magazine or Popular Mechanics magazine. I read the article but had no idea that there was one ready to fly yet. COOOOOOOLLLLLL

Wow. I wonder what would happen if you could hold it's line? AND control. Future transportation. WHooooooaa!! AWSOME!!!

a kite-powered boat.

lol, you would be the one to post this, kiteman. very cool. ;]


10 years ago

Wow, that's brilliant. Using wind to power a ship... (Sarcasm aside; just kidding. It really is pretty cool.)


10 years ago

Thats a huge kite!!!

And they're planning kites thirty times bigger!!

Now you know how to save even more money on fuel with the new Kite-mobile :-)

Normal kitesurfing kites are 10-20 sq m. I've been out on a boat with a 100 sq m kite; it was fast.

Sounds like it would be fun to ski behind :-)

Pretty neat video of it in action: