Seawing Kite Completes Validation Testing Demonstrating Fuel Savings
The Seawing, an automated kite system designed to provide wind-assisted propulsion, has achieved a key milestone in completing its validation testing. Developed by the French company Airseas, it is a unique approach toward the decarbonization of commercial ships using aerospace technology to harness the power of the wind.
Based on the latest phase of trials, Airseas is now able to project initial results with a 16 percent fuel and emissions reduction, in line with its broader development roadmap. The company calls the latest steps a demonstration of how aerospace expertise allowed it to pass major technological challenges and demonstrate the potential for wind-assisted propulsion. They had projected up to a 20 percent reduction depending on operating conditions.
Founded by Airbus engineers, the company conducted its first demonstration flights six years ago in 2017 helping it to win financial support from Airbus. Working with Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, which operates vessels chartered to transport components for Airbus, Airseas received its first order for a prototype system. The company has also partnered with Japan’s “K” Line (Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha) which has become an advocate and supporter of the kite system. The Japanese company has committed to testing the system aboard its bulkers and won support from the Japanese government to advance the development of the technology.
The first system was installed aboard Louis Dreyfus Armateurs’s ro-ro cargo vessel Ville de Bordeaux (5,200 dwt) at the end of 2021. It was a 500 square meter prototype used for testing each element from the take-off, ascent, descent, and landing of the wing. By November 2022 they had completed testing of systems and in May 2023 reported that the wing for the first time had generated traction. The past nearly six months have been used to validate the traction and flight systems for the Seawing.
“This latest milestone is yet another demonstration of our steady progress in bringing to life an entirely new technology that will play a vital role in shipping’s decarbonization,” said Vincent Bernatets, CEO and Co-Founder of Airseas. “We are incredibly proud to announce that we validated Seawing’s automated dynamic flight, on the highway to start decarbonizing shipping using the power of the wind.”
The system will consist of a 1,000-square meter kite sail that is automatically deployed and flies above the vessel while at sea. The kite flies in “figures of 8” generating the traction used to assist the ship’s propulsion and reduce emissions.
Airseas reports that they will further optimize the performance of the Seawing with upcoming onshore trials. A full-size version of the system will also begin testing on a Capesize bulker operated by "K" Line. The Japanese company has purchased five of the systems for use on its vessels. In addition, they have an option for 49 additional systems.
Louis Dreyfus Armateurs and Airbus reported yesterday that they will continue to use the kite system aboard its vessel while the companies are also planning three new ro-ros combining wind-assisted propulsion using rotors with a hybrid engine that will use e-methanol. The Ville de Bordeaux will be repositioned from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in the future but still deploy the Seawing.