Airborne Wind Energy Challenge
Tim Hagemann, University of Stuttgart. 17 May 2019
What is this document about?
document describes the opportunities and challenges of a student-driven
competition for building and operating airborne wind energy (AWE)
document is intended to help guide and form the competition and obtain
input from interested parties. Please feel free to comment on any
thoughts given in this document, not only on the directly posed
Who can participate?
The competition is open for student teams from all universities or other educational institutions.
What is the Airborne Power Competition?
basic idea of the competition is for student teams to develop and build
their own AWE system designs and join a competition based on
predefined criteria. There are many similar student competitions that
have been successful, for example the Racing Aeolus that enables students to race with wind driven vehicles, while Formula SAE
takes a more conventional approach to vehicle design. Formula SAE has
been holding races around the world since 1981 and shows an example of
how to foster innovation in an university environment.
Why should we arrange an Airborne Power Competition?
current stage of airborne wind energy (AWE) poses a large variety of
scientific and engineering challenges and opportunities to experiment
on different concepts. Combined with the disruptive potential of the
technology, this provides a very suitable starting point for a
competition between student teams.
Why should my institution participate?
advantages could be drawn from such a competition: Firstly the students
participating are enabled to extend their theoretical capabilities with
practical project work and think out-of-the-box approach to their field
of studies. The students will develop project management skills to
organise the work in their interdisciplinary teams to work
interdisciplinary and researchers and industry benefit from the
students who develop the relevant skills for airborne wind energy and
enthusiasm for the technology. The competition has the potential to
drive innovation in the AWE technology. In addition, a successful
- and visible - competition could be a major boost to the advance of
airborne wind energy toward industrialization.
Do you see further advantages to mention?
goal for the competitors is to design and build the best-performing AWE
system. Possible performance criteria are described below. The system
development and construction should be carried by the student
What will the performance criteria be?
is important to have measurable and fair performance criteria for the
competition, which are clear of the influence of environmental
conditions. The key performance indicators have to be identified and a
fair performance evaluation developed.
Suggested criteria include:
avoid an unlimited, continuous increase in system sizes, a limit for
maximum power can be set. Different classes of system ratings can be
like development costs or creativity would be nice to include but are
not objective factors which can be measured or proven beyond
Possible discretionary jury prices could include softer criteria:
best colour scheme
What other competition criteria could we use?
Will all teams compete in one pool?
There could be several classes in the competition. For example, classes could be defined around :
maximum dimension size of the kite (e.g. < 1 m, 4 m, 10 m)
total volume of the kite (e.g. < 1 m3, 8 m3, …)
maximum flight altitude.
stiff or flexible lifting surfaces, inflatable leading edge
closed and open source systems
closed and open source systems will not be separated, a special price
for the best performing open source system should be awarded.
Are there any limits?
course an organising institution has to lay ground rules and limits for
maximum power or tether length to ensure a safe competition. But it is
important to state, that restrictions on the system design or the like
will deter innovation and creativity. All concepts should be included,
whether they are scalable to higher power output or not. As the the
rules will shape the spirit of the competition, they have to be set up
carefully. A committee could be established to discuss and define the
Are there reasonable guidelines or rules you could think of?
How could safety constraints look like?
ensure a safe competition pre test Safety checking, scrutineering and
marshalling can be a valid tool. Exclusion zones based on line
lash-back and crash potential will have to be carefully established.
How can we guarantee a running pulley will not heat a line above its melting point?
Will there be a scientific outcome?
possible outcome for the scientific community could be a reference
system for AWE which everyone could use to test innovative ideas. The
competing teams could be encouraged to contribute their gained
experiences to such an open source system.
How can we reduce the effort of organising and running the event?
the event the position of scrutineers could be introduced to check the
compliance of the systems with the rule book. While the winner needs to
be fully checked, all other teams could be checked for randomly chosen
constraints and safety related rules. This would reduce the
effort on the event significantly.
What is necessary to run this competition?
Currently the following requirements have been identified:
budget and sponsors
first estimate of the budget per year needed for the organisation comes
down to 50’000€ as shown in the table below. This costs could be
covered with sponsors and participation fees.
personnel (0.5 * university position)
event costs (infrastructure, catering, etc.)
participation fee (10 * 2000€)
When will all this take place?
might be advisable to develop competition gradually to give the
competing teams the chance to develop their infrastructure while
building small demonstrators for a first pre-run of the competition.
The experience gained in this starting phase can be used to develop a
system for the first full event in the following year.
An (incomplete) schedule could look like the following:
08/2019 - organisation committee established
12/2019 - pool of participating universities finalised & start of recruiting
01/2020 - event location fixed
03/2020 - rulebook established
07/2020 - first pre-run based on open source approaches
Where will this take place?
might make sense to bind the location to the organising institution as
the proximity will help the organisation. The site needs to have a
strong and reliable wind resource to ensure a fair competition. In
addition an official flight permission for various kites might be a
limiting factor when it comes to the site selection.
What are other requirements for such a site?
idea for this competition will be presented in the Wind Energy Science
Conference in Cork, Ireland. The presentation is part of the Session
8.4b: MS Airborne Wind Energy at Tuesday 18/06/2019 14:10. Like this
document, the presentation aims for feedback and interested parties to
engage. After the conference, a first discussion could be held in July
with the goal of establishing an organising committee.
This document has been sent to the following universities:
University of Bonn
NC State University
Grenoble Institute of Technology
Politecnico di Milano
University of Applied Sciences Munich
UF Santa Catarina
University of Strathclyde
Feel free to forward this document to any University not listed above.