Competing AWE Paradigms
  • soft kites and kite networks
  • single-line rigid-wing kiteplanes with eVTOL capability
  • ?
  • ?
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Oct 31, 2019,              by Dave Santos
Competing paradigms in Airborne Wind Energy

kPower Tech Brief: Competing paradigms in Airborne Wind Energy

Upper wind is a tremendous planetary-scale resource. Unfortunately, rigid flying structure does not megascale well, under square-cube scaling law and constant most-probable wind velocity. Nor do electric flight motors scale well by power-to-mass, not just due to square-cube limits, but ever slower thermal dissipation. Nor are single-line AWES kitefarm "brush" topologies reliable or dense enough. Active autonomous flight state-of-the-art is very brittle, nowhere near payback reliability.

A superior AWES paradigm is Kite Networks as a megascale condensed-matter metamaterial phase in the form of vast periodic lattices of tether and fabric elements called "kite-matter". Wind can excite kite lattice waves to in-principle pump PTO (power-take-off) lines to the surface, whose kinetic energy can be aggregated by surface cableways to retrofit existing power plants into synergistic AWE hybrids. During local wind lulls, energy can be pumped back into the lattice to maintain flight (aviation step-towing). 

The highest possible AWES power-to-mass is pure structural polymer "rag and string" kept at its working load, comparable to the Space Shuttle Engine by mass, but with no fuel and far longer service life. Capex for polymer fabric and lines (~10USD kg) is  far lower than "drone" components (~100USD kg). In just a few years single roll-stock mega-factory could output enough polymer wing to power the world. Fabric kites crash and pop right back up. Kite-planes crashing? Game-Over.

Except for nav warning lights, nothing else is needed aloft. No control pod mass, com-link dependence, and other high-complexity high-risk issues. Control is as simple as passive dynamic stability of the kite-matter, with only tuning and emergency kite-kill inputs needed. The many-connected topology of an airborne kite network makes runaway kites improbable. Inherently lower mass-density and velocity is far safer as well.

Kite-matter is identified as a true metamaterial. Kite-tether-anchor forces obey a negative refractive index (of phonons). Traditional kite trains, meshes, etc. clearly show auxetic and topological insulating (anyonic) band-gap effects. The classic kite computes its own flight solutions by embodied-computation under phononic quantum computing principles. All flight is analog QM; the six common DOFs are all wave-function oscillators. Aircraft motions inherently hunt around these axes, even when the wave motion is unnoticed. Amplified Dutch-Roll figure-8s are a major power mode. Sonic relativity is also prominent in in the elastic lattice waves that kite-matter develops. Way too much background to cover here.

Such is the radical conceptual frontier of AWE, with lots of available references and existence-proofs.

Below are two soft-kite lattice-unit examples, a 1975 USP3987987 unit-kite rig that does not unwind downwind to reel back in, and a passive dynamic unit-kite demo; then a schematic concept poster integrating key ideas; and finally a typical lattice wave animation to suggest coherent megascale kitematter power waves.
Payne's Fig 5

Kite hybrid legacy plants, lowest capex to sustainability-
Legacy plant
Legacy plant And
wave in lattice:

The promise and challenges of airborne wind energy
06 Dec 2019 Margaret Harris
  "“Different” is a good word for it, and the harsh economics of off-grid energy mean that despite my knee-jerk initial assessment (basically, that the whole concept was as mad as a box of amphetamine-crazed frogs), I’ll go ahead and give airborne wind energy the benefit of the doubt, too"
    She apparently did not have solid view of Payne's Fig. 5 nor network energy kiting.  But some are informing her; watch for advances in her communications on AWE !