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Wind Powered Freighters Return

ScuttleMonkey posted about 8 years ago | from the more-than-just-hot-air dept.

261

thatoneguyfromphoeni writes "It appears that sails could return to the ocean's freighters soon. Newsweek is reporting on a technology to assist with cross-ocean travel. From the article: 'SkySails' system consists of an enormous towing kite and navigation software that can map the best route between two points for maximum wind efficiency. In development for more than four years, the system costs from roughly $380,000 to $3.2 million, depending on the size of the ship it's pulling. SkySails claims it will save one third of fuel costs.'"

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These guys must have solved a major problem (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684195)

Scientists have been puzzling over the best route between 2 points for centuries, but the math has been too difficult.

Re:These guys must have solved a major problem (3, Interesting)

richdun (672214) | about 8 years ago | (#15684732)

Amusing, but in all seriousness, I'd love to see how well this stuff can plot courses through winds. This kind of thing could also be great for space travel - both for plotting through solar winds and gravitational assists (or both at once). If it's that much better at plotting through winds than whatever else we've had up until now, maybe it's also better than whatever orbital navigation plotting we have rigth now.

oil tankers? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684198)

this could be used to pull oil tankers..... oh the irony!
first post since no one else can get here!
check out http://www.aliveinbaghdad.org/ [aliveinbaghdad.org]

Re:oil tankers? (-1, Troll)

stonecypher (118140) | about 8 years ago | (#15684617)

That's not what irony means [tri-bit.com] , you low grade Piquepaille douchebag.

Re:oil tankers? (1)

seminumerical (686406) | about 8 years ago | (#15684779)

Maybe it is irony. The concept has taken on a series of overlapping meanings between eiron and Kierkegaard. The blog you cite is sophomoric. Here is not the place for a reiteration of my sophomore paper on "Irony" but you can call using windpower to haul fossil fuel situational (or cosmic) irony. Ironically the new Oxford English Dictionary defines this type of irony in a less accurate, though more concise, manner than in my sophomoric paper: "Irony is a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result."

Welcome to the 80's (4, Informative)

Warshadow (132109) | about 8 years ago | (#15684210)

During the oil crisis in the early 80's they worked on this. I'm fairly sure one company did add sails to a ship or two and did see a reduction in fuel consumption.

Also Popular Mechanics ran an article on this like 4 months ago. In fact it was on the cover of that issue.

Re:Welcome to the 80's (1)

DumbSwede (521261) | about 8 years ago | (#15684244)

I'm sure you'll get modded up. No surprise that high oil prices in the late 70s early 80s had these same kinds of research projects. They probably floundered in the 90s when prices came down and now someone is blowing the dust off the old plans.

I actually proposed something similar for providing and shipping desalinated water in my blog [jaytv.com] with Now All I Need Is A Giant Baggie..." [jaytv.com] just a week ago.

Re:Welcome to the 80's (1)

stunt_penguin (906223) | about 8 years ago | (#15684354)

"now someone is blowing the dust off the old plans. "

Yup, and I think they'll find that materials technology and engineering have come a long way since those plans were first drawn up; sails aren't a new idea on modern ships but the parameters have been changed quite a bit so some tweaking will certainly need to take place. Good plan though- it's about time this idea came up again _^^

Big kite tech has come a long way (3, Interesting)

nroose (738762) | about 8 years ago | (#15684726)

There is a company (mostly one guy, actually) - http://www.kiteship.com/ [kiteship.com] - that has been experimenting, testing, and building kites for boats of various sizes - including maxi sailboats and AC Boats, and has been testing much larger kites designed for ships. They look a little different from the kites designed for kiteboarding. It is not just materials, either - the shapes and techniques for setting and dousing have been big parts of it, as far as I understand.

The sky sails people seem to be trying to get on the hype bandwagon without having really built any sails, as far as I can tell.

The Flettner rotorship (5, Interesting)

PapayaSF (721268) | about 8 years ago | (#15684297)

The early helicopter designer Anton Flettner [wikipedia.org] made an interesting attempt in the '20s to harness wind power for ocean travel. The Flettner rotorship Bruckau [efluids.com] used two tall, rotating cylinders to harness the Magnus Effect. It worked, but unfortunately turned out to be less efficient than normal propulsion [tecsoc.org] .

I was looking this thing up... (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 8 years ago | (#15684581)

I was trying to find a link.

The advantage is it could go various directions easily, and with no need for a huge keel. But apparently, yeah, it sucked.

Most interestingly, the ship moved on the same principles that make a curveball curve.

Re:The Flettner rotorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684586)

It worked, but unfortunately turned out to be less efficient than normal propulsion

The Magnus-Effect powered ship failed because it required wind and fuel (engines are needed to rotate the cylinders), which is just silly.

Re:Welcome to the 80's (5, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | about 8 years ago | (#15684317)

Indeed, in the 80s, lots of companies hopped on the alternative energy bandwagon. Exxon seemed to be operating on the assumption that they'd be out of the oil business soon. They bought into high tech in a big way, including the company I was working for [warthman.com] . One person I met from another Exxon subsidiary talked about new battery technology they were working on. This was supposed to be a new business for all those Exxon gas stations that soon wouldn't have any gas: swapping out depleted batteries in electric cars.

Then oil prices came back down, those batteries turned out to be harder to design than they thought, and Exxon discovered they weren't very good at managing high tech. Back to business as usual. And here we are again...

Re:Welcome to the 80's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684464)

Also Popular Mechanics ran an article on this like 4 months ago. In fact it was on the cover of that issue.

History may be bound to repeat itself, but not nearly as often as Pop. Mechanics.

Same story ran in the '50s, '60's, '70s, etc..

Re:Welcome to the 80's (4, Informative)

Danga (307709) | about 8 years ago | (#15684478)

Also Popular Mechanics ran an article on this like 4 months ago. In fact it was on the cover of that issue.

I was trying to remember where I somewhat recently read about this technology and thank you for reminding me that it was in Popular Mechanics.

I can't find a link to the Popular Mechanics article (I think it was in the february 2006 issue) but you can read more about this technology here http://alt-e.blogspot.com/2005/02/hybrids-hybrid-b oats-hybrid-ships-and.html [blogspot.com] and the following link has some more information as well as some interesting pictures/diagrams http://www.primidi.com/2005/03/07.html [primidi.com] .

It is pretty amazing how much more efficient the sails can make a ship, from the last link I mentioned:

"cargo vessels can increase their speed by a minimum of 10% -- in the example given speed is increased yet by 2.25 bends, equaling 15%. Alternatively by using the SkySails propulsion fuel savings of up to 50% can be implemented."

It showed that using 1200 litres of fuel per hour a normal ship would cruise at ~15.5 knots and a skysail enhanced ship would cruise at close to 18 knots, not too bad of a speed gain. If the skysail ship wanted to cruise at 15.5 knots instead then fuel consumption would drop from 1200 litres per hour to around 550. That is just awesome and I really hope this goes into wide use where it is feasable to use it.

Re:Welcome to the 80's (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | about 8 years ago | (#15684646)

SO that would mean a cost savings of around $400-$500 an hour, or something like 6,000 hours operating with a sail to pay for the system and then begin to profit.

Seems like if it's sturdy enough to last a good decade or so, the savings would be quite handsome

Re:Welcome to the 80's (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684735)

Say a ship is at sea 300 days/year. At 24hrs/day, that's 7200 hours/year under steam. Assuming the sail is always in use and it saves $400/hr, that's a savings of nearly $2.9mm in one year. Seems like the sail would pay for itself in only a couple of years, even if it's used only a fraction of the time the ship's at sea.

I wonder about the article photo (4, Interesting)

Frequency Domain (601421) | about 8 years ago | (#15684213)

The artist's conception picture in the article shows the bow as the point of attachment for the parasail. I suspect that would make steering much more difficult, compared to hooking the parawing near the center of mass for the ship.

Re:I wonder about the article photo (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 8 years ago | (#15684260)

Hmmm - I'd say closer to the CP than the CG since then the sail could help trim the ship.

Re:I wonder about the article photo (1)

chepner (146799) | about 8 years ago | (#15684272)

Try pulling a boat like that, and it ends up pivoting and you're dragging the boat sideways through the water (torque and what not). You can probably use a small conventional drive system and rudder for course corrections on the open sea, then use the conventional system once you approach dock.

Re:I wonder about the article photo (1)

Warshadow (132109) | about 8 years ago | (#15684379)

From what I've read they only use the sails to supplement the normal proppulsion system, not to replace it.

Re:I wonder about the article photo (1)

Doppler00 (534739) | about 8 years ago | (#15684440)

You're forgetting that these ships weigh several hundred tons. I don't see how steering them would be any difficult as they resist change in speed because of their momentum.

Re:I wonder about the article photo (1)

dattaway (3088) | about 8 years ago | (#15684488)

Several hundred tons? That would only be the weight of several shipping containers. Try a few more orders of magnitude! The mass of any steering mechanism on these ships is quite massive and going to require lots of energy to move it.

Re:I wonder about the article photo (4, Informative)

MathFox (686808) | about 8 years ago | (#15684498)

It takes some time to get a supertanker turning... but once they turn it takes significant time to stop the rotation. Rotational inertia can work against you.
Having the pulling force closer to the center of the ship will decrease the needed rudder force for correction; using the rudder creates friction, so that's best avoided. Another advantage of having the ropes mid-deck makes it possible to lower the kite on deck, much more convenient than fishing it out of the waves after use.

Tugboat attachment points (1)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | about 8 years ago | (#15684494)

There are several points where ships already have places for tugboats to attach ... for retrofitting, using these is the cheapest way to go.

They will be tacking back and forth behind the parasail.

Re:Tugboat attachment points (1)

arivanov (12034) | about 8 years ago | (#15684510)

None of these is designed for long term tug at full speed though. Still, this stands a better chance than fitting 2proper" sails. Many sail designs were considered during the previous petrol crisis and none of them got anywhere because fitting a useable sail on a modern ship requires effectively redesigning it. Still, for new ships some of the 1970-es designs like the rotor sail (cannot find the actual English name, that is a bad translation) are likely to be considerably more cost effective.

How big? (1)

Tx (96709) | about 8 years ago | (#15684216)

TFA doesn't seem to say, I'd imagine that thing would have to be absolutely huge if, as they say, it can pull a full-sized ship. I'd like to see some details on deployment as well, I imagine a huge thing like that would be a bit tricky to handle in any kind of useful wind, when trying to get it launched. Great idea though - I've often wondered if wind-assist wouldn't be a useful idea on ships, but I had in mind more traditional masts and sails with a bit of automation, this is a lot simpler, and therefore presumably cheaper and more reliable.

Re:How big? (1)

jandrese (485) | about 8 years ago | (#15684234)

I don't think it's pulling the ship like a traditional sailboat, rather I think it's more of an assist to save on fuel costs. It makes sense if they can keep the system automated (and light!) enough to not interfere too badly with existing ship systems. Unfortunatly, it looks rather complex in the picture and if it requires an extra crewman or two to operate the concept is dead in the water. Crewmen are expensive and fuel isn't bad enough yet to make people receptive to expensive complex doodads.

Re:How big? (1)

Tx (96709) | about 8 years ago | (#15684293)

TFA says "Ships can use their engines to begin and end voyages and use sail power in lieu of engines for the middle portion. Use both, and you go even faster." So at least whoever wrote the article has the impression the sail can pull the ship without engines, although like you, I have my doubts.

Re:How big? (1)

Helios1182 (629010) | about 8 years ago | (#15684362)

Crewmen may be expensive, but how expensive? I have to imagine that fuel costs are huge to move something that big across an ocean -- and they say that the sail can cut the consumption by a third. That might easily pay for a few extra crew.

Re:How big? (4, Informative)

Cromac (610264) | about 8 years ago | (#15684483)

At this site http://www.bath.ac.uk/~ccsshb/12cyl/ [bath.ac.uk] the most powerful ship diesel running at its most efficient speed burns 1,660 gallons of heavy fuel oil per hour. Even using the cheap, nasty fuel these ships burn that's a big expense.

According to http://www.skysails.info/index.php?id=66&L=1 [skysails.info]

Increasing efficiency using ship diesel has almost reached its maximum potential and is also extremely expensive. According to the calculation of an expert on ship propulsions, shipping companies would have to invest up to 500,000 Euros in order to reduce a ship's fuel consumption by 1%. Fuel savings of 5% would be a fantastic performance for ship owners, according to Niels Stolberg, managing partner of Bremen-based shipping company Beluga Shipping GmbH.
To get an increase of 35% (the max claimed by SkySails) would mean a 3.5 million euro investment, that's a lot of crewman salaries even at union wages and less than the Skysails implementation would cost.

They have some interesting performance calculations on their website too about how much sail produces how much energy. http://www.skysails.info/index.php?id=89&L=1 [skysails.info]

Re:How big? (1)

dsheeks (65644) | about 8 years ago | (#15684270)

I'd like to see some details on deployment, retrieval and navigation. It seems like having to fish a giant sail out of the water if the wind died down or changed directions unexpectedly would be problematic, although I assume the thing would float on the water. A big advantage of self propelled ships is the ability to travel in a straight line, which would seem to be an issue at least in terms of efficiency with a big kite just tied to the ship.

Re:How big? (1)

westlake (615356) | about 8 years ago | (#15684356)

A big advantage of self propelled ships is the ability to travel in a straight line

the advantage is in running a shorter great-circle route (more or less) independent of seasonal winds and currents

Re:How big? (1)

Danga (307709) | about 8 years ago | (#15684650)

A big advantage of self propelled ships is the ability to travel in a straight line, which would seem to be an issue at least in terms of efficiency with a big kite just tied to the ship.

If you RTFA you would find out that this is made to assist the diesel engines on the ship, not get rid of them completely. If the wind is not going in a direction that can help you on your course then you don't use the sail to assist you. This could possibly save ONE THIRD of current fuel consumption, so even if you did have to go slightly off course in order to use the sails it would probably make sense to take a little extra time to get where you are going to save such a huge chunk of change.

Launching the sail (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | about 8 years ago | (#15684445)

"...I imagine a huge thing like that would be a bit tricky to handle in any kind of useful wind, when trying to get it launched..."

Good point.
My best guess is to make the sail inflatable, and fill it with helium. That at least gets it up and in the right shape. Orientation is yet another problem.

Inflated with air, not helium (1)

riker1384 (735780) | about 8 years ago | (#15684551)

The sail is filled with compressed air to give it the right shape. I imagine helium would be expensive for something so big that is inflated and deflated repeatedly.

Presumably that one-third savings is over... (5, Interesting)

Assmasher (456699) | about 8 years ago | (#15684218)

...the course of a *different* route than if the ship is entirely under power; ergo, use the sails and you need to chart a different, likely less direct, course for the ship. I wonder what the average increase in distance for a route is?

Likely this will still have value even if just used when the wind is positioned conveniently. Certain legs of round trips are certainly likely to benefit greatly from sail power.

Very cool. I'd certainly love to see that out on the ocean.

Presumably that one-third savings is over...water. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684347)

Actually I'd like to see an idea "Future" magazine did a couple decades back. They basically had the boat supported and driven by large spinning wheels. The idea was of reducing drag by having only a small amount in contact with the water. The boat would also go faster. The other idea is one I believe popular science showed a couple years back. Basically you had a wing flying on a cushion of air (not a hovercraft)*. I believe the russians built a prototype.

*A ground-effect plane as it were.

Re:Presumably that one-third savings is over...wat (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 8 years ago | (#15684509)

A ground-effect plane as it were.

Actually, that's exactly what it's called -- a ground-effect airplane or a ground-effect aircraft. The advantages are there -- safer in the event of a catastrophic loss of power (due to only falling a few hundred feet at most), able to move huge masses with more conventionally-sized wings, and less detailed training for the crew. However, I recall that fuel efficiency and noise become a problem, as does dust kick-up on overland routes.

An amusing anecdote that I heard in ground school had to do with the maiden flight of what would become the U-2. The take-off and initial cruise tests worked out fine, but when it came in to land, the ground effect wouldn't let the plane low enough to land. Even sitting right at the stall line with the stall alarm buzzing at him, the pilot just couldn't get the thing down. Eventually, he brought it a little below stall speed and smacked it down rather hard, reportedly to the severe dismay and annoyance of the ground crew. Lockheed responded by doing some work on the wings to allow a more normal landing.

Re:Presumably that one-third savings is over... (2, Interesting)

hackstraw (262471) | about 8 years ago | (#15684757)


Wind like ocean currents is free. Airliners already try to catch tail winds when they can on the jetstream here in the US, and I guess its common for other countries as well. I believe that tankers already take advantage of currents as well.

What is interesting is that people used to be grateful to spend long periods (months?) of time to travel across oceans with an acceptable death/sickness rate of what about 30% to do international travel. Now, if an airline is delayed 30 minutes for an international flight that takes on order of hours we get pissed, and the risk of getting sick or dying is lower than driving to work.

In other news... (0, Redundant)

TimAbdulla (970443) | about 8 years ago | (#15684224)

8 sailors died in a horrific accident when they were hit by the boom of an ocean freighter. More at 10!

Actually already in use (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684250)

Actually, this is not just a weird idea, but this is already in use by Beluga [beluga-group.com] , an ocean carrier from Bremen/Germany.

(Funny that the image whose words I have to type in right now says 'seaport' (-: )

Re:Actually already in use (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684319)

Funny that the first paragraph of the article deals about their recent deal with beluga, nice to see people read the article

Re:Actually already in use (1)

temojen (678985) | about 8 years ago | (#15684508)

Yes, Just like it says in the article...

Wind assist (2, Insightful)

WhatDoIKnow (962719) | about 8 years ago | (#15684261)

Hey, didn't KevinCostner's boat in Water World have one of these?

Re:Wind assist (2, Informative)

Bagheera (71311) | about 8 years ago | (#15684625)

While the boat in Water World was quite cool, no it wasn't kite powered. They actually used two former French Forumla 1 (if I remember the class right) racing tris. One with it's original rig largely intact, and rigged so it could be sailed by a concealed crew while Costner jumped around on the multi-crank-tiller-thing at the back. The second, with it's rig replaced with a simulated egg-beater style vertical axis wind turbin that supposedly provided power for the boat's electric motors.

Those real world tri's are FAST!

I can't seem to find a link to it, but I've seen pictured of a group out of Hawaii who's experimenting with a tow-kite setup for yachts. They were testing on a cat that had it's normal rig replaced with what amounted to a kite-surfer's rig in jumbo size. The setup mentioned in the article is probably quite similar.

I'd just have to wonder about the incredible tension the kite's main lead would be under. We're talking HUGE forces here. One of those "if it snaps, someone's gonna die" kind of tensions.

What was old is new again (4, Informative)

iminplaya (723125) | about 8 years ago | (#15684268)

Sorry, this [bookrags.com] is the best I could find. I'm just not that good with this Google thing. I was looking for a picture, but FTL:
Rising fuel prices during the 1970s prompted the development of a new technology that used sails shaped like aircraft wings turned on end to take some of the burden off the engines and save fuel. Slightly curved to form a wing shape, these sails were attached to a mast that could pivot and locate the best angle for the sail to catch the wind. Once the computers set the mast at the best angle to the wind, the sail created the same "lifting" force that an airplane's wing generates, except that the force pushed the ship along the water. However, this system did not always prove to be efficient for extremely large vessels. I thought what I saw was that the mast itself was a rigid aerodynamic sail.

Re:What was old is new again (1)

radtea (464814) | about 8 years ago | (#15684665)

Rising fuel prices during the 1970s prompted the development of a new technology that used sails shaped like aircraft wings turned on end to take some of the burden off the engines and save fuel.

I remember a Popular Science article on this from the '70's, but can't find any images from it on Google either. The kite approach is interesting because it is better-suited for retrofit than this mast-based technology, but has the downside of providing less ability to sail against the wind (on the other hand, the keels are modern ships aren't exactly designed for that either.)

Re:What was old is new again (1)

hackstraw (262471) | about 8 years ago | (#15684770)


Keep in mind that you're going to need a keel/centerboard as well unless the wind is right behind you in order to go straight.

While it is good for the environment... (3, Interesting)

irritating environme (529534) | about 8 years ago | (#15684277)

One of the things I was looking forward too as gas/oil prices skyrocketing was a decrease in offshore manufacturing. Economics and exploitation of slave labor may say that it's cheaper to manufacture something and then send it 2,000 miles over ship rather than manufacture locally, that entire equation depends on cheap oil.

Stuff like this will save oil and carbon outputs, but really just allows the same wasteful economic system. I have mixed emotions.

Ahh, the military will probably ban them b/c it disrupts their radars.

Re:While it is good for the environment... (1)

westlake (615356) | about 8 years ago | (#15684335)

that entire equation depends on cheap oil.

the equation depends on maintaining schedules and the total cost of shipping and handling---which was profoundly transformed by the modern shipping container.

we are almost two generations removed now from the labor intensive break-bulk system which was the norm throughout history.

Re:While it is good for the environment... (4, Insightful)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about 8 years ago | (#15684409)

Not all cheap labour is slave labour. In fact, "slave labour" as you call it, is vastly in the minority. Most shipping just takes advantages economic differences between countries. (ie cheap to make in one country, expensive to make in another.) "Slave labour" is the boogeyman people drag out to frighten people when they are against international trade for whatever reason.

While deplorable, it's hardly the standard.

Re:While it is good for the environment... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684447)

Not all cheap labour is slave labour. In fact, "slave labour" as you call it, is vastly in the minority.
Nonsense. Take an honest look at the labor conditions in a little country named "China". That is slave labor by any reasonable definition of the term.

Re:While it is good for the environment... (0, Troll)

c6gunner (950153) | about 8 years ago | (#15684622)

Name a time when quality of life in China was better.

Anyone?

Didn't think so.

Slave labour my ass. With assenine comments likt that, you're doing a huge disservice to those who truly ARE used and treated as slaves.

Re:While it is good for the environment... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684786)

"Slave labour" is the boogeyman people drag out to frighten people when they are against international trade for whatever reason.

I'm sorry, but as a typical Chinese laborer, you get paid only enough to barely feed and maybe clothe your family while shopping at your company's store, pay the rent to your company sponsored housing, wash your cloths at the company laundry, buy your medicine at the company drug store, and work 14 hour days 365 days of the week to do it--and having absolutely no means or opportunity to escape that life...that is slavery to any reasonable person. So maybe they don't get whipped physically, does that make it much more deplorable? The fact is, most Chinese laborers have no opportunity to advance, no matter how hard they work and they're certianly not the ones that receive the bulk of the profit of their labors?

If that's not slavery, I don't know what is.

While it is good for outward mobility. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684560)

"One of the things I was looking forward too as gas/oil prices skyrocketing was a decrease in offshore manufacturing. Economics and exploitation of slave labor may say that it's cheaper to manufacture something and then send it 2,000 miles over ship rather than manufacture locally, that entire equation depends on cheap oil."

The ultimate would be putting factories* onto ships, and sailing them were the resources were cheapest.

*Of course it doesn't just have to be factories. An entire coding company on the water. Medicine on boats.

Re:While it is good for the environment... (3, Insightful)

sockonafish (228678) | about 8 years ago | (#15684574)

Wasteful? If it's cheaper to make a good elsewhere and then ship it than to make it locally, it's more wasteful to produce that good locally.

Economics classes should be required to graduate high school.

Re:While it is good for the environment... (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | about 8 years ago | (#15684601)

Economics classes should be required to post on /.

Re:While it is good for the environment... (1)

Doppler00 (534739) | about 8 years ago | (#15684638)

Unfortunately these sails will be transparent to radars since they are plastic or synthetic material, so the military is unlikely to care.

Re:While it is good for the environment... (4, Interesting)

dragons_flight (515217) | about 8 years ago | (#15684663)

Oceanic shipping is already incredibly efficient and only accounts for a few percent of the cost of most goods shipped that way. For example, a supertanker only adds 2 cents [wikipedia.org] to the cost of a gallon of gas. It would take a very radical change in the cost of oil to have any significant impact on the economic viability of overseas manufacturing.

I'm skeptical (3, Informative)

Jeff Molby (906283) | about 8 years ago | (#15684301)

Here is a video [skysails.info] from their site. This is obviously a prototype, so they have a LOT of scaling to do. Plus, the only time you see the boat (yes, I said boat, not ship) moving with any significant speed, you can't see the rear, so it's safe to assume that its engine is assisting.

Re:I'm skeptical (0, Troll)

stonecypher (118140) | about 8 years ago | (#15684558)

Plus, the only time you see the boat (yes, I said boat, not ship) moving with any significant speed, you can't see the rear, so it's safe to assume that its engine is assisting.

Plus, the only time we see you posting, we can't see your facts, so it's safe to assume you're full of crap.

There's a big difference between guessing and being insightful.

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

mikeboone (163222) | about 8 years ago | (#15684670)

That video also shows the kite doing several dives at low altitude. I've experienced this myself with a "flow form" parachute-style kite while trying to do kite aerial photography. One of those dives led to me bashing my camera into the beach [boonedocks.net] . I can imagine it would be a mess to haul one of their huge kites out of the ocean.

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

radicalnerd (930674) | about 8 years ago | (#15684713)

If you read TFA... the sail is supposed to assist, not power it. The engine should be running.

Good for cruise ships? (2, Interesting)

Magus2501 (899681) | about 8 years ago | (#15684310)

I heard from a friend that it takes ~40 gallons of fuel to move one of those big cruise ships. This would be a great idea for recreational ships in terms of fuel savings. Not only that, it would be a great idea in terms of the novelty. People would think it's neat to ride on a cruise ship pulled by a huge kite. Who knows? Maybe someone will find a way to take people up in the kite (for a fee). Maybe not. That would be dangerous.

It's not a bug, it's a feature... (1)

512k (125874) | about 8 years ago | (#15684497)

I think that the cruise ship market would be perfect for this invention. As is, there's always a huge going away party on a cruise ship, after leaving port..and watching the sails go up, would just add to the atmosphere of going away to sea (regardless of how effective the sail actually was)

Re:It's not a bug, it's a feature... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684526)

Re:Good for cruise ships? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 8 years ago | (#15684515)

There are already cruise ships with sails -- from the real sailing vessels on Windjammer Barefoot Cruises up to 50,000 ton diesel-powered ships with sails that add maybe one knot to the cruise speed. Depends on how real you want the experience to be...

rj

40 gallons... (1)

TheStonepedo (885845) | about 8 years ago | (#15684648)

My father's Chevy Suburban has a tank that holds about 40 gallons. I seriously doubt that would move a cruise ship. Does it take 40 gallons per amount of time at a certain speed? Does it take 40 gallons to actually get the thing into motion from a dead stop? Your statistic is very useless as presented, particularly when it's "from a friend" rather than "from a friend who fuels cruise ships" or "from a friend who is an accountant for a cruise ship company."

Let me guess. . . (-1, Troll)

kimvette (919543) | about 8 years ago | (#15684318)

Let me guess: the USPTO granted a patent on a "device used to capture energy from wind, thereby generating forward motion of the attached vehicle" despite thousands of years' worth of prior art concerning this thing called a "sail?"

Oh right, using a glorified sail, determining the direction of wind, and gps navigation software together is novel and non-obvious. Carry on then! ;)

(No I didn't RTFA, I'm only assuming someone patented the sail)

Re:Let me guess. . . (2, Insightful)

lancejjj (924211) | about 8 years ago | (#15684374)

So what if someone patented ideas revolving around this? There needs to be some very innovative design and engineering going on in order to easily, safely, and efficiently use an unmasted sail to move such a large ship.

It would be shocking if the USTPO awarded a patent revolving around the basic idea of moving a ship via a wind sail. But it wouldn't be surprising if many patents were awarded for the specific construction, deployment, recovery, and anchoring mechanisms.

There are many aspects of this that may be new, innovative, and non-obvious.

Please consider giving engineers some credit for innovative work. This is not patenting the FAT file system directory structure - it's a bit harder than that.

Re:Let me guess. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684512)

Everything will be "obvious" one day. And, who are you to say that the FAT filesystem wasn't as difficult to design as these parasails?

One man's mystery is another man's obvious, and one man's common sense is another man's impossible. Everything that has ever been patented would have been invented (or discovered) by someone else in due time. Where does that fit into the patent system?

Re:Let me guess. . . (2, Insightful)

DrWho520 (655973) | about 8 years ago | (#15684411)

A) This story was not about a patent.
B) I would say retrofitting a cargo ship with a sail in tandem with a computer system that can direct the sail mast to the correct angle to generate the most power from the available wind, dependent upon while altering the ships course, sounds pretty novel to me.
C) If you had RTFA, you would discover this is not some SCO'ish trying to build a patent porfolio, but a company that has achieved a sale of their first sail.
D) This is a German based company, so I would expect they would be patenting in the EU before the US.

In the future, if you wish to make baseless suppositions about articles, I request you post AC so I can filter you out like the other flametrolls. Or go read digg with all the other trend chasers.

Re:Let me guess. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684729)

the other flametrolls

Impressive. I've never seen anyone so into generalizations as to actually contract them.

Re:Let me guess. . . (1)

stonecypher (118140) | about 8 years ago | (#15684572)

Let me guess: the USPTO granted a patent on a "device used to capture energy from wind, thereby generating forward motion of the attached vehicle" despite thousands of years' worth of prior art concerning this thing called a "sail?"

Nope. Nobody made any such statement. I'm sure you're going to scream "omg it was just a joke" next.

Someone should patent unfunny, so that we can sue you off of SlashDot.

No I didn't RTFA

Obviously.

Another factor to consider (2, Interesting)

VikingBerserker (546589) | about 8 years ago | (#15684344)

Sailboats tend to need keels if they plan on sailing in any direction other than directly downwind.

I'm not just mentioning this as another thing to factor into the cost of retrofitting ships; there is also the consideration of the added draft the ship needs in port in order to avoid running aground.

I see this as a potential problem for using sails, since ports may need to further dredge their channels and inlets in order to allow larger sailing craft to load and unload their cargo. Will they still consider this cost-effective?

Re:Another factor to consider (1)

jjohnson (62583) | about 8 years ago | (#15684378)

On the question of keels, wouldn't heeling the rudder over correct for the absence, much a plane's does to correct for crosswinds? Or would that be insufficient if the sail is providing too much force?

And why does the ship need a deeper draft, especially since they'd still have the engines to use alone getting into and out of port?

no, it wouldn't (2, Interesting)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 8 years ago | (#15684530)

The rudder is used to change direction.

The keel is used as resistance. Because it has a large surface area, it resists the ship being pushed off line by the force of the wind. It's like squeezing a seed between your fingers. Your fingers are pushing up and down, but the seed shoots out sideways. This happens because your fingers keep the seed from going up or down.

This is needed because the wind may be blowing north/south and you need to go east/west. Just turning the sail and the rudder will only change the direction the ship goes so much, you'll never end up going crosswind, let alone upwind.

If you just turn the rudder, it won't change the direction the ship goes, just the direction it points.

I would think a long, slab-sided, deep draft ship might be able to use its own sides as a keel for this purpose. I don't know how effectively though.

The reason for the deeper draft is because the keel can't be removed on large ships. It protrudes down (see below) a long way, even when you're on engines.

The other thing a keel does (and this is perhaps more important on regular sailing ships) is keep the boat from heeling or flipping over when the wind fills the sails. The wind force wants to push the top of the boat over, so the keel is very heavy and sticks far down so that the boat won't tip over from that force. On a ship with a kite sail like this one, the attachment of the string can be put low enough (near the CG) that the boat will not try to flip over when the wind blows.

Re:Another factor to consider (1)

Danga (307709) | about 8 years ago | (#15684680)

And why does the ship need a deeper draft, especially since they'd still have the engines to use alone getting into and out of port?

If the ships would have to be retro fitted with keels then the ships draft would increase.

it's a kite, not a sail (1)

512k (125874) | about 8 years ago | (#15684439)

from the sound of it, it's only designed to be used when the ship is heading downwind, I can't imagine a 1000' long tanker trying to tack into the wind.

Re:Another factor to consider (1)

djrogers (153854) | about 8 years ago | (#15684461)

A sailboat needs a keel because the sail exerts direct force on the mast, which is solidly affixed to the ship above it's center of gravity - a kite design removes some of these problems by adding lift into the equation reducing the tipping effect. Of course the 50 bajillion ton mass of a superfireghter also servers to reduce that tipping effect...

Re:Another factor to consider (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684503)

Sailboats tend to need keels if they plan on sailing in any direction other than directly downwind. That's because sailboats tend to have a draft of 5-10 feet. The extra few feet of keel helps a lot. Commercial freighters tend to have drafts of 10-20 meters. Leeway is really not much of an issue.

No need for dredging (1)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | about 8 years ago | (#15684505)

You use engines to enter and leave port ... add the sails for a boost when you are at sea. No need for dredging.

Re:No need for dredging (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 8 years ago | (#15684632)

For a big ship, a movable keel is probably not an economical option. If you need the keel for sailing in the open ocean, you can't pretend it's not there when you're using your engines in port.

I'm no sailor, but... (2, Insightful)

Gruthar (986278) | about 8 years ago | (#15684350)

the amount of tension on the parawing cable would scare the crap out of me, especially if I had to deal with that thing in/prior to bad weather.

Re:I'm no sailor, but... (1)

Mad_Rain (674268) | about 8 years ago | (#15684669)

the amount of tension on the parawing cable would scare the crap out of me, especially if I had to deal with that thing in/prior to bad weather.

So, much like a normal sailboat, you can reef the wing/sail [sailingusa.info] which reduces the surface for the wind to act on. In a serious storm, the tension might still be there, but then again, so would the regular engine. ;)

Well I was.. (2, Interesting)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about 8 years ago | (#15684696)

Bad weather don't you mean any weather. Just ask any one who has ever worked on a ship or barge tow how dangerous that is. When that line breaks and snaps back it can go through armour plate.

Jet Stream? (2, Interesting)

TechGranny (987537) | about 8 years ago | (#15684367)

Wow, this is really cool. Maybe in a few years nanotech will be far enough along to allow for wires that have amazing tensile strengths and light wieght to pput a sail all the way up into the Jet Stream. It may sound far fetched and probably is, but jeez that could really get a ship zinging along...
Cool Stuff.

Well.. (1)

no_pets (881013) | about 8 years ago | (#15684369)

Shiver me timbers!

Discovery Channel (1)

cdn-programmer (468978) | about 8 years ago | (#15684373)

This was on the Discovery Channel last year.

What is it with the editors? Are they watching re-runs now?

Re:Discovery Channel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684423)

I am sure if they could post episodes of Modern Marvels to Taco's blog, they would...

you douche.

Maybe but cost didn't kill the clippers (5, Insightful)

wbean (222522) | about 8 years ago | (#15684382)

Maybe, but the real reason sailing ships went out of use wasn't the cost of transporting the cargo. Remember that sailing ships didn't need space for engines or fuel; and, by the end of the 19th century they were sailed by very small crews. They were always the cheapest way to get cargo from one point to another. What killed them was the unreliability of their passage times: In order to gurarantee a steady supply of a commodity you had to have big wharehouses at each end. Steamships eliminated the wharehouses so the end-to-end cost was less. Just in time inventory anybody?

don't forget piracy/war... (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 8 years ago | (#15684555)

A sailboat is limited in manuverability and it's easy for any boat with its own power to approach the ship from a direction which it cannot run away from. So they'd would be easy to capture.

It's unclear that war/privateers and piracy are much of a problem crossing the Pacific right now.

Re:don't forget piracy/war... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684750)

It's copyright infringement, you fucking RIAA shill.

Re:Maybe but cost didn't kill the clippers (4, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 8 years ago | (#15684654)

I don't see how this applies, this system is using wind as a supplement, not as its main or only source of propulsion. I really don't know how feasible this is, but it would be interesting to try. It assumes that the wind is blowing faster than the ship would move under its own power, and assumes the ship isn't fighting the wind. Whether the useful wind makes up for the cost of buying and operating some sort of sails is unknown.

Double check your code (2, Funny)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 8 years ago | (#15684400)

"navigation software that can map the best route between two points for maximum wind efficiency"

So yeah Jeff, I was the ultimate cause for the latest oil spill, but anyone could have done it. I forgot to put an upper cap on the windspeed, and damned if the ship didn't go cruising straight into that last hurricane.

Added features for high end systems (1)

sarge apone (918461) | about 8 years ago | (#15684429)

The $3.2 million package includes a skull and crossbones emblazoned on the main sail, a crow's nest with animatronic gulls, and the main computer speech recognition and playback system with "Pirate Speak"(tm). Now, captains of all ages can say "Argh, hoist the main sail" with a confirmation voice prompt of "Aye, captain! We'ra hoistin'!"

Just dont... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684435)

.. cross the strings!

Yo-ho..... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | about 8 years ago | (#15684466)

.....and a bottle of rum!

I think that is what the former captain of the Exxon Valdez was singing the minute before he ran aground.

-----

Sig Sauer

They already have huge sails (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684493)

The superstructure on those ships sticks a mile into the sky (ok so I exagerate a bit). There's an advantage to having the bridge high enough so you can see the whole ship and everything around it. Everything else can be much closer to the deck. Given that the wind load increases with the square of the velocity, the help you get from a trailing wind is more than cancelled by the extra drag you get in a head wind.

They've done wonderful things to make the hulls energy efficient. I'll bet nobody has thought of making the superstructure aerodynamic. Pushing something the size of a decent sized apartment building through the air at 20 mph has to take a lot of energy.
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