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211 comments

It's called reinventing the... (5, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736426)

sail.

Re:It's called reinventing the... (5, Insightful)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736512)

Because
  1. it can be used at these cargo ships normal cruise speed,
  2. it saves the shipping company $1600 per day
  3. and it utilizes higher altitude winds,
I would say they have succeeded.

Re:It's called reinventing the... (2, Funny)

kongit (758125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736614)

perhaps they have succeeded but I still want a giant balloon on top of ships so I can go to Narshe with ease again and again

Reinventing the row boat?!? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21737508)

Why would you want a bunch of Jews rowing your ship? It's not like they are stereotyped as being overly strong. I wonder if they have better stamina.

Ohhh!!! Wait . . . sorry, my bad . . . it says Kite-Powered Ship Launched.

Re:It's called reinventing the... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21737064)

Saves the shipping company just measly $1600 per day? Come on, get serious, it is not worth the hassle then! The idea of using abundant available free energy is essentially a good idea, but obviously poorly refined in this case.

Clearly some adjustment is necessary, at the very least. OK, the sail is reinvented, but the whole concept of a sailboat freighter needs to be reinvented as well: the aerial unit needs to become the bridge of the ship, because of its elevated position. In case of too rough weather, it should be able to maintain autonomous flight and reattach after the calming. It also should be able to launch from the ship in windless conditions and search for a wind at higher altitudes, using own motor (not powerful enough to tow the ship, but able to move the kite around).

Perhaps the ships should be constructed sturdy enough to be carried (flown) completely out of water by two or more kites, when conditions are good? Considering the potential power of this propulsion, at least s hydro-foil hull may be desirable.

Re:It's called reinventing the... (4, Insightful)

shilly (142940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737606)

Your calculations and your "refinements" aren't properly thought out.

1) $1,600 / day *per ship* savings on fuel costs sounds pretty good to me -- nearly 600k a year. Of course that's a significant saving for a shipping company, look how they've borne down on crew costs to save relatively smaller sums. Assuming an installed cost of $750k, there's a payback time of just a year and a quarter, and that's conservative: fuel prices are heading up which increases the savings, the costs of production will head down due to economies of scale if the tech takes off, and the article notes that larger kites would -- in principle -- deliver larger savings.

2) Why on earth would you make the kite the bridge of the ship? The tether is about 300m long, what's the point of it being 240m instead? When you pull objects along, you attach the tether to the front of them, not the middle -- it's more efficient and it's more stable. Watch a child pull a toy dog along to see this principle in action.

3) They have their own solution to rough weather, and it's simpler than a frigging autonomous flight capability.

4) Lifting a fifty thousand ton ship bodily out of the water with kites doesn't sound like a terribly feasible solution. The hydrofoil idea might possibly be worth pursuing, but I suspect there are good technical engineering reasons for why large freight ships don't currently use this design that would preclude its use even with a kite.

Re:It's called reinventing the... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21738026)

I realize you're probably joking, but it doesn't matter how little it is... we, esp. those europeans, are willing to make whatever sacrifice we can to stop this global climate change, even though there is no proof that it's man-made, and is most likely a religions (even comes with its own nobel-prize winning televangelists... who else would they give the prize to, Arafat is out of office!) Buluga really wanted to make a difference (and get some publicity from Rooters with there really bored sounding chick reporter). But we should all do our part! And if we are rich enough to really make a difference, we should encourage, or even lobby for, things that would bring other carbon footprints down, unless of course it means getting rid of our privite jets (while we preach at others to take a bus) or making sure that ugly windfarm doesn't end up in OUR back yard (while going on incoherently living our lives on the back of our famous relative's last name). Let's go green AMERICA! Sign those treaties! Kill our stinking economy! Let the commies take over! It's for the "better" good!

We're doing it wrong (1, Insightful)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737104)

We (humanity) will face far more serious problems in this century, than suboptimal efficiency in our use of fossil fuels.

Hauling vast quantities of cargo around the world simply to exploit cheaper labor elsewhere, while consuming vast quantities of nonrenewable resources, is not sustainable.

We need to solve the energy problem NOW. We need to learn how to extract most of our energy from renewable resources (solar, wind, tidal [and nuclear as a stopgap]), and then work out the bioengineering we will need to regulate the atmosphere, prevent undesirable climate change, and produce additional energy and the materials for 21st century manufacturing.

The information technology revolution of the past few decades (at the expense of the environment) is what will have made all of that possible.

Strapping kites onto oil tankers will only help perpetuate the outdated, unsustainable economies we rely on today. Developing technologies that save the shipping company $1600/day is a waste of time and effort.

The goal should be, 20 years from now, that we don't need oil tankers anymore.

Then we can work on undoing the environmental damage caused by the industrial and information revolutions, and get started fixing the rest of our social problems.

Re:We're doing it wrong (3, Insightful)

toppavak (943659) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737314)

Strapping kites onto oil tankers will only help perpetuate the outdated, unsustainable economies we rely on today. Developing technologies that save the shipping company $1600/day is a waste of time and effort.
I think I see what you're getting at here, but it seems to me that if the technology were applied to other sea-faring craft such as cargo ships or passenger ferries it could have the same effect. Or if not merely fuel-saving, then it could at least lower power consumption requirements such that a weaker propulsion mechanism based on an alternative energy source would suffice for transportation. I believe that the application of the kite towards oil tankers doesn't mean that it is only applicable to oil tankers. There's a huge number of ships in the world's waters that aren't oil tankers.

Re:We're doing it wrong (4, Insightful)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737332)

Why you responded to my post, is beyond me. You certainly make a valid point, but you are using the wrong system boundaries. You're right that kites and the small horse used for the acceleration of sports cars (proposed below) do not solve the worlds problems. Indeed a paradigm shift is needed in order to fully solve our long term problems. We do not need to make transportation cheaper, we need to reduce transportation altogether.

Developing technologies that save the shipping company $1600/day is a waste of time and effort.
You fail to notice that the effort concerned with developing and marketing such a kite are not interchangeable with the efforts to find clean and reusable local power generation methods. Do you really think that the founders of the company in question (SkySails GmbH. [skysails.info]), could have contributed anything on the scale you are suggesting? The funding they received from local and European governments might be contributed to the uses you describe, but in comparison with fusion research it would still be a drop on a hot plate. SkySails was funded for 10% by public institutions (related to governments in one way or another) of which the EU contributed EUR 1.200.000. I'll leave the comparison with fusion research up to your friend Google.

Re:We're doing it wrong (5, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737354)

Hello. Do you know any actual humans? Here's something to ponder: economic interdependance and global trade is the most effective way to prevent war. If you stop trading, then your neighbour may decide to just come and take your resources.

Re:We're doing it wrong (5, Funny)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 5 years ago | (#21738734)

The trick is to research gunpowder first, so you can see the saltpeter on the map before your opponents can. If you don't have any in your territory, attack and acquire it before they can use it to make musketmen.

Hello Dad, I'm in Jail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21737450)

PWEI Reference?
Loved that one.......

Yes, and your thinking is wrong too (1)

rprins (1083641) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737470)

The information technology revolution of the past few decades (at the expense of the environment) is what will have made all of that possible.
Nonsense, sure it helps, but the most important part is awareness. People should care about sustainability, if consumers would choose their products weighing in sustainability, that will make change possible. Citizens electing representitives that prioritize sustainability, that will make change possible. ICT is just a tool that helps.

You need to be more realistic, 'regulating the atmosphere' is not realistic. Everything is a matter of compromise, you need to ship cargo and 'exploit' cheap labor, because you don't want to pay $500 dollars for shoes. War is one of the biggest polluters imaginable, yet apparantly it needs to be done. Change can not come just by giving a billion dollars to researchers, public awareness needs to change, priorities need to change.

Re:We're doing it wrong (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737518)

Prophesying the end of the modern world is something so old that you can find contemporaries of Plato and Aristotle who also did the very same thing. This isn't really all that new.

I suppose that some of those predicting the end of the Roman Empire were correct.... but it took several hundred years to happen. In that case, I suppose it gave legitimacy to those doom and gloom experts too.

We need to solve the energy problem NOW. We need to learn how to extract most of our energy from renewable resources (solar, wind, tidal [and nuclear as a stopgap]), and then work out the bioengineering we will need to regulate the atmosphere, prevent undesirable climate change, and produce additional energy and the materials for 21st century manufacturing.


We don't even have an energy problem. Indeed, all of the problems you are complaining about here is due to an over abundance of energy, not a lack of it. The fact that a doom sayer of the finality of the world like yourself can name off at least 4 different sources of energy that can be tapped and transformed into useful forms needed in modern industrial societies speaks volumes about how much effort is going into identifying useful energy forms.

The one huge problem, if there is one, about energy production is not how to extract the most out of the energy sources, but how to keep idiots from extracting too much from those energy sources at once. You may ask "Huh?" here, but pay close attention.... an explosion is just the rapid release of large quantities of energy at once at a point source.... aka a "bomb". And those kill people == very bad technology (to some people's thinking). This is the primary reason why nuclear energy (both fusion and fission) is the big evil bad guy, in spite of the fact that a nuclear future really is the best way to protect the environment in the long run. Not only for waste disposal, but even for mineral extraction costs (including intangible costs like environmental damage) nuclear fission is several orders of magnitude more efficient than petroleum and coal production techniques. For crying out loud, the typical coal electric generating plant produces far more toxic nuclear waste per kWh than a typical nuclear fission power plant. That is completely discounting silly things like CO2 that are now getting everybody's panties in a bunch. Fusion sources, if developed, are just the icing on the cake and make the argument undeniable.

The goal should be, 20 years from now, that we don't need oil tankers anymore.


This still doesn't solve the problem of how you can concentrate energy into a useful and portable source that can be tapped by ordinary people, for things like transportation and commerce. And mass transportation isn't always the solution, as there are legitimate reasons why many people don't want to be in a herd and travel the same route and to the same places that 90% of the rest of humanity is at.

FYI, did you know that when you throw a gallon of gasoline into your automobile, that at the refinery more energy was consumed in the processing of the gasoline than is available for you when you burn that fuel? Most of that processing energy comes in the form of electricity, which the oil refineries get from the same sources that power your light bulbs... but the point is that most fuel sources are just energy concentration mediums. And it is important to separate energy production from energy storage. Until you can develop an energy storage medium that is more efficient than petroleum, we will continue to require petroleum or something very similar for a very long time to come. Lithium ion technology looks very promising at the moment, as are some other interesting energy storage devices. Ethanol is, IMHO, a horribly wasteful energy storage form but at least it is a semi-viable replacement for common uses of petroleum if you absolutely must stop the black fluid mineral extraction processes. And most alcohols don't have the energy density needed for flying vehicles, so other solutions will have to be found if we are to continue to have air transportation networks. LOX/H2 is one huge possibility, but even that has it own technological problems.

I agree that strapping a kite onto an ocean ship is a silly thing to do, but the worry about continuing a petroleum-based economy is not the reason to kill the idea. You also haven't even suggested a reasonable alternative in your rant, except perhaps the collapse and destruction of modern industrial society... where we would revert back to a hunter/gatherer level of technology (and 95% reduction in the current world population to make that sustainable). Don't get me started on where the genocide for such a drastic shift in the world economy should begin.

Re:We're doing it wrong (0)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 5 years ago | (#21738756)

Prophesying the end of the modern world is something so old that you can find contemporaries of Plato and Aristotle who also did the very same thing. This isn't really all that new.

While this is true, the fact that alarmists lived before me in no way speaks to whether I am right or wrong. Besides, the unspoken point you are making, without backing it up with evidence, is that those prophesies were somehow mere hysteria. However, sometimes societies changed because of the predictions, and sometimes circumstances changed in non-sustainable ways (discover a new contenient or two).

Re:We're doing it wrong (2, Insightful)

DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737556)

We need to learn how to extract most of our energy from renewable resources (solar, wind, tidal [and nuclear as a stopgap])

Strapping kites onto oil tankers will only help perpetuate the outdated, unsustainable economies we rely on today. Developing technologies that save the shipping company $1600/day is a waste of time and effort.


While I agree that some "hybrid" (as in hybrid car) solutions are useless for tackling climate change, I have to disagree with you here. Ships have a similar problem as airplanes in that they can't be powered on batteries (too heavy) and thus cannot be powered by electricity produced elsewhere. Also, we don't want every merchant ship in the world to have a nuclear reactor on board, for obvious reasons. So sails are indeed an interesting idea, especially as they are proven to work, don't create any emissions and could, as the technology matures, be scaled up to supply much more of the needed thrust, maybe nearly all of it. This new system actually looks like it does exactly what you are asking for (extract energy from renewable sources).

Also, ships don't only carry oil. They bring us all the nice little cheap stuff from all over the world, allowing producers to exploit huge economies of scale (which, in the long run, might well benefit the environment, too). I don't think we will be able to live without them any time soon.

Re:We're doing it wrong (0, Flamebait)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#21738424)

Also, ships don't only carry oil. They bring us all the nice little cheap stuff from all over the world, allowing producers to exploit huge economies of scale (which, in the long run, might well benefit the environment, too).

Eh? What's that you say? Ships don't carry oil? What the hell was the Exxon Valdez carrying? Crude oil definitely travels by ship -- big, honking tanker ships carrying huge amounts of oil are criss-crossing the globe as we speak.

I don't think we will be able to live without them any time soon.

Absolutely true -- we sure as heck can't fly the vast quantities of stuff which travels by ship throughout a year. There's just way too much of it.

Cheers

Re:We're doing it wrong (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737658)

The cargo tanker leg almost invariably consumes less energy than the SUV to the store leg. The shipping industry isn't some giant problem.

Re:We're doing it wrong (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 5 years ago | (#21738036)

Developing technologies that save the shipping company $1600/day is a waste of time and effort.

The goal should be, 20 years from now, that we don't need oil tankers anymore.

Which option do you think the shipping company (and backer) would prefer?

Re:We're doing it wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21738658)

We need to learn how to extract most of our energy from renewable resources

In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics.

Re:It's called reinventing the... (4, Insightful)

christus_ae (985401) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737558)

You've nailed the reasons this German comapany has invested and utilized this technology. It's not about "fighting climate change" like the pro-green TFA title, it's about saving $1600 a day.

Re:It's called reinventing the... (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736822)

I did think about that, but is it not slightly different?

I don't know much about the conditions at see (so potentially over-qualified to talk about it on /. ;) ) but wouldn't there be stronger winds higher up? Think of a normal kite - you hold it at ground level and you get a bit of a gust, but get it up to flying altitude and it is really pulling.

So they may have re-invented "the really high sail" by removing the mast and putting it on the end of a rope/tether instead, but not just a normal sail.

It's Capt. FRANKENSHTEEN (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736848)

Eyegor- release the kites

Re:It's called reinventing the... (4, Informative)

IainMH (176964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737546)

I took up kitesurfing in the summer. I can attest to the enormous power a kite can yeild - far more than a sail of the same size. Most people kitesurfing use a kite around 10-12 metres long depending on their size and the wind conditions. When I was learning the ropes (sorry), I used a 3 metre kite on land. I am not a small chap. But that 3 metre kite picked me up as if I was hardly there and threw me around.

Power kites are quite hard to learn how to control properly. I think the leap in the technology here isn't the wind which, as you point out, has been done before, but the control systems to keep the kite in the air, stable and effective.

What I'd like to know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21737610)

What I'd like to know is where I can get a kike-powered ship. Afterall, they did build the pyramids...

I worked on this during (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736444)

My dad is an engineer working on this project. He keeps a blog/journal at this site [myminicity.com]

Re:I worked on this during (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736494)

You fucking son of a BITCH! I'll enjoy it when you're being sodomized in hell and you experience Satan's sandy ejaculate blowing your colon through your skull, you sick, sick fuck.

Re:I worked on this during (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21737716)

It's a really shame that Slashdot is now getting spammed. Trolls are one of the reasons I come here, and they're definitely the reason I browse at -1, but this is just low. Goatse trolls are one thing, it's always entertaining to trick someone into viewing that. I mean, who here hasn't done a Goatse troll at least once? The story trolls are also entertaining, though whoever keeps posting the shit-eating troll needs to give it a rest (write/copy something new or just lay off for a while). Hell, even rick rolls can be fun. Spam, though, fscking sucks. If the poster reads this, stop it. Please do something entertaining. Don't ruin Slashdot or it's excellent trolling community.

Mods on crack (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21738162)

How can a post be "overrated" if it hasn't been rated? Seriously. Thanks for wasting a mod point. I hope I get to meta-moderate some of your work so you'll no longer get moderator points.

I predict... (3, Interesting)

GregPK (991973) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736480)

That Sail manufactures will all be getting a piece of this. It takes a lot of money to make a good long lasting sail. Not to mention keeping it in good repair overtime. Ocean air and the Sun aren't exactly friendly to Quality Sailing materials that are used on a daily basis.

Re:I predict... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736606)

Ocean air and the Sun aren't exactly friendly to Quality Sailing materials that are used on a daily basis.
Oh well, that would probably kill the first thing I thought of adding to these kites and to sails, the paintable solar cells some have been working on.

See it in Action (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736506)

Check out high-res shots here [myminicity.com]

Everything old is new again (5, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736564)

Sometimes, it seems, there are no new ideas. As others have said, what we have here is a glorified sail. Nothing wrong with that, but as fossil fuels become more expensive, we'll find more and more "old tech" make a comeback.

The biggest deal in alternative energy right now is the windmill, which have been used for what, 1,200 years? [wikipedia.org] Now we have a (gasp!) sailing ship! Pretty soon we'll go back to using the electric car [toyota.com] which was very popular in the early days [about.com] of the automobile.

No, basic technologies are not new - what's new are refinements. For example, Linux is a re-implementation of a 35 year old Operating System [levenez.com] having the chief innovation of a license change [gnu.org]. I'm not knocking the quality that Linus has put into the Linux kernel, but Linux is written to be POSIX compliant, so while drivers are nice, Linux is basically no different than any other UNIX but for the license difference.

Innovation can come from some incredibly low-tech, unlikely places. For example, this guy has won numerous awards for sticking a pot inside a pot and filling the middle with wet sand [boingboing.net] - managing to solve a serious problem in Africa for low-cost refrigeration.

I guess what it comes down to is this: Technology is valuable when it works, not when it's complex. There's lots of very, very, very simple technology that nonetheless works very, very, very well.

Re:Everything old is new again (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736726)

Technology is valuable when it works, not when it's complex.

Maybe this is correlated with design objectives targetting 'social impact' (even if only unintentionally) while trying to optimize broad distribution of benefit instead of 'wealth-creation'.

Maybe the difference is whether technology is to support convergence towards trees vs. complete graphs.

CC.

Re:Everything old is new again (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736966)

You seem to imply that 'social impact' may be superior to 'wealth-creation' among the list of possible motives.
If that's the implication, could you lay out an objective proof as to why?
This is a sincere question.

Re:Everything old is new again (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737808)

'social impact' may be superior to 'wealth-creation'

Quite unclear, for sure, since trying to increase the benefit of all also creates 'wealth'.
I wanted to rule out 'creation of wealth in a hand of a few' (a high gini-coefficient). If you target the latter, you, IMHO, end up with an inflexible, vulnerable system with a low stability.

On a very broad scale, thus necessarily fuzzy, a ranking of systems according to the probability that they include 'social impact' in evaluations might be:
'communism (as instantiated henceforth)' — tree-like flow of power by (normative) rules;
'capitalism' — tree-like flow of power materialized as money (underlying rules are normative as well, but this is hidden better);
'anarchy'— networked (complete-graph as a model) flow of information useful to create local optima according to local needs.

Targeting social impact in the first place also again transforms technological/scientific development into a human endeavour, as opposed to a technical/material one if you only look at ROI.

objective proof

There is no such thing outside maths, all science being empirical and the humanities not having switched to empirics too may be rated normative, IMHO.

But you may probably collect evidence by looking at existing systems, their ability to sustain equilibrium (which is one of the targets I rate important) as well as the underlying causes. The most obvious system is 'earth' (yes, there are subsystems that follow power(disambiguation: exp) laws, but the interconnectedness seems to be impressive. Here (/.), the Internet comes to mind (which, in a second stage, probably was designed with 'social impact' in mind (think 'global village'), with consequences like FOSS, p2p, on a smaller scale, 'instant mobs', consumer action ... . In contrast, you may look at 'optimized agriculture', highly vulnerable and not sustainable (e.g. GM-crops). Just examples.

I might point out that your call for 'objective proof', to me, is just an indicator that some 'human' aspects (of evolution), i.e. intuition and intention besides thinking, have been lost somewhere on the track.

Hopefully, this makes my perceptions (intentionally avoiding 'thoughts') a little more transparent.

CC.

Re:Everything old is new again (5, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736884)

Sometimes, it seems, there are no new ideas. As others have said, what we have here is a glorified sail.

Not really. It might be closer to a windmill than a sail... The idea of using the wind for power might be millions of years old, but new ways that do it several orders of magnitude more efficiently, and in significantly different ways, aren't the same tech by any stretch of the imagination.

This is a lot closer to a kite or a parachute. The ONLY similarity is has with a sail is that it happens to be powering a boat in this case. Far more differences than similarities, and I don't hear anyone complaining that sailing ships were just rip-offs of kites...

Eliminating the huge weight, manpower, and most of the wear that was inherent with sails makes this a vastly different product that could well have been a revolution in naval technology (exploration, trade, warfare, etc.) if it was around in the 16th century.

With wind turbines and electric cars you have a point that they aren't really new inventions, but they certainly have been VASTLY refined. In other words, a rocket that can fly to the moon and back isn't an over-sized bit of fireworks, but it's easy to oversimplify anything until it sounds trivial... Hey, a 3GHz dual-core computer is just a bunch of electric switches, and they had those in the 1800s.

This 'kite', however, is decidedly new, by any reasonable metric, and I look forward to seeing if it's actually practical for commercial use on a large scale.

Re:Everything old is new again (1)

joto (134244) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737122)

Not really. It might be closer to a windmill than a sail... The idea of using the wind for power might be millions of years old, but new ways that do it several orders of magnitude more efficiently, and in significantly different ways, aren't the same tech by any stretch of the imagination.

Several orders of magnitude more efficient? That sounds very unlikely, given that sailing technology is pretty competitive these days, with competitions like Americas cup where investors are practically standing in line to pour money into new and experimental designs.

A kite has the advantage of catching air at a somewhat higher altitude, on the other hand, it has the disadvantage of not working at all in lower wind, higher risk of collision with other kite-driven boats, and so on...

But the main advantage of a kite is that it can be retrofitted to boats not specifically designed for it (although they still need a good keel). If you were to start from scratch in designing a new sailing ship, I find it very likely that it would still have a mast and sails, rather than a kite. In any case, even with a mast, you can still use a kite.

Re:Everything old is new again (2, Interesting)

yanboss (729709) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737342)

Advantages of a kite:
Wind at higher altitude is more consistent and stronger. Part of the reason americas cup boats have such tall high aspect sails

A kite flies back and forth through the air experiencing an increased wind speed compared to static sail

The center of effort for the force from the kite can be placed very low on the boat so that heeling moment is minimised. So no need for a deep keel or long heavy fragile mast.

With the kite retracted the wind propulsion system is hidden away. So reduced windage when travelling against the wind and no exposed parts in storms.

BMW oracle experimented with a kite instead of a spinnaker but rule restrictions within the americas cup make it hard to work with (Cant fly higher than the mast head, has to be single skin, only 3 control lines). So it was rule restrictions rather than the inherent principle of a kite that excludes it from the americas cup.

Re:Everything old is new again (2, Insightful)

jovius (974690) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736950)

Sometimes, it seems, there are no new ideas. As others have said, what we have here is a glorified sail. Nothing wrong with that, but as fossil fuels become more expensive, we'll find more and more "old tech" make a comeback.

The industrial revolution and the age of enlightenment led us to overconsumption. Defoe's Crusoe is an exemplary of a human being getting in control with the nature - everything is possible with ingenuity and sufficient resources. Sadly the western societies especially have since declined to self-worship rather than co-operation, because we generally are weak before our needs and desires. Combined with individual freedoms the nature was lost into artificiality, and many aligned with a mechanical world-view of self-preservation at all cost, and for profit. It's interesting how the global awareness has been on the rise recently, but it's good to keep in mind that this wouldn't necessarily happen if there wasn't need for it financially. Scarce resources show us that our lifes (businesses) are and can be finite, and it would be optimal to be more balanced to spend the time here fruitfully or profitably. In that sense the trend you have observed is a natural way of seeking harmony that was lost, although the idealized modern view of the historical times tends to forgot the sorrowful and filthy side of the past reality. Maybe we are more mature now, however?

Re:Everything old is new again (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737772)

but Linux is written to be POSIX compliant, so while drivers are nice, Linux is basically no different than any other UNIX but for the license difference
Are you saying POSIX compliance [wikipedia.org] makes an operating system "UNIX"? If so, using that argument, Windows NT is like any other UNIX? Somehow I think people would disagree.

Let's just hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736604)

Let's just hope the wind blows favourably 20% of the time otherwise...

Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736666)

Wow. That's quick - we just discussed it last month and they have already done it?! It's amazing what the modern man is capable of.

Re:Wow. (3, Funny)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736714)

Wow. That's quick - we just discussed it last month and they have already done it?! It's amazing what the modern man is capable of.
I propose daily stories and discussions on:
- Cold fusion based power plants
- Jet-packs
- Mars terra forming and subsequent colonization
- FTL travel
and Duke Nukem Forever

Get off my lawn! (4, Funny)

Lalo Martins (2050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736720)

What, upgrading ships from combustion engines to sail? You kids and your newfangled fancy stuff! Next thing you'll be wanting oars!

Re:Get off my lawn! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736774)

Lets all hear it for those pioneering kite surfers who risk life and limb day in and day out to prove the concept behind this totally novel idea.

I predict an increase in the number of yuppies in the crews of ocean going ships.

not a great value (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736738)

Wow the sail only costs $725,000, and they say it will save about $1600 a day? Not so enticing. Also what happens in bad weather, seems like more of a pain that savings.

Re:not a great value (2, Insightful)

vidarh (309115) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736790)

Some remedial math: $725,000 / $1600 = 453.125. A technology which repays itself in about 15 months is very much worthwhile. It means you get 100% return on investment in two and half years. Even if the sail needs complete replacement every 2-3 years, or the equivalent in maintenance costs, it'd still be a good investment.

Re:not a great value (5, Insightful)

ColaMan (37550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736792)

How long do you think the life of an average cargo ship is?

$725,000 / $1600 per day gives about 450 days before break-even.

Ships have a useful life of 20 to 30 years, so in the end, you wind up about 12 or 13 million ahead, even factoring in a total replacement at mid-life. And this rough calculation is just at (presumably) todays oil prices - when oil is double the price, you're now saving $3200/day and so on.

Plenty of scope for some serious cost savings.

Re:not a great value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21737054)

A useful life of 50 years is more like it. 20-30 years for the first owner, usually. Another interesting comparison is the rule of thumb with modern sailboats - during its lifespan it will wear out a dozen of sail setups.

Re:not a great value (1)

jsoderba (105512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737086)

Ships are not under way all the time, wind conditions are not always favorable, and the actual kite will certainly not last 10 years.

Re:not a great value (1)

ultrafunkula (547970) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736800)

That's not too bad. Break even after about 450 days, assuming that there aren't other maintenance costs involved.

Re:not a great value (2, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#21738210)

Yeah, and for all that trouble, you've saved about .0001% on the operation costs of your boat. Ok, maybe it's not that little, but let's think about this. How much does it cost to run a cargo ship for a day, including crew, fuel, fuel for crew (aka food), depreciation and maintenance of ship, and all the other costs of running a ship. Now lets add to that the cost of a sail, and the increased crew necessary to maintain and deploy such a sail, and think about how long it will take before you see any noticeable gains.

Fros7 pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736754)

sho3er Don'7 just

Am I the only one who feels (3, Interesting)

gzur (631334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736770)

that this sounds like something out of Snow Crash?

Re:Am I the only one who feels (1)

Fex303 (557896) | more than 5 years ago | (#21738666)

Well, it beats most news stories these days, which sound they're out of George Orwell's 1984.

Actually the sooner we get to a Snow Crash-like existence, the better. (Though I'd still prefer the Diamond Age.)

So (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21736864)

You know winds do die eventually. How long did the trip take? Oh 200 days because there was no wind half the time so we floated inthe middle of the ocean.

What is "kite"? (1)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736886)

I'm not a native english speaker and don't know this word, and don't ask what hillarious translations dict.leo.org offers... (dragons, bad cheques, the star constellation "Bootes",...)

I'm pretty sure none of them is the right translation...
thanks for your help :-)

Re:What is "kite"? (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737218)

I'm not a native english speaker and don't know this word,

Do you know what the word "dictionary" means?

TWW

Hope for humanity... (2, Funny)

youthoftoday (975074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736908)

For a second there -- just for a second -- I thought there was some hope for humanity. Then I saw what it was carrying in those pictures.

Re:Hope for humanity... (2, Informative)

SanguineV (1197225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737146)

Nothing says hope for humanity like a wind assisted ship carrying windmills [networkworld.com] (presumably for power generation)?

Re:Hope for humanity... (1)

Falladir (1026636) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737268)

Thanks, I was wondering what they were. They looked kind of like weapons to me too, but I thought they were too long and graceful (and probably fragile) to be missiles or torpedos or rockets.

Great start (5, Informative)

Danny3xd (1204844) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737072)

This is a great start but not the whole answer. The position of the kite allows it to only work with the wind coming from abaft of beam. (from behind)Also creating a "lee-helm", driving her nose down wind. To get the 20% fuel savings (I am guessing closer to 15%, from experience) 50% of the time, a second kite would be needed amidships. The wind would in fact be much stronger at altitude, But with little to block it 100 feet above sea level, I believe a schooner rig would be as productive, more often. "Down-wind" is not the best point of sail. "Close-hauled" is. Where the wind comes from either side of the bow. Creates an airplane wing effect that sucks ship forward. (Positive to negative) With kite alone, the ship would lose a lot of energy trying to stay on course due to rudder angle. Under perfect conditions, this will work great. Just not often. I am retired from the U.S. Merchant Marines and have worked and sailed on many tankers and schooners. I do believe we tossed sail aside to quickly. Amazing, free and renewable energy.

Re:Great start (2, Informative)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737392)

It's a steerable airfoil kite (like in kite-surfing) the power is generated by making figures of eight, roughly in the point you want to be pulled to. They've developed a nice automated pilot for controlling the kite. In this way the kite can deliver power in any direction that has a down-wind component. (You are right in stating that it is not as effective in all directions.)

Re:Great start (1)

popeyethesailorman (735746) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737434)

"Down-wind" is not the best point of sail. "Close-hauled" is.
Nope. A beam-reach, or perpendicular to the apparent wind, is the best point of sail. Close hauled is 2nd best. Down-wind is the least effective.

Re:Great start (1)

Danny3xd (1204844) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737512)

"Nope. A beam-reach, or perpendicular to the apparent wind, is the best point of sail. Close hauled is 2nd best. Down-wind is the least effective." Popeye, you are correct. Thank you.

Re:Great start (1)

shilly (142940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737762)

Are you sure that the principles that applying to sails apply to kites of this type? They appear to be quite different tech.

Re:Great start (1)

Danny3xd (1204844) | more than 5 years ago | (#21737920)

"Are you sure that the principles that applying to sails apply to kites of this type? They appear to be quite different tech." Absolutely shilly. I was trying to say (and failed) was that both (sail and kite) working in conjunction would be the best of both worlds of fuel savings. The kite is a great advance.

Kike powered ships? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21737152)

What will those Germans think of next?

Keel? (2, Insightful)

melonman (608440) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737274)

Why don't you need one? In the photo on the last /. article the kite isn't dead ahead of the ship, and you'd expect that to be the case most of the time. If that tends to pull the ship off course, don't you end up using the rudder like a rather poor keel, effectively dragging the ship through the sea sideways, and thus wasting a load of energy, not to mention the stress on various parts of the ship?

Military usage (3, Funny)

aapold (753705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737406)

I think this technology has obvious military applications.

When fighting enemy warships, a kite ship can get close enough to fire a shot, then the kite kicks in and they move away, out of range of the pursuing enemy ship, all the while firing shots at them. Using this tactic they could easily draw an enemy warship far from their lines and away from possible assistance to an area of the sea where additional friendly warships can be brought to bear upon it.

What next? The Trireme and Galley Slaves? (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737408)

Big Oar is waiting.

Re:What next? The Trireme and Galley Slaves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21737898)

Well, we DO have an overpopulated planet! Besides, some parts of it is inhabited by predominantly obese people, who would improve their health doing some workout.

We could also make them more humane and high-tech then in the olden days.

Imagine: large, comfy (toilet-capable, with additional "skirts" for privacy) seats inside air-conditioned lower decks with large HD screens above heads, playing movies and sitcoms (or music videos, for better mood and row sync) around the clock, padded oar handles, composite-material-made lightweight oars, sub woofer rhythm pacers, individual water and soup feeders (with optional anti-seasickness medicine addition), narrow beam, individual-addressing non-damaging microwave whips... the tech of today enables making so MUCH better Galleys!

Not sure how much real use this will be. (2, Interesting)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737654)

Can't use it in a storm.
Can't use it when heading into the wind - can't tack with a kite.
Can't use it when theres no wind.

Also in the video it seemed to be moving around a lot on its mounting pole when furled up even in the slight breeze. How you'd unfurl it in a strong wind without damage to it or its cables I shudder to think.

Re:Not sure how much real use this will be. (2, Interesting)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#21737942)

can't tack with a kite.
Try telling that to the kitesurfers who come ashore upwind from where they started.

Totally uneconomic (1)

PerMolestiasEruditio (1118269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737678)

Three Problems: 1. Commercial ships have to keep to schedules to keep customers and ports happy. They also have lots of crew to feed and carry large quantities of money onboard (in the form of the ship and the commodities it carries) that cost a lot of money when doing anything other than going as quickly as possible (20-25knots) to the next port. Anything that compromises this speed and schedulability is a non-starter. 2. Ships have massive aero-drag (try pushing something 30m high, 30m wide and 200m long upwind), which totally dominates the kite-ship system and means that unlike efficient yachts that can sail in most directions at greater than wind speed (and in some cases up to 3 times wind speed) this baby will never be able to exceed wind speed on any course unless it uses a kite at least an order of magnitude bigger than what they are proposing and a huge fin on the ship. 3 Fabric doesn't last. Highly loaded sail fabric lasts even less. A very lightly loaded commercial paraglider might get 2000 hours. Heavy fabric is not much of a solution either as heavy kites have terrible performance, stall easily and won't stay up in light winds. It is going to be very expensive replacing the kite several times a year. Put these things together and the kite will only be of use when the vector component of the wind in the direction you want to travel is say 5-10knots greater than the required ship speed of 20-25knots. At which point screw the kite, just use a huge drag device like a spinnaker (the other kind of 'kite') or parachute on a balloon. But even this is pointless as in the real world (depending on location and course) 30-35knot tail winds would be lucky to occur more than 5% of the time. So who are the credulous idiots putting money into this? Devils Advocate: The only possible application I can see is bulk carriers where delivery may not be as time critical as it sits around in stores for extended periods anyway and you may be able to afford to sail a lot slower.

Re:Totally uneconomic (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21738328)

I suggest you and all the other people posting similar concerns send your criticisms to the manufacturers of the kite; After all, it seems clear that when they invested huge amounts of time and money and engineering expertise developping this system, they foolishly neglected to consult a random slashdot pundit who could have doubtlessly steered them away from this blatantly doomed project with nothing more than some half-assed, uninformed, back-of-a-beermat guesstimations.

Do you really think this project would have reached the stage it has if it DIDN'T ACTUALLY WORK? Do you really think that a little detail like that could slip unnoticed past all of the professional engineers, experienced and knowledgable in the appropriate fields, temployed by the kite's manufacturers? Do you really think you know better than people who do this for a living, and have now proved themselves by designing, building, testing, selling, delivering and launching a functional system?

Dumbass.

(capcha: damning)

Aaargh! (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737732)

Trim the Mainsail lads! And fetch me me Parrot and a tot of rum.

We're back my hearties! Yo ho ho! Aaargh!

Boatswain, plot a course for treasure island - or Venezuela or somewhere.

And someone turn off them damnable engines, I can hardly hear meself think. Aargh...

Economics look not so good, like awful (1, Interesting)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737752)

I assume the 20% savings ($1,600/day) is when the wind is blowing good, and in the right direction.

Just on general principles, that's going to happen about 1/3 the time times maybe 1/2 the time. So actual savings are going to be around 3% ($266/day) That's about $78,000 per year. Barely enough to pay for one employee to manage the kite. Nothing left over to pay the interest ($60,000), or pay off the principal (another $75K over 10 years).

I for one welcome (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21737826)

our return to the age of sail. Even if it is a little higher tech then first time around.

Blimp for the doldrums (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#21738472)

They should add a blimp to that, to keep the sail aloft on bad days.

Germany never was a great sailing nation. So if the Dutch, Spanish, English or French dont want to bite, then there must be a problem with the technology.

Tall ships - spinakers and auto furling sails (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#21738608)

The problem with sails is labour. If they have to add crew to handle the sails, then they dont save anything. A 15m mast with a kite is not much different from flying a spinaker and simpler sail systems can be furled automatically, so there is room for improvement and automation.

Why not use sails? (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 5 years ago | (#21738722)

Am I missing here? What kind of advantage does a kite provide over sails which I'd say are a proven technology. To me it seems that 500 year old technology [wikipedia.org] is superior to what this company has developed.

I can think of a few distinct advantages over the kite. First, the sails are attached to the ship. There isn't this thing blowing around in the sky which might change direction unpredictably when the winds change. Or worse, make a dive for the ocean. Second, the kite is completely useless in headwinds. One advantage the caravel had over other sailing vessels of the time was it's ability to sail into headwinds. It had to zig zag across the ocean to make forward progress, but it wasn't left at the mercy of the weather to the extent older ships had been.

I'll concede sails would require added weight and complexity to accommodate the masts and all the rigging, but I'm convinced it would be more beneficial than a stupid kite.

By no means do I suggest they shouldn't offer the technology. It would be nice if this spurred some other companies to offer something more compelling.

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