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Drones that generate wind power

Drones that generate wind power

A new technology is launched for the generation of energy through the wind. Giant drones or kites connected by a cable to a generator can produce wind power.

Engineers from the Carlos III University of Madrid created a simulator to evaluate the efficiency of these new airborne power generation systems.

The new technology for producing electrical energy through the wind is called “airborne power generation systems” (AWES).

The great advantage is that the expensive tower of conventional wind turbines is replaced by a cable, and its blades by an aircraft that can be a flexible kite or a giant drone.

In so-called 'ground generation systems', the force of the cable is used to move an electrical generator installed on the surface while, in 'in-flight generation systems', the electrical energy is produced by a wind turbine on board. own aircraft and transmitted to the ground by the cable itself.

This system can operate at high altitudes, above 500 meters, where the winds blow stronger and are more continuous.

As a result, installation, maintenance and material costs are greatly reduced.

Another advantage is that the visual impact is reduced and its transport is simpler compared to the classic wind power generation systems.

These advantages mean that this new AWES technology can reach remote places where the installation of other power generation systems is difficult.

"AWES are disruptive technologies that operate at high altitudes and generate electrical energy," explains Gonzalo Sánchez Arriaga, Ramón y Cajal researcher from the Department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering at the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M). "They combine classic disciplines of electrical engineering and aeronautics, such as the design of electrical machines, aeroelasticity or control, with more recent and unconventional ones related to drones and cable dynamics", he adds.

"Thanks to the simulator, we can study the behavior of these systems, optimize their design and find trajectories that maximize energy generation," explains Ricardo Borobia Moreno, from the Flight Mechanics Area of ​​the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) and a PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering. The software they have developed is registered with UC3M and can be freely downloaded for use in research by other groups.

Comets too

Together with the simulator, the researchers have set up a flight test bench for AWES systems. For this, they have equipped two kitesurfing kites with different instruments and have recorded data during numerous flights.

“Preparing the test bench has required a significant investment of effort, time and resources, but it has also raised the interest of a large number of our students. Beyond research, the project has enriched our teaching, since many of them have completed their final degree and master's projects on AWES ”, says Sánchez Arriaga, who teaches the Flight Mechanics course in the Aerospace Engineering Degree in UC3M.

"Our activities include flight tests and AWES estimation, control and simulation," says Sánchez Arriaga. "In the project an interesting transfer of technology and knowledge is being carried out from the world of aviation, such as flight test methods, to that of airborne energy", concludes Borobia Moreno.

Bibliographic reference:

Sanchez-Arriaga, Gonzalo & Pastor-Rodríguez, Alejandro & Sanjurjo Rivo, Manuel & Schmehl, Roland. (2018): A Lagrangian Flight Simulator for Airborne Wind Energy Systems. Applied Mathematical Modeling, 19, pp 665-684, 2019. First published version available online: 4-jan-2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apm.2018.12.016

Background in Holland

Thestartup Ampyx Power and the Dutch Aerospace Center (NLR) jointly developed a new type of wind power plant in 2018, in which drones were used to generate electricity.

The goal is to offer new power plants as a cheap replacement for outdated wind farms.

The drone soars to a height of 450 meters in coastal areas where there are often enough winds for the power plant to operate effectively, achieving a power of two megawatts in the new AP4 wind farm.

According to the developers, with the modernization of the already obsolete wind power plants, a new wind farm can be installed on the existing platforms and supports, which will significantly reduce the cost of the project.

With information from:

Video: Wind turbine inspection with drone and damage analysis (October 2020).