Posted in | News | Wind Power | Energy

Researchers Develop Wind Energy-Producing Drone

Researchers at the University of Bristol received a grant to study Airborne Wind Energy Systems (AWES), which uses tethered drones to capture wind energy at high altitudes. This technology could be a game-changer for the UK's net-zero goals by providing clean energy and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Image of a prototype Kitemill drone in action. Image Credit: Kitemill.
Image of a prototype Kitemill drone in action. Image Credit: Kitemill.

Dr. Duc H. Nguyen, a Lecturer in Flight Dynamics and Control at the University of Bristol, has secured a £375,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to delve deeper into Airborne Wind Energy Systems (AWES).

AWES operates by tethering a drone to a ground station, enabling wind power harvesting at higher altitudes than conventional wind turbines. The strong winds pull the drone away from the ground station, driving the generator and generating electricity.

This technology holds promise for the UK's energy sector by diminishing its carbon footprint, offering flexibility for both offshore and onshore applications, and bolstering the capacity to operate in remote regions.

To optimize power generation, AWES must navigate intricate flight patterns amidst significant aerodynamic forces. This setup results in a sophisticated system with nuanced handling requirements—a minor miscalculation could result in the drone losing control and descending rapidly to the ground.

Addressing this challenge is the primary objective of Dr. Nguyen and his collaborators during this project. By enhancing the safety and efficiency of AWES, they aim to lay the groundwork for the commercialization of this technology.

Airborne wind energy has enormous potential and is anticipated to generate €70 billion per year worth of electricity by 2050. However, it is still an emerging technology. In many cases, a trade-off has been made: new designs have been rapidly deployed for test flights before their flying characteristics are fully understood. This has prevented many AWES prototypes from achieving full capacity in operation, leading to early termination of the program and hindering commercialization.

Dr. Duc H. Nguyen, Lecturer, Flight Dynamics and Control, University of Bristol

Dr. Nguyen, from the School of Civil, Aerospace and Design Engineering, explains, “This project seeks to address this challenge through the use of bifurcation and continuation methods.”

Numerical techniques similar to those used in aircraft dynamic studies have proven effective in predicting hazardous behaviors such as pilot-induced oscillation, flutter, and spin.

By replacing existing techniques with bifurcation methods, AWES can achieve significant cost savings and improved performance that will ultimately bring this technology closer to commercialization.

Dr. Duc H. Nguyen, Lecturer, Flight Dynamics and Control, University of Bristol

In addition to the EPSRC funding, the project leverages collaborations with two prominent entities in the sector: Norwegian startup Kitemill and the University Carlos III of Madrid.

The initiation and successful funding of this AWES project is an important development in the renewable energy sector. AWES technology, with its exceptional material efficiency and higher energy yields, has the potential to become a dominant force in the energy industry.

Thomas Hårklau, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kitemill

Thomas Hårklau adds, “We are excited to collaborate with Duc Nguyen and Bristol University on this initiative. This project not only advances the UK's net-zero mission but also secures British competence in this emerging sector. Together, we aim to address current challenges and pave the way for the commercialization of AWES.”

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.