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Closing the Gap: Pumping Cycle Kite Power with TwingPower


R. H. Luchsinger, D. Aregger, D. Costa, F. Gohl, J. Heilmann, H. Hesse, C. Houle, T. A. Wood, R. S. Smith

Airborne Wind Energy Conference (AWEC), Delft, Netherlands

Pumping cycle kite power has attracted considerable interest over the last years. Several start-ups and research teams investigate this technology, particularly in Europe. The basic concept of pumping cycle kite power is well understood and theoretical and experimental investigations have revealed the potential of this technology. However, there are still some key elements of the technology where there is so far no consent among the different teams on how to solve them. In particular, the design of the kite and the launching and landing concept are topics, where very different solutions are followed up. For the kite, several teams operate with flexible tube and foil kites which stem from the surf kite industry. These kites are controlled either by the ground station through a multiline configuration or by means of a control pod below the kite. On the other end of spectrum, a rigid glider with the full control surfaces of an airplane is used, moving the control authority from the ground station into the wing. With respect to launching and landing, passive concepts which rely on the wind over ground as well as active concepts such as a tow launch or a rotating arm concept are investigated. As usual all these different approaches have advantages and disadvantages. TwingTec is convinced that the ideal wing for pumping cycle kite power is a synergetic combination of the light weight property of the surf kite with the aerodynamic and structural property of the glider. To this end, the twing, an acronym for tethered wing, has been developed over the last three years. With respect to launching and landing, we are convinced that only active systems can fulfil the requirements of a commercial kite power system. By investigating a number of different approaches, we came to the conclusion that a system where rotors are integrated into the twing is the best option to fulfil all the necessary requirements. Thus, the twing hovers during launching resulting in a good control of this phase. The transition into the pumping cycle as well as the transition back to hover for landing are done at height enabling time and space for a well control process. The talk gives an overview over our TwingPower technology which has been pushed ahead over the last years in the frame work of a joint research project with Empa, FHNW and ETH. We consider TwingPower as the first system where all key elements of pumping cycle kite power including launching, landing and relaunching under various wind conditions in a closed loop process without human interaction can be achieved.

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