Land-based tower wind turbines are pretty much the gold standard of wind power today. But the engineers from NASA are working on an ingenious alternative – airborne wind-power systems. NASA is focusing on two aspects of the technology – one is the set of turbines built into the kite, which generates electricity, and the other is the ground-based generator that is tethered to the kite and is powered by the kite’s reeling motion as it catches the wind.
The airborne wind power system is reportedly 90 percent energy efficient, thanks to the kite’s reeling phase which uses 10 percent lesser energy. Another key advantage of the airborne system is the wind turbine blades that spin faster and are further from its hub, which generates more electricity. The system also has a pattern recognition software, similar to Microsoft’s Kinect, that has the capability to determine the position of the kite, as well as its orientation and speed.
There’s also a flight-control system that keeps the kite in the air flying in a figure-8 pattern. The kite prototype that NASA is currently perfecting has a wingspan of 10 feet. NASA is also asking permission to test the system at 2,000 feet, which is believed to be the perfect altitude for airborne wind-power systems. NASA intends to use the system in the future, not just on Earth, but in Mars and other planets.
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