The next oil crisis will create a new round of interest in alternative energy, renewable sources. The economics of military and commercial sailing will again be hotly debated by naval architects and marine engineers. The difference this time will be the abundance of data from the large world fleet of unmanned air vehicles (UAV), which just might be the key to wind assisted freighters. Our pioneering efforts with recreational kite sailing and buggies have provided part of the database needed to apply UAV technology to the task of wind assist for global transport. This paper will tie the UAV and kitesailing technology to military and commercial needs.
For example, the Boeing Condor (Fig 1), with her jumbo jet span and 40,000 lb lift capability, could generate 10,000 lbs of thrust from the trade winds, tethered to a ship at sea. Condor is one of a class of unmanned air vehicles, some with engines and some without, that could be used to extract wind energy to provide up to half of the total motive force for the ships of the world in the 21st Century, thereby conserving billions of barrels of oil, reducing pollution, and improving the quality of life in our ecosystem.
Thanks to extensive media coverage in Toyota truck, Levi jean shorts commercials (36) and many other magazines and TV shows, the concept of taming the wind with large traction kites is no longer entirely unknown.