Saturday, October 31, 2009

Modern Mariners Rediscover Prehistoric Kite Technology

"Flying machines as these were of old, and are made even in our day." -- Roger Bacon, natural philosopher, 1260

Flight is tens of thousands if not millions or billions of years old.

Prehistoric kite art has been found in a cave on Muna Island off the coast of Sulawese.

But 21st century science is only now realizing and utilizing this prehistoric technology.

Cooney, M., Football Sized Kite Powers Latest Heavy Freight Ship, Network World, Nov 2007

A kite the size of a football field will provide most of the power for a German heavy freight ship set to launch in December.

The Beluga shipping company that owns the 460-foot Beluga said it expects the kites to decrease fuel consumption by up to 50% in optimal cases as well as a cutback of the emission of greenhouse [sic] gases on sea by 10 to 20%. Interestingly, the ship will be hauling windmills from Esbjerg, Denmark to Houston, Texas.

The company that makes the kite for the German transport, SkySails, has made kites for large yachts but is targeting commercial ships with new, larger kites. And it has the ambitious goal of equipping 1,500 ships with kites by 2015.

The SkySails system consists of a towing kite with rope, a launch and recovery system and a control system for the whole operation. The control system acts like the autopitot systems on an aircraft, the company says. Autopilot software sends and receives data about the sail etc to make sure the sail is set at its optimal position.

The company also says it provides an optional weather routing system so that ships can sail into optimal wind conditions.The kites typically fly at about 1,000 feet above sea level, thereby tapping winds that can be almost 50% stronger than at the surface.

Skysail isn't the only company pioneering kite technology. A US company, KiteShip, in Martinez, Calif., has been building ultra-large kites mostly for the private yachting sector, with plans to expand into cargo and cruise vessels.


Quantum_Flux said...

It is interesting to see a kite propelling, what could possibly be a nuclear powered NAVY vessel.

Jeffery Keown said...

Billions? Truly, oils your mind is so open, your brain has at last fallen out.

Cottenceau says the kite mural was a fairly rough outline drawing in ocher of what appeared to be a human figure flying a lozenge-shaped kite with tail. The more he thought of it later, the more he was convinced it was a kite that was depicted. But Cottenceau began to have doubts as to the age of the image. He said it was discovered just after his first visit to Muna two years before and that the style of the painting differed radically from that of the other cave images, indicating either a significantly earlier or, perhaps, quite modern provenance. Because Cottenceau had expressed so much interest in kites on his first visit, he wondered if this had not led to the painting being rendered specifically on his behalf.

OilIsMastery said...


Yes billions is within the realm of possibility. Human beings are likely not the only kite flyers in the universe.

Do you believe that the Wright Brothers invented the kite in the 20th century?

Raptor Lewis said...

It's amazing how something so simple and that we now take for granted can assist us and enlighten us in so many ways! :)

I think I have just learned something today. :)

Thanks OiM! :)

Fungus FitzJuggler III said...

I believe the Tibetans used humans in kites for observation in war. While the wind speeds would be high, the amount of wind would be less than that at sea level, restricting efficacy.
WE reinvent frequently. No patent protection!