Machine Design

Wind surfing for ocean freighters

Rising fuel prices affect almost every vehicle on the planet, including ocean-going freighters.

To cut those cost, engineers at SkySails, Hamburg, Germany (, want to attach multichambered kites to ocean-going ships and harness the winds. They say it will let a ship travel using 50% less fuel, as well as reducing emissions. Currently, the company is testing two kites on an 18-ton, 50-ft ship. One kite measures 215 ft 2 and the other 430 ft 2 . They say wind power from the kite makes the ship faster than when it is powered by a conventional diesel. The kites fly about 900 ft high and are controlled by an autopilot. If all goes well, superyachts and freighters could be sporting SkySails by 2008.

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