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Airborne Wind Energy: The "AWEsome" concept

Airborne Wind Energy is a promising possibility to produce clean energy from high altitude winds. In the most widely foreseen concept of "Cross-Wind-Flight", a aircraft or kite controlled by an autonomous autopilot is flying orthogonally to the wind and transmitting the wind forces to the ground via a tether. We also call this autonomously controlled aircraft the "Wind Drone". Our working group concentrates on the development of open source autopilot algorithms for freely available hardware, both in terms of the airframe as in terms of the sensors and control computers. We call our concept "AWEsome", the Airborne Wind Energy Standardized Open-source Model Environment. The goal is to contribute to the open exchange of ideas in this quickly developing field and to make it easier for new groups to start with a freely available functional system.

High Altitude Winds


General Introduction

Wind Energy is presently one of the two abundand sources of clean and sustainable Energy. Avoiding potentially catastrophic climate change wil make it necessary to tap more resources of this energy. In addition, a significant technical challenge lies in the fact that wind power (and even more solar power) is volatile and not easily dispatchable - we cannot simply switch on the wind, if it does not blow, or magically switch on the sun at night. 

Therefore, it is tempting to think about the best concept to tap high altitude winds. They more consistently blow above a certain threshold wind speed than low altitude winds, and on average they are stronger.

In order to access high altitude winds, we follow the concept of Airborne Wind Energy. More specifically, within the available ideas and concepts, we apply the cross-wind flight of a rigid airframe (the "wind drone") controlled by actuators and an autonomous autopilot on board of the wind drone. An overview of the two possible ways to produce energy with such a concept is shown below: either, repellers on the wind drone harvest the energy, or the tether is puled against the force of a generator. 

The first research groups and startups (see list at the bottom of this page for a few links) now start concentrate on developing systems ready for commercial application, locking in their design choices. However, there is still a lot of freedom in the underlying designs, and a lot of creativity in different approaches. In order to facilitate and support the free exchange of ideas amongst research groups, and in order to provide cheap testing platoforms for trying out every possible idea, we initiated the "AWEsome" project: An open-source autopilot for wind drones, running on cheap hardware and ready for implementation in modified model planes. 

The above hardware is fully functional in providing autonomous starts, patterns and manual landing. As of now, we do not yet produce energy, since no ground staton controlled by the AWEsome autopilot exists yet, this will be one of the next projects. The cost of the above hardware is below US$ 1000, making it ideal for gaining experience, trying out any idea and for demonstration purposes.

One important additional feature is the full logging of the flight data, making it possible to analyze the performance and to compare it with simulations. On top, also all sensur actuations and derived data are stored. This allows to understand the decisions of the autonomous algorithms and to improve them in a controlled way.

 

Team Members

 

Former Members

 

 

Code Repositories

 

Publicatons

 

Posters and talks

  • Talk by Philip Bechtle in the Physics Colloquium at the University of Freiburg 23.04.2018
  • Talk by Thomas Gehrmann at TU Delft, 14.12.2016
  • Talk by Christoph Sieg TU Berlin 04.01.2017
  • Poster at the Maker Fare Boston 16.04.2017 

 

Theses

  • Master Thesis by Thomas Gehrmann: "The development of an Open-source Wind Drone"
 
Support 
 
We thank Daidalos Capital for indispensable support and continuous inspiration. Even given its relatively low prize, financing the wind drone before the start of any grants would not have been easily possible without Daidalos Capital paying for all hardware components.
 
 
Other Resources

 

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