French company Airseas has installed its first half-size automated Seawing kite to a cargo ship and will commence trials this month. A full-size kite is estimated to save up to 20 percent on fuel and emissions.

The kite has been fitted to the 154m long cargo ship Ville de Bordeaux, owned and operated by Louis Dreyfus, which is on a long-term lease to Airbus. The multinational aerospace organisation uses it to move large aircraft structures between its distributed manufacturing plants around Europe and its final assembly plant in Toulouse.

The 500 square metre Seawing deploys automatically, first emerging from storage on a trolley, then raising up from the deck on a mast to catch the wind, and finally being released on a long cable to grab the steady, strong winds at around 200 m above sea level.

The Seawing will operate in a figure-eight trajectory, monitored and controlled by a system that places the kite for maximum traction power. The Seawing computers also interface with the ship’s navigation systems, monitoring forward wind conditions and re-routing the ship to take the most efficient path possible.

The half-size kite is to undergo testing before being deployed for commercial operation.

Airseas estimates the full-size system will cut both diesel consumption and shipping emissions by 20 percent.

Airseas says the Seawing system can be retrofitted to virtually all ship types, requiring only about two days for the conversion and not getting in the way of cargo operations in port.

“A decade ago, we embarked on the ambitious project of channelling our unique aviation expertise towards creating a cleaner and more sustainable shipping industry,” says Vincent Bernatets, CEO and Co-Founder of Airseas and a former engineer at Airbus. “Today, I am beyond proud to see that vision becoming reality. This first installation marks a significant milestone not only for Airseas, but also for wind and other renewable propulsion technologies in general. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, the world needs to see a drastic reduction in carbon emissions now. In shipping, we can achieve this by using the full set of tools we have available to us today. Wind propulsion is one of these and will play an essential role in helping shipping achieve its much-needed decarbonisation transition.”