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Revolutionary maritime company achieves major milestone pulling cargo ships with giant kites: ‘[This] is extremely exciting’

“Everyone is moving forward with the renewed confidence that the Seawing works as planned.”

"Everyone is moving forward with the renewed confidence that the Seawing works as planned."

Photo Credit: Airseas

Airseas, the French company with the lofty goal of helping to propel cargo ships with giant kites, ended 2023 with successful sea trials.

It’s the next step toward the ultimate goal of outfitting giant ocean haulers with the wind catchers to save fuel. 

“We made it! We have validated Seawing’s automated dynamic flight, that allows the kite to multiply its traction force to generate fuel and emissions savings for cargo ships. Incredibly proud of our teams!” Airseas posted on Instagram with a video showing the kite sailing through the air high above the Ville de Bordeaux, a Louis Dreyfus Armateurs hauler.  

If continued trials prove successful, the Seawing kites could reduce use of dirty energy sources and air pollution “by an average of 20%,” according to the company. 

It works with a completely automated operation. A control panel on the bridge is used to “deploy, operate, and store Seawing,” as the company describes it. The software side of the operation is advanced, including a “digital twin” of the kite, which helps guide performance based on wind speed and other factors. The digital kite communicates with the physical one for best effort. 

Better yet, Seawing can be retrofitted onto active vessels with ease, all per Airseas. The end result is a kite that provides more than 110 tons of traction. 

“Everyone is moving forward with the renewed confidence that the Seawing works as planned, and we are excited to progress the trials and improve the kite’s performance in the coming weeks and months,” Airseas CEO Vincent Bernatets said in a news release. 

This isn’t the first effort to leverage wind power on cargo haulers. Other projects are testing modern versions of sails. The goal is to reduce air pollution created by the maritime industry, which produces nearly 3% of global human-caused, heat-trapping dirty air, the European Commission reports

The Seawing trials tested automated takeoff, stationary traction flights, and the dynamic flight phase. When unfurled, the kite soars up to 984 feet above the ship as it helps the engines move the massive vessel.

The parafoil tech debuted in late 2021, with promises of producing 10 times the traction of sails. The next part of the testing plan involves outfitting another ship for sea trials, all per Autoevolution. Airseas is also building a 25,800-square-foot hangar in Morocco to better test the kite and its parts. What’s more, five Seawings have already been purchased by a shipper from Japan. If all goes well, the work order could increase to 51, per the report.

For now, the Airseas team is celebrating Seawing’s early successes.

“It is the very purpose of the Seawing to provide traction to ships. Being able to demonstrate that for the first time is extremely exciting, and we are all very happy to have completed this step,” Bernatets said in the release.

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