PowerPlane – an autonomous aircraft that converts wind into electricity

Ampyx Power - PowerPlane

Ampyx Power develops Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) systems that convert wind at higher altitudes into electricity; a cost efficient technology using an abundant natural resource: wind.

The technology
Our AWE system consists of a PowerPlane, a tethered aircraft that converts wind into electricity. The PowerPlane is an autonomous aircraft tethered to a generator on the ground. It moves in a regular figure-8 pattern at an altitude of max 450m. When the aircraft moves, it pulls the tether which drives the generator. Once the tether is reeled out to a predefined tether length, the aircraft automatically descends towards the ground causing the tether to reel in. Then it ascends and repeats the process.

The PowerPlane takes off, flies and lands autonomously from an innovative platform, by utilizing a vast array of sensor suites (such as the Xsens MTi-100) which provide the autopilot with critical information to perform the task safely.

Ampyx Power - PowerPlane
Ampyx Power has specific in-house aircraft knowledge and expertise in constructing autonomous aircraft.  For instance, in terms of the algorithms the automatic pilot is equipped with. Many code lines in the software ensure that the aircraft can fly completely autonomously while responding to changes indicated by numerous sensors. Adjustments can be made within milliseconds, allowing the aircraft to continuously fly in a figure-eight pattern.

Partnership with Xsens
Xsens is the provider of the Xsens MTi-100 IMU, a vital sensor for our autopilot. The IMU measures linear and rotational acceleration in all directions, providing the autopilot with vital real-time data about the movements of the aircraft. This compact sensor is ideal because of its low weight and small shape. The easy implementation allows for quick development.

The future
We have a tight schedule when it comes to realizing our goal: the production of low cost energy which is also sustainable. The largest part of this long journey is behind us. That was developing a concept from an idea. We have a prototype aircraft that has undergone two years of testing and complies with high civil aviation safety standards. Now we are scaling up with larger aircraft that can generate even more power, the AP3. This prototype has a wing span of 10 m and is capable to generate 250 kW. The commercial 2 MW product, planned in 2018, will have a wing span of 30 m and can supply 1000 households with low cost electricity.

Benefits of the system
PowerPlanes move at an altitude of max 450m where the wind is stronger and more constant with a large swept area. This is why the energy yield is so high, while the material and installation costs are relatively low. Ampyx Power can provide abundant renewable energy at market utility scale, at cost levels below any other methods of electricity generation.

 


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