On the Way to Small-Scale Wind Drones: A Networked Approach

Uwe Fechner, Gael De Oliveira Andrade

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


In 2016 Uwe Fechner presented the paper "Downscaling of Airborne Wind Energy Systems" [1] at the Torque conference in Munich. Here, we report on our efforts in the development of small-scale Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) systems with vertical launch and landing. We are trying to accelerate development of small-scale Airborne Wind Energy systemsby providing the key components that are always needed but not yet available off-the-shelf. We aim at reducing development costs for any AWE startup, but also to provide components and systems for educational purposes. The first part our presentation we explain how cooperation with other startups is shaping the structure of our R&D programs. We have been supplying control systems and simulation models to the Dutch startup ekite and the Swiss startup SkyPull. A case study discusses how component-suppliers help AWE system integrators achieve leaner development cycles. The role of scale economies, specialization and institutional arrangements is assessed in terms of their impact on product development cycle and cost. The second part of the presentation discusses technical challenges of hardware and software component development for the AWE industry. We plan to offer four products in 2017: a fast and reliable wireless link (Ariadne), a flight control computer tailored for the needs of the airborne wind energy industry (Athena), a ground control computer and a small scale ground-station (1.4 kW continuous electrical power, total mass below 30 kg). Distributed control challenges will be reviewed together with opportunities for recycling know-how from the conventional drone industry. We are integrating Pixhawk (hardware) and PX4 (software) stacks within a Linux based framework that was developed from scratch to handle the specific needs of airborne wind energy. All systems are resilient and share the transversal concern of enabling safe launch and landing procedures in both regular, strong and turbulent wind conditions. Wind tunnel validation is planned for the end of the year and involves both internal aerodynamic know-how and cooperation with leading European wing designers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event7th international Airborne Wind Energy Conference (AWEC 2017) - Freiburg, Germany
Duration: 5 Oct 20176 Oct 2017
Conference number: 7


Conference7th international Airborne Wind Energy Conference (AWEC 2017)
Abbreviated titleAWEC 2017
Internet address


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