coondoggie writes to tell us that a new freighter set to launch in December will be receiving a hefty dose of power from a kite the size of a football field. The 460-foot ship, owned by the Beluga shipping company, hopes to see as much as a 50% drop in fuel consumption during optimal conditions. "The SkySails system consists of a towing kite with rope, a launch and recovery system and a control system for the whole operation. The control system acts like the autopitot systems on an aircraft, the company says. Autopilot software sends and receives data about the sail etc to make sure the sail is set at its optimal position. The company also says it provides an optional weather routing system so that ships can sail into optimal wind conditions.The kites typically fly at about 1,000 feet above sea level, thereby tapping winds that can be almost 50% stronger than at the surface. "
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