Kite power systems

Prof Colin Jones

Wind resources tend to be significantly stronger and more consistent with increasing altitude. This creates a potential for power generation that can be reaped by an Airborne Wind Energy system operating at elevations exceeding the height of conventional wind turbines. This requires a reliable controller design that can keep the airborne system flying for long durations in varying environmental conditions, respect operational constraints and optimize the power generation. We are studying the design of optimal control strategies in the presence of model uncertainties and exogenous disturbances to the system.

Autonomous Airborne Wind Energy (A2WE) Project

SNSF Project A2WE : 2013- 2017

A2WE is part of a larger collaborated project between EPFL, ETHZ and FHNW each with a complementary focus to enable the deployment of a prototype airborne wine energy system currently in test and development. The EPFL team focuses on computing and tracking power-optimal orbits in varying weather conditions. The algorithms are being built around optimization-based or model predictive control (MPC), a paradigm that is ideally suited to the task of incorporating knowledge about the kite dynamics, and forward-looking weather information into an optimal decision-making process. This information is then encoded into a mathematical problem along with a specification of the controller’s objective. In principle, the problem can then be solved using optimization software, which automatically determines how this objective can best be achieved within the limits of the controlled system.



There are critical advances that must be made before this paradigm can be applied to complex airborne power generation systems, including: a novel theory of robust constrained tracking for periodic systems, computation of near-optimal periodic orbits and real-time implementation of these advanced techniques in a complex and changing environment.

This work is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).



The SwissKitePower project is a multidisciplinary research and development effort aimed at creating an Airborne Wind Energy device which can harness wind energy at high altitudes.




The researchers at the FHNW have developed a mobile platform that serves as a testbed for applying the theoretical advances in control algorithm for AWE systems.  





The ETH team is focusing on two research areas: aerodynamic modeling and closed-loop identification of the AWE system.

AWE Publications

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