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Computers learn to fly kites for renewable energy

Posted: Thu, Sep 13 2007, 10:47 AM
by Mike
* 10:11 08 September 2007
* news service

A new way to harness wind energy may take off now that computers have learned to kite surf.

Experienced kite surfers know that on a calm day they can maximise the power they draw from the breeze by flying their aerofoil-shaped kites through the air in a figure of eight.

"The amount of energy you get from the figure of eight is massive, easily 10 times what you get from just parking the kite downwind," says Allister Furey, a roboticist and avid kite surfer at the University of Sussex in the UK.

Researchers have been trying to use high-flying kites tethered to turbines to generate electricity: when the kites tug on the lines this turns the turbine. While the idea works well when the wind blows consistently, the computers controlling the kites run into trouble when there are gusts of wind or lulls, often leading to crashes.

Now Furey and his colleague Inman Harvey have developed a neural network that has learned to steer a kite like a seasoned professional. First they wrote 20 different software algorithms and got each to fly simulated kites so that they would pull as hard as possible in a wind of 8 metres per second.

"At first they were like blindfolded idiots - they would crash the kite in a quarter-second," says Inman. "But one or two would crash it in a half-second."

The algorithms that kept the kites aloft longer were "bred" together and after 200 generations they had not only evolved the ability to fly the kites, but had also developed the figure of eight style. Better still, they could cope with strong gusts and lulls in the wind.

Re: Computers Learn To Fly Kites For Renewable Energy

Posted: Thu, Sep 13 2007, 09:02 PM
by Knoted4ever
Just great... in a couple of years some bot is going to be doing Cometes and Rolling Cascades twice as good as i can (without having had to practice)! :roll:

Re: Computers learn to fly kites for renewable energy

Posted: Thu, Sep 13 2007, 09:22 PM
by Mike
Actually they did practice. It took 200 generations to get them to fly figure 8's.

Re: Computers Learn To Fly Kites For Renewable Energy

Posted: Fri, Sep 14 2007, 07:47 PM
by awindofchange
Seems to me that if they were to concentrate on the kite moving in a straight line instead of figure 8's then they would have more control over the kite.

Think of this....

Put the kite controls on a long steel runner, similar to a train track. Then launch the kite and have it start to pull the mechanism along the track that is controlled by electro magnetics or which is connected to a cable system that turns a generator. When it nears the end of the track the kite can be turned once and head back down the track to the beginning again. Similar to a broad reach or tack.

This method only requires that the kite be turned once at each end instead of constantly being turned in figure 8's.

Just an idea...have to give it more thought for sure.