Electrical launch catapult and landing decelerator for fixed-wing airborne wind energy systems
This paper presents a (pre)feasibility study of the rail-based ultra-short launch and landing system ElektRail for fixed-wing airborne wind energy systems, such as Ampyx Power. The ElektRail concept promises airborne mass reductions through the elimination of landing gear as well as decreased landing stresses and ground stability requirements, opening possibilities for improved aerodynamics through a single fuselage configuration. Initially designed for operating fixed-wing drones from open fields, the ElektRail concept had to be significantly shortened for application in an airborne wind energy (AWE) context. This shorter size is required due to the much more limited space available at AWE sites, especially on offshore platforms. Hence, a performance enhancement using the integration of a bungee launching and landing system (BLLS) was designed and a system dynamics model for the launch and landing was derived. The results demonstrated the possibility for the ElektRail to be shortened from 140 m to just 19.3 m for use with an optimised tethered aircraft with a mass of 317 kg. A system length below 20 m indicates that an enhanced ElektRail launch and landing concept could be viable for airborne wind energy operations, even with relatively low-tech bungee cord boosters. Linear motor drives with a long stator linear motor actuator could potentially shorten the system length further to just 15 m, as well as provide better control dynamics. An investigation into improved AWE net power outputs due to reduced airborne mass and aerodynamic improvements remains to be conducted.
airborne wind energy