AWE Agenda

  1. Milestone

Alphabet’s decision to drop Makani effectively means the end of FlyGen and VTOL. It also pushes Offshore further into the future.

The big boss asked the question “Is our product Disruptive?”

The issue for AWE, is that there is already a Disruptive technology in play (HAWT). AWE uses the same fuel (Wind) as HAWT, and generally has more of it, so AWE has the potential to be Disruptive. FlyGen and YoYo don’t use the fuel efficiently, so fall short of HAWT (LCOE measures this).

A Disruptive AWE design has to use the fuel efficiently, be completely Safe, and have a low capital cost, with low cost maintenance. It has to have them all.

After ~5 years of M600 development and 1000’s of hours of testing, the VTOL system failed on the first Offshore test, in relatively calm conditions. VTOL is complex, expensive and reduces the wing performance/reliability. Flying cars have VTOL. AWE is not a flying car, it’s a system to produce cheap power, continuously 24/7, for 25 years, in all weather conditions.

Makani is an AWE pioneer, and their story should be published for those that follow on.

  1. Agenda

Ask your CEO : “Is our product Disruptive?”

If the response contains one of these words ‘Far Offshore’, ‘Offshore’, ‘Utility Scale’, ‘MW’, ‘FlyGen’ or ‘VTOL’, then you are on the same adventure as Makani.

Otherwise, if your product is autonomous and for a permanent site, you should install it in a field somewhere, walk away and gather data for at least 6 months (No one has done this yet). Repeat, until it meets the requirements and then commercialise it (sell it).

Otherwise, if your product is mobile/autonomous just for short duration use, or for manual launch/land, prepare a user guide and a ‘how to use our system’ video for the customer. Give it to someone to beta test for ~week, repeat until you have positive feedback (KiteWinder did something like this), then commercialise it.

If your product looks a lot like a product from another Company, maybe a merger is a good idea (e.g. TwingTec, Kitemill, e-kite, eWind etc).

Whatever the product, a strong focus on the end user (customer) is required. Who is your customer, where do they live, what do they want, how much are they willing to pay, what are they using now …

It’s always a good time to invest in good ideas. Now is a good time to invest in other Designs …


I think you are (like a few others here) coming to early conclusions about the viability of Flygen/Yoyo. Like always, someone failing does not prove something impossible. We dont know why Google slashed Makani, other than them not making a profitable product soon enough.

Finding robust cost effective solutions is part of the challenge right now. More inventive effort is required for all current concepts I’ve seen, and thats the fun in AWE at the moment.


Both moral and financial credits can be damaged by this Google decision. It may not be bad, in an area where a good idea can be worth more than unlimited funding.

We cannot say whether Yoyo, Flygen, MW, VTOL, utility-scale lead or not towards viable devices.
On the other hand, an inappropriate combination of various elements can lead to a foreseeable failure if an evolution of the design is not envisaged. And if an AWES farm even partially blocks a huge space, it must be in return for a consequent delivered power.

The devil is in the details. A nothing can transform an inoperative whole into a possible solution.

Nothing I have seem here in this forum could prove Makanis concept unviable. There’s a bunch of uninformed opinions. Myself I have done simulations to show that similar AWE to Makani could well be viable. The only opinion that really matters is any new information that Makani could produce in this phase. I believe anyone outside Makani or perhaps Windlift is not well positioned to make claims to why Makani might have failed in their quest. This is why we should wait for such information to surface before making claims as to what is viable or not.

The negative answer about the viability of the Makani project is given by the decision of shutting it by Google’s subsidiary Alphabet.

That’s pure speculation at this point. The only info I could find was:

  • Makani were futher away from a complete product than they hoped for
  • Google has a new manager

Though one likely reason thay they were slashed could be «viability», there are numerous other reasons why Makani was slashed. An as likely reason could be just that the new manager did not like Makanis business plan as much as the old managers.

There is a fact: Alphabet finishes its work with Makani. From this we can always speculate, so let us continue. Would Alphabet have stopped working with Makani if ​​their project was viable?

I would say yes, quite likely.

But can a technology be both viable and “further away from a complete product than they hoped for”?

Makani had intended to develop a 5MW version of its architecture (M5), hoping for a competitive unit-plant compared to HAWTs. Tallak can be certain that engineering scaling laws greatly prevented the M5 from development. Makani announced missed milestone after milestone during its 13yr run, due to well-understood aerospace challenges scaling up and automating aircraft.

Public measured comparison of Wing7 and M600 power curves would surely reveal severe square-cube scaling losses in efficiency. No surpise if Makani will only share the power curves with Shell, itself is under Google NDA, no doubt. The most experienced outside observers do know a lot of what happened. ~300M was plenty to prove many of the informed doubts correct.

It seems very unlikely Shell let all Makani workers go, while intending to continue M600 development. It is time to spend money better across all AWES architectures for systematic fly-off. Let the surviving M600 fleet be a part of that.

1 Like

Makani took a long time to realise that the M600 was not the stepping stone to something bigger (M5).

How long will it take for Ampyx to realise that the AP3 is not the stepping stone to something bigger (AP4). AP3 is the ‘product’ (for Onshore).

Time to move.

‘Scale Out’ and not ‘Scale Up’.

It is indeed desirable. But I am afraid that a permanent site is not readily available, given the area covered (land or sea + space use). Maybe in some uninhabited and unused places, or offshore.

It is not for nothing that we do not see (for what I know and unless I am mistaken) automated crosswind AWES on a permanent site.

Perhaps using shorter tethers compared to the kite area could help.

I believe Kitemill’s site at Lista Airport is pretty close to such a site, with only some exceptions that would require keeping the AWE rig grounded for a few hours a month.

It is then a precious asset. Perhaps that has already been discussed on Power to space use ratio. The extended tests will allow to see more clearly depending on the solutions proposed. Furthermore, such a site could constitute a first standard bringing together the characteristics required for the implementation of AWES.

For those who see AWE driven by progress in kite sports, the whole world is already our fantastic test site. No coincidence; Billy Roeseler first theorized about megascale AWE at Boeing, and then invented kitesurfing for fun (with son, Cory).

When the time comes for rigorous aerospace flyoff of AWE contenders, power kite culture will be ready. The world needs to see multi-million-dollar energy-drone ventures failing against modern COTS TRL9 power kite and ship-kite derivatives.

Premature energy market commercialization is the fatal trap in AWE R&D. AWE remains a wondrous knowledge and skill quest for now. Kite lovers can play DIY AWES hacker from where they live, and study kite knowledge; no major funding.

Enjoy the wild ride.

1 Like

Several companies have sites : Makani (Hawaii), Ampyx (Ireland), Kitemill (Norway), KPS (Scotland) etc. The problem is the automated launch & land system, in that it’s not reliable, and needs a permanent crew at the site, to fly the wing manually in case of a problem. This is a high cost.

The TU Delft soft wing solution needs a crew for launch, and they would probably say a hard landing is not a big deal (although it depends where) when there’s a cheap wing replacement. The wing cost will determine the measures companies will follow to avoid a crash. The Makani M600 crash was a body blow and cost >~ €million.

There is an opportunity for a company to make only launch/land/park systems, and sell them to AWE developers. Note : This will seem like a bad idea to companies with highly coupled designs.

Land/Space usage (‘rated power’ MW/km²) is of course important, and at least matching HAWT is the goal. The relationship between wing span (b), flight radius (r ), ground clearance (gc) and tether length (l) seem to have ~minimums. e.g. Makani M600 : b = 26m, r > ~5b, gc > ~5b, l > ~15b for typical elevations of ~30°.

Pierre: We have a place here in the Western United States where you could test just about anything. It’s called the Mojave Desert and it’s hundreds and hundreds of miles of mostly empty space with very little vegetation, good winds, good weather, and mostly flat ground. After 12 years of talk, of we’re still wondering where to test test test, maybe we’re just too dense to even attempt AWE, let alone master it.

1 Like


It is an endless discussion. The Mojave Desert is as far from everything (AWE can be in unused places, but hello for the maintenance) than airborne wind energy is far from the beginning of viability (goodbye the maintenance).

So a not new idea is replacing the tether with a tower, then the kite with a rotor. Then put wind turbines everywhere, including the Mojave Desert or nearby (Tehachapi Pass wind farm).

It is true that the relationship between wing span and tether length is more suitable (being far higher) concerning power kites comprising kite surfing. AWES could have relatively shorter tethers _ or relatively larger kite _ as for the power kite on the photo below.