Factual Defense of Critical Statements

Dealing with concern over “badmouthing” vs. critical factually based statements, without lapsing into emotional ad hominem jabs.


“varied concerns publicly raised since AWEC was privately created in 2010 by a closed insider group dominating to this day”

After Open-AWE created HAWPcon09, AWEC was a California 501c4 corporation formed in private in 2010, by Makani, Joby, and Ampyx primarily. AWEC promptly took over 2010 conference planning, raising attendance fees 600% while handing out free passes to members. AWEC leadership passed to EU hands via the Ampyx Director and TUD circle. AWEC CA 501c4 dissolved in favor of AWEurope, that runs “AWEC” conferences to this day. Governance has been closed, and conferences are now restricted to Northern EU. Makani absorbed Joby’s program (esp. its motor-gens), and is a top AWEurope member. TUD, Ampyx, and Makani remain at the center of the " closed insider group dominating to this day".

AWE’s prevailing marketing narratives do not tell this story. This is important factual information about early AWE venture politics, for investors, historians, and all R&D players.

How about all the other companies that joined AWEC later? They seem all to be welcome? This makes no sense to me at all

Tallak, How would new member ventures even know about this long insider history? Many commercial ventures do care much about such history, if business advantage trumps ethics. Google has multiple criminal convictions in EU, which makes sense.

Quote 2:

This year has seen major mishaps of high-risk high-complexity AWES architectures; a low- MTBF statistical pattern long predicted by various expert stakeholders. Especially menacing architectures are the premature scaling down-selects of Google’s Makani and AWEurope’s leading venture insider members, like Ampyx, Kitepower, and TUDelft.

“Menacing” is a term of art in Aviation Safety Culture, as traditionally in, “Menace to Aviation”. “Especially menacing” here applies to high-risk high-mass high-velocity AWES aircraft that cannot soon meet certified aviation safety standards. TUD/Kitepower’s Valkenburg crash left tether strewn across traffic lanes, with impact violent enough to pierce a commercial-grade roof. High Consequence MTBF for these architectures is currently a matter of days, at best.

Such concerns must be faced conscientiously, on merits.

Quote 3:

“At least US and China AWE R&D is not Makani-Shell PR-distorted research; that venture recipe has been adopted by…Norway, who also now fills the AWEurope lead position, by the KiteMill CEO. Let them boycott China and US to look progressive. No that, won’t happen. Its really just a small inside club minding its own narrow interests.”

“US and China AWE R&D” needs clarification. Makani is just one US AWE player. A large number of scrappy US players are overlooked under the PR shadows of the heavily capitalized AWEurope Club, that counts Makani as a member. China is a waking giant, with its dominant power-kite industry and unsurpassed kite traditions. By comparison, Makani-Shell-etc. are weak players.

Its thought KiteMill joined AWEurope because it believes the PR narratives of the exclusive circle best meet its interests, instead of Open-AWE counter-narratives of saving the planet by a broad egalitarian R&D community. AWE’s venture capitalists, and their critics, should both be heard.

Quote 4:

“A decade ago there was a lot of EU venture optimism for rapid AWES commercialism and deployment to poor emerging economies. The failure of these hopes by technological incompetence owed to an elite academic top-down venture-capital cultures”

What is referred to here is numerous premature commercialization timeline milestones long ago announced by players like TUDelft spin-off ventures and Makani. While their websites are scrubbed of lapsed milestones in favor of new claims, the WayBack Archive and Old Forum document “failure of these hopes by technological incompetence owed to an elite academic top-down venture-capital cultures”.

The disadvantaged merit players in AWE venture R&D have been traditional aviation and especially kite expert culture. For example, no AWEC2019 attendee or AWEurope member was able to identify Vortex Lift as the missing aerodynamic parameter in GonzaloA’s data, as co-authored with RolandS, but this fact has long been known by classic kite experts.

Quote 4:

" > If Ampyx made its Flight Logs public, there would likely not be very many hours between crashes, and no hours logged operating the AP3 from a catapult perch. All that “safety” is pure speculative marketing."

From their website- “Ampyx Power has a focus on safety”. The metadata is their flight logs, but we don’t get to see those. Increasingly, AWE developers know that kiteplane crashing is both common and dangerous, and the log books and mishap reports reflect that. Instead of safety data, we get safety-themed marketing. Its not the same.

“Kitepower is currently withholding crash data on where its UHMWPE tether dragged and ended up, especially whether it draped across Valkenburg traffic and pedestrians. The safety reporting offered is very incomplete, and reflects venture capitalist self-interest more than sound aviation sector precedent.”

Again, this is quite factual and non-trivial. Its marketing-fictions that are trivial.

“Yes, AWE R&D involves a lot of crashing, as a pioneering aviation field, but should not involve a lot of venture-capitalist cover-up.”

No cover-up only in an ideal world. Expect the temptations and embarrassments that hundreds of millions of dollars creates, how ordinary greed and high technical merit seldom align perfectly.

“We can go on at great length about unwise Kitepower engineering design, like how its operational planning, power electronics, mechanical reeling, and software all failed together in its Valkenburg crash.”

This is simply “combination of factors” in engineering. The complex Kitepower mishap might have been prevented if failure of any single critical factor had not occurred.

“We both know key people in both ventures. Its the now classic Cowboy vs Playboy AWE cultural divide.”

Wubbo Ockels best represented this remarkable dichotomy in AWE R&D, as an EU professor-playboy, with a dashing wardrobe, and a fine yacht, but who also managed to acculturate and thrive as a cowboy, in Texas, where pilots and astronauts are made. EU has its AWE cowboys, but not in the AWEurope insider circle. The US has AWE playboys inside AWEurope. Its a matter of getting everyone working together, in Wubbo’s inclusive spirit.

Cowboys are as cultured than playboys, roughly, but far more self-sufficient. Thomas Neemann is the sort of EU AWE cowboy AWEurope should invest in-

Dave, would you accept an investment from Google?


Google investment is for invalidating the offshore high-complexity jumbo aerobatic composite autonomous e-VTOL flygen endurops AWES architecture. I just wish Google would give KiteShip’s OL quiver to kPower.

It was the right move for me to leave Alameda Island in 2007, to team-up with Wayne German in the cradle of Kitesurfing, study seven years at the World Kite Museum, collaborate with Joe Faust, fly all kinds of kites and try so many ideas; all more urgent work than easy Google money.

Why should anyone want Google as the winner in AWE, instead of Open-AWE?

Dave, I can shared your concerns about suitability of invoked technical issues in the schemes that are used, but not the questioning of companies under ideological pretexts.

Why would anyone not want a winner in AWES?
Especially Google Alphabet X Makani Shell…
If you want fast roll-out of cheap clean energy made from high complexity gubbins… You’ll be hard pushed to find a better team to get the job done.

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Let factual history be our guide. The Wright Brothers were the DIY winners in flight, not the wealthy machine-gun inventor, Maxim. Let Pierre be against “questioning of companies under ideological pretexts”, even EU criminally-convicted companies like Google. Let Rod hope Google to be winners in AWE, even if they are not.

On Alameda Island, in 2007, KiteShip sent me into the early Makani-Google circle to make an expert assessment of their aerospace-robotics mojo. I had breakfast with founder DonM at a local café, where we talked about glider-tow lockout, something he had never heard of. Later I rode a radical mutant chopper bike over to Makani’s US Navy airbase from KiteShip’s old North Sails loft (North NZ makes SkySails’ wings, small kite world).

Under pretext of being an old man taking a rather long time in the Head Quarters bathroom, I ninja-accessed Makani’s actual WWII War Room, and reviewed their grandiose planning charts, pathetic library of barely used MIT textbooks (Dave Culp’s KiteShip library was all gems), and so on. Returning to the party, I spoke with each Makani founder in turn. I literally had to chase the evasive SaulG around the base to probe his insight into autonomous UAS control architectures (“pitot tubes”, in gruff Aussie, was all he would say).

Back at KiteShip the same day, I reported Makani had zero actual aerospace or aviation background. Poor KiteShip, by comparison was magical, being taught by kite wild-men like DeanJ, couch-surfing with Peter Lynn, a field trip to NABX in the Mojave Desert, for examples. I did not know that Makani was buying out KiteShip, but had taken my NDA out of the files, as a precaution, which turned out to be smart when Makani later complained about me telling this story, but no NDA to enforce. If other GoogleX folks under NDA could talk, people like Rod would better know themselves as more the AWE winner-type.

Later in Leuven, 2011, an initially resentful CorwinH became a friend as we talked AWE long into the night in the pub district, after everyone else had retired. There was no premonition he would soon be dead, as we mapped out a broader Makani AWE research plan than the M5/M600 architecture only. It was Wubbo’s leadership influence bringing everyone together, but he also was soon dead.

What tragic fate! That’s why things have gone as they have, with folks still believing Google AWE hype, not caring about AWE militarization, and crappy insider venture capitalist ethics prevailing. Nevertheless, the actual winners in AWE will be those who master kites best.

Google is already a winner, but not in AWE field.


We are all winners to be in early AWE R&D. Nothing I know of is cooler at the moment.

Lets define the industrial winner in AWE as the the first utility-scale AWES design to be fully operational in widespread service.

Google is even a loser in search engine priority; WebCrawler was the first in full-text search-

Google is mostly a winner in ad revenue from search, and AWE hype.

Dave, Google is considered as a winner as search engine, not or not yet for Makani.

Google is the search-engine winner in terms of sheer greed, if not the first full-text search engine. Lets agree to admire the first in innovation, if not the richest imitator.

The Wright Brothers obviously never make as much money as many an aviation business that came later, but were the more admirable winners from a pioneering R&D perspective.

Lets leave figuring out why Google was the best search engine to those who know what they are talking about. Google did not have priority on the “search engine”, but it is clear that it did a few things different, and it also had some novel algorithms in the background to give you more accurate, spam free/reduced, results.

I think it’s still going to be the same with AWE. It’s not about who came up with the idea, rather who can put it all together in a coherent, workable and sell-able design, and then put it to life. The latter parts are often the most difficult.

Google is a leader in a new world of artificial intelligence. But AWE field concerns disparate technologies, mixing the new (automated management) and the old (tether, kite, wind energy).

The power/space use and mass ratios are not optimal, far from it. The incremental progression can hardly apply to a design leading likely to a dead end.

Its Ok to recall who originated what. In AI, we credit Turing, Simon, Minsky, McCarthy, Lenat, Moravec, Vinge, Rucker, and many others. Google has even bought into the top circle, via Raibert, they had to know how to pick him.

Google has not done a good job picking classic AWE talent with their 300M USD, passing over legends like Roeseler, Culp, Lynn, Bolonkin, Hadzicki, Lang, etc., to instead hire from job listings. This is legitimate factual critique.

Google bought Makani. But if Google tries to definite a workable AWES, by using their own tools by using parameters such like power/space and power/mass ratios, some level of active control but also a significant passive control to face computer fails and so on, it might obtain something very different from Makani’s architecture.


Keep in mind that Google funded Makani from the start, in 2006, since Don Montague was the kitesurfing teacher to the Google founders. You seem to be referring to the Google total buy-out of Makani founders (who retired rich), several years later.

Google simply does not have much power kite expertise as such, not in 2006, nor today. Its understandable that kite non-experts would guess Google somehow knows more than actual kite experts. Google does have enough money to “pivot” or “retool” its AWE R&D investment, just no sign they yet know to do so. A likely scenario is Google will sell off Makani, like other X failures, if they can get a face-saving price.