Thank God no one was hurt! This sort of accident was technically predicted for a long time now, by kPower, in our Forums. In summary, single-line AWES topologies present a single critical failure point, counter to aviation design best practice. Multi-line and Networked Kites are topologically favored.
KiteGen’s original frazzled lines, which I inspected first hand in 2011, confirmed that crude reeling, as KitePower and many others do, quickly ruins kitelines. Since then PR-image analysis of AWES reels shows premature damage again and again. Kitepower was specifically recently critiqued, in detail, for poor line condition, poor fairlead design (not as bad as KPS), and poor level-winding.
In high wind, there is no way just KitePower’s control pod and remnant tether mass was enough to bring this kite back upwind under control. At best a downwind landing in a secure area might have worked. A dragging tether should cutaway at the kite, and/or a kite-killer deploy. These are old issues on the Old Forum. KitePower is now grounded by their apparent lack of adequate fail-safes.
Makani’s M600 is potentially far more destructive and further vulnerable by its high-voltage tether, with many such critical M600 failure modes identified on the Old Forum. It was possible to boldly deduce at least one major crash covered-up crash Makani crash from clues, that was later confirmed. GoogleX can afford to crash, but a single tragic crash has killed many a small aviation company. Many AWE commercial developers willfully and wrongly rely on secrecy about crashes, despite the noble aviation tradition of open crash reporting.
Count on poor aviation safety and insurability to vet the AWE field of many weak players. Energy markets cannot afford the aviation fail-safes that high-complexity AWES designs require. To deliver high performance economically and safely is most practical with low-complexity methods known in professional power kite fields. They don’t have to wait to know that high-velocity high-mass aircraft classes have higher inherent risks, just as FAA/ICAO regulate. AWE R&D workers should not remain silent about safety incidents, out of professional ethics and legal liability.
More than any other venture, kPower has shares safety design and operational solutions to known challenges. We first detailed short-stroke pumping cycles, heavy-duty belt or chain capstan sections, kite killers, many-connected topologies, no com link dependence, passive control, and other strategies. Our business model depends on superior safety.
We must call out anyone’s safety flaws as they are discovered and condemn greed-driven secrecy that hurts us all. Our best model of crash reporting is NASA’s Pathfinder crash report. We will all prosper better and save lives by superior shared AWE safety culture.