Thanks to Dave Santos:
Fertile union of FlySurfer and SkyWalker lineages, no more fumbling with a paraglider speed bar, and better race kites coming. Astonishing progress in a single lifetime. One user feeling the “combination of jet fighter, bird, and superman”.
What these ongoing design advances mean for AWE is ever better matching of wind to load-demand, at the wing itself, relieving some of the cost of mechanical and electrical matching at the surface. Power-up/depower function can be passively automated by elastic feedback loops in the bridle mechanism for levelized (or cyclic) tension.
Next step is more topological optimization, eliminating pullies, as designers continue to empirically zero-in on the precise rigging set-up needed.
A reminder that power kite tech advances are not confined to any single sport or app of the dozen or so top classes (parachuting (BASE, speed, accuracy, etc), paragliding (soaring, speed flying), sailing (ship kites, yacht kites, variants), kiteboarding (twin tip, surfboard, foil board), snow kiting (variants), kite buggying (incl. NPW), AWE R&D (everything), cargo-chutes (conical, “square” parafoil, variants), fun kites (zoo), lifter-kites (KAP and heavy lifters, pilots (parafoils, SS) etc.). Advances are the complex fertile interplay of rigging ideas well known domain experts.
The Flare represents the most technical product yet, as this screengrab shows. It does not fly like a typical paraglider, but “more like an airplane”, as one user put it. It requires more control expertise to safely master the increased capabilities of higher speed and greater control, with higher momentum. The Tutorials and Demos are well worth watching, as the Flare pilots literally fly circles around conventional paragliders and do things the old wings never did (as a rule). For example, a Flare pilot naturally spins around to face the kite, as desired, in the mode a normal power kite flies, that a typical paraglider only does briefly and awkwardly at launch. This allows skiing uphill to then spin back around and fly off of the mountain.
The ideas move freely across the classes. The red plastic “killer mushrooms” visible in the photo are kite-killers that a normal paraglider lacks. Parachutes traditionally have cut-away hardware. Flare pilots are not wearing reserve chutes, as their flight modes give no time for reserve deployment. Flares live on the front of slopes for now, while paragliders remain better suited to soar and venture XC, but this will change as the features refine and further migrate across types.
Besides the rigging innovation seen below, the Flare reflex airfoil section is a key feature that first took hold for powered paragliders to be less actively flown than soaring versions. Each power kite “revolution” in design tends to be synergistic recombination of known tricks. There has been no fully reinvented kite yet, as the failing “energy drone” AWE players hoped. The power kite Jalbert, Rogallo(s), Barrish, Merri(s), Culp, Lynn, and so on, invented, remains the core technology.
What all this ferment means for AWE is that power kite tech has not required major government investment, nor complex aerospace programs to thrive (having escaped NASA fifty years ago). One merely needs to keep abreast of rapid real world power kite progress, and tinker with odds and ends at subscale, to make good conceptual progress. AWE power kite technology will be ready (high TRL) to go big when the decision makers are ready.