Some tethered aviation concepts

In addition to AWES like Makani’s wings, a few concepts are being studied, outside AWE field. What could be the interactions in favor of AWES? And vice versa?

Some links: Magpie Aviation

For the last, pdf available on

See also “Tethered Fixed-Wing Aircraft to Lift Payloads: A Concept Enabled by Electric Propulsion” (pdf available on the web).

The last concepts (after the Mozaero link) could be translated into actively controlled lifter kites as conceived below:

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Thats really interesting. Mozaero is either pivoting or just branching out from AWE it seems. I would guess the latter given their precense at AWEC recently.

Some of these (the multi plane cargo lifter) is really more like a multi body helicopter. It could work though shooting from the hip, i am not sure its practical.

If I was to use Kitemill’s KM1 3 m2 wing area as a reference, three of those should be able to lift 7.500 N x 3 x 0.5 = 11.250 N. Though we dont have much in terms of forward propulsion.

It just seems like a really hard challenge at larger scale. Maybe even harder than AWE.

At least in this mode of operation, the kites dont need to scale to megawatt capable sizes.

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Also throwing in a “new” idea for lifting cargo

The cons of this method being the kites need to lift twice the cargo load (one rope end towards the utility winch, one towards the cargo).

The pros being with a long tether, say 400 m, you should be able to serve a range of sites maybe 150 m away from the base.

Compared to ChatGPT’s idea of a crane which is:

Sure, here are the specifications using only meters:

  • Tower Height:

    • Free-standing: 24-80 meters
  • Max with support: 305+ meters

  • Reach (Jib Length):

    • 45-70 meters
  • Lifting Capacity:

  • 10-20 metric tons

  • Lifting Height:

  • 305+ meters

…this concept would at least allow for a bigger reach and height, and maybe also allow for greater resiliency towards winds.

ChatGPT also states the world biggest crane has a lifting height of 250 m.

In contrast, was studied (with the author David Rancourt often found in this type of investigation):
Performance Exploration of Vertical Payload Lifting Using a Single Circling Tethered Fixed-Wing Aircraft” , DOI: 10.4050/F-0079-2023-17967.


Since the beginning of the 2000s, concepts for transporting payload with multiple tethered aircraft have been proposed to balance the lateral loads on a stationary payload. An alternative, initially developed in the 1940s considered a single aircraft and long tether to minimize the lateral motion of the payload during the circling motion of the aircraft in hover.To shorten the tether and reduce the drag losses associated, a concept with a single aircraft and an active stabilization system on the payload is proposed. This paper demonstrates that a single Pipistrel Sinus can vertically lift a stabilized underslung payload of 660 lb (300 kg) at 6,000 ft (1,800 m) under temperature conditions of 95 ◦F (35 ◦C) with 54 hp (40 kW) and a reduction of 70% of the tether length compared to a non-stabilized payload

(PDF) Performance Exploration of Vertical Payload Lifting Using a Single Circling Tethered Fixed-Wing Aircraft. Available from: [accessed Jun 05 2024].

Introduction, excerpt:

Despite showing great lifting capabilities, systems with two-or more aircraft still present some shortcomings. If the use of unmanned aircraft has solved the problem of the need for repetitive and precise flight paths, it adds some control issues. Indeed, in hover and from a top view, the airplane shave to maintain an angle of 180◦ between them in the case of two-aircraft systems in order to sustain the same horizontal component of the tether tensions to enhance the payload equilibrium. As the airplanes are unmanned, an embedded control has to be designed which presents some challenges, especially in windy conditions as the airplane shave to change their true airspeed. To remove this phase problem, an alternative solution is to use only one aircraft as proposed by Williams (Refs. 9, 10) or Sun to recover a micro air vehicle (Refs. 11, 12). However, using only one aircraft leads to the removal of the payload’s natural equilibrium given by multi-aircraft systems. Williams solved this problem by lengthening the tether to reach about 3 km (1.86 miles) to minimize the lateral motion of the payload. He proved that with a light aircraft similar to that Nate Saint used and for payload masses between 50 kg (110 lb) and 500 kg (1100lb),the payload path reduces to a circle of around 1.5 m on a numerically prescribed flight path. Nonetheless, a tether of approximately 3 km produces large drag losses, reduces the accuracy of the payload position, and even shifts the payload position in windy flight conditions as pointed out by Murray and Williams (Refs. 10, 13, 14). It should also be noted that at these lengths, the weight of the tether itself is non-negligible.

If you look at my sketch this problem is solved. Pyramid style bridle.

My question is rather; why not just use a helicopter?

In the abstract:

The lifting efficiency achieved by the GRS is approximately 4 times better than that of any conventional rotorcraft or heavy-lift VTOL system.


Latest AWE hype cycle news: 15 years now, and still nothing in regular operation.
All those “really smart people”…

“Pivoting from AWE” timeline:

  1. Joby: an early announced AWE “player” - never came up with much except making motors, or more likely having them made - early-on pivot to EVTOL, billions spent, hundreds (thousands?) employed, 15 years later, still “getting ready to get ready”, with only a few demos and a lot of handwaving and happy-talk to garner govt funding.

  2. Altaeros: Announced successful grid powering in a remote town in our 49th state Alaska, which never quite happened. Realized their only supposed acquired skill was filling blimps with helium, so they “pivoted” to airborne wifi from a blimp. Result? Nothing of note.

  3. Makani / Google: Announced impending powering of hundreds of homes in the 50th state - remote island of Hawaiin chain - Posed as the leading AWE player - had us all fooled til we saw videos of their aircraft in flight, easy to see it was not hitting the mark. Result - used a single crash as an excuse to “just give up” - “pivoted” back to web search… no further AWE activity, turned out they never knew what they were doing.

  4. Skysails, spent well over a decade talking up “in the future” success towing ships with kites, got a couple of demos going, "Beluga?) (bankrupt?) “pivoted” to AWE for electricity production, announced a factory and worldwide sales years ago, and a project powering the grid of a remote island of Mauritius, which seems to never have taken hold. Result? No more sales, no product being sold worldwide, still nothing running on a regular basis. Just announced an independently-measured power curve.

  5. Mozaero - another “pivot”? :slight_smile:

Hi Doug, yes. Both MAWES and towering payloads by tethered planes flying a circular path as discussed here, use a similar architecture with a single anchor and a single main tether, in such a way that the ground station could pivot or even is pivoting to face the wind for MAWES. :slightly_smiling_face:

Wow, Impressive experimentation.
If they can get that to be reliable… It could be useful for sure.

So the AWES part of a Kite Turbine is simple.
It’s the deployment and recovery is tricky. Launch and land being controlled by a lifting line.

If (Big IF) you can power those UAV through their tethers, You could use grid or Kite Turbine power output to maintain the lifting UAV’s