Among the emerging technologies supporting shipping’s road to decarbonisation, wind solutions are one of the more active.

The EU estimates that by 2030, there will be 10,700 wind propulsion installations. Furthermore, the UK Clean Maritime Plan estimates the wind market for shipping will grow to £2bn a year by the 2050s.

Given the growing scale of wind technologies, it is accelerating a significant level of innovation that supports its viability as a modern propulsion solution and a bridge towards decarbonisation. This is fuelled by an urgent necessity to reduce fuel consumption and GHG emissions.

To help achieve this it could be useful for shipping to look to other industries as inspiration. This is where organisations such as Airseas come in. Backed by Airbus, with its record of leadership in the aerospace industry, Airseas helps bring modern aerospace technology to the shipping industry.

Like the shipping industry, the aviation industry faces financial and environmental sustainability pressures. In response to these pressures, it has produced some of the most advanced aerospace technology in the world. Airseas is applying this experience and expertise to provide a kite-based wind solution for vessels – Seawing.

One way this is being achieved with Seawing is through digital twin technology. Digital twinning – the merging of hardware with automation systems, underpinned by data – represents one of the key areas of innovation exchange between the aviation and maritime industries.

Two distinct digital twinning concepts are used with Seawing. The first model is where automation systems are fed by a number of data streams. Inbound navigational, meteorological and seascape data from existing bridge systems with sensor data found on the kite are combined and analysed. From the data, informed recommendations can be made to the crew about when to deploy and retract the Seawing. Through analysing this data, it automatically makes micro adjustments to optimise the kite’s position or retract if conditions become unsuitable or non-optimal. The second digital twin concept is based on both the ship and kite model, which are coupled to consider all aspects of interaction between the two, such as traction and sea state. This is integrated into a routing software, which uses its algorithms to suggest a route to the captain that would maximise fuel savings while respecting usual operational constraints (e.g. ETA, sea state…).

Innovation and learning from other sectors will be imperative if shipping is to evolve, and to embrace wind, it can take inspiration from aviation to build the modern wind solutions shipping needs.

By Jake Frith

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