Mercury 5 from Joby Energy

Joby Energy is developing airborne wind turbines which will operate in the upper boundary layer and the upper troposphere.

While knowledge of the tremendous energy in high-altitude wind is not new, recent advances in power electronics, sensors, and control systems now make our technology practical.

Multi-wing structure supports an array of turbines. The turbines connect to motor-generators which produce thrust during takeoff and generate power during crosswind flight. Orientation in flight is maintained by an advanced computer system that drives aerodynamic surfaces on the wings and differentially controls rotor speeds. A reinforced composite tether transmits electricity and moors the system to the ground. The high redundancy of the array configuration can handle multiple points of failure and remain airborne.

How It Operates

For launch, the turbines are supplied with power to enable vertical take-off. Upon reaching operating altitude, the system uses the power of the wind to fly cross-wind in a circular path. The high cross-wind speeds result in the turbines spinning the generators at high speeds, eliminating the need for gearboxes and increasing efficiency. The energy is transferred to the ground through the electrical tether. During occasional periods of low wind the turbines are powered to land the system safely.

By Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.