conference logo

Playlist "34C3: TUWAT"

Drones of Power: Airborne Wind Energy


Airborne wind energy is the attempt to bring the digital revolution to the production of energy. It means that we convert the power of high-altitude winds into electricity by autonomously controlled aircraft which are connected to the ground via a tether.
This technology can be a key element to finally power the world by clean energy only. In this talk we will explain the physical foundations, give an overview of the current status and show you how to build an experimental system by yourself: it involves hacking an off-the-shelf model aircraft and its autopilot based on the open and free Ardupilot framework.

It is hard to argue that energy is not the very heart of humankind’s major challenge. Up to now it is largely unscratched by a digital revolution -- the main power sources of the world are remarkably dumb.

We are about to change this. In this talk, we will present what we think will disrupt energy production. We're not talking about retrofitting the power grid with yet some more insecure 'smart' component. This is about predictably available renewable energy called Airborne Wind Energy (AWE): autonomous flying drones at high altitudes can harvest the wind’s energy cheaper than any wind turbine, and most importantly: it can be done almost everywhere and almost all the time, solving the two major technological and geopolitical challenges of sustainable energy production, which has rattled the world for decades. We are convinced that humans should power the world by clean energy only, and we think AWE can be a key element to do just that. In this talk, we will cover the physical foundations, introduce a few of the control algorithms and the challenges associated with very strong forces acting on very light objects. We will also shed a light on the progress of leaders in the field such as Ampyx Power and Google Makani.

But there is more to it: Using the `AWEsome' project, we will show you how to build an open source wind drone for yourself by hacking a model plane and its autopilot based on the open and free Ardupilot framework. While its energy production will be rather limited, it serves a lot of useful purposes: For example, it paves the way to test crazy new ideas of start, landing and flight modes on a cheap disposable platform and is a training playground for flight operations.

Maybe by the time of the next Chaos Communication Camp, you will have joined us and we can fly our wind energy harvesting robots together -- and save the world, all at the same time.