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Airbus sets sail

Old technology revisited: Airbus deploys a sail as additional propulsion for its cargo ships, with the aim of cutting fuel costs by around 20%.

15 Oct. 2018
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Airbus sets sail (Photo: AIRSEAS SAS)

Sailing the seven seas – for Airbus, old transport technology is now once again the latest thing. The European aerospace corporation currently operates four cargo ships that transport aircraft parts around the world, including to the US. In future, wind is also to be used as a source of power on crossings. The ‘SeaWing’ wind propulsion system has been developed by Airbus subsidiary AirSeas : The system consists of a sail with a surface area of 1,000 sqm that is secured on the bow with a 400 m-long high-performance rope. When the wind is high enough, the system is activated at a push of a button – when the breeze dies down, the sail is automatically furled back in. The technology is similar to the towing kite steering drive from SkySails . The Hamburg-based company has leveraged its technology to equip the solar catamaran ‘Race for Water’ and develops systems for generating power from high-altitude winds .

The wind propulsion system aims to cut fuel costs by around 20%; according to AirSeas, that constitutes a saving of between €1 million and €2 million per ship per year. In addition, the system will also reduce pollutant emissions – a crucial factor for the future, since, according to the terms of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) , the relevant threshold values are set to be lowered in the coming years. After all, shipping produces approximately 2.7% of worldwide CO2 emissions.