Fuel costing too much? Follow the Navy’s example... use a kite

An example of how SkySails can be deployed on even the largest merchant vessels. In this case, the kite is used to propel the ship and help reduce fuel costs.

By Ralph Riegel

THE Naval Service is considering a trial of 2,000 year old kite technology as a potential asset to protect Ireland's vast territorial waters and to save on fuel.

The Navy is now involved in a research project with the German firm, SkySails, to test if kites can be used from ships to carry sophisticated surveillance sensors.

Kites were first developed in China over 2,000 years ago but navies are now increasingly intrigued by their stealth and 'green energy' capabilities.

SkySails first developed giant kites which can be used from large merchant vessels to help reduce their fuel costs.


Giant kites - which effectively act as tethered sails - offer ships additional propulsion and can successfully reduce the vast amounts of fuel they use.

Now, however, the Navy is to test whether smaller versions of such kites or sky sails can be used to carry special electronic sensors which include electronic cameras, infra-red equipment and video gear.

Used in combination with the ship's radar, such kite or sail mounted sensors can double surveillance capabilities.

Such kite-mounted sensors also offer the benefit of being stealthy and, by offering 'over the horizon' surveillance capability because of the great height they can reach, are virtually invisible to the vessel being monitored.

The Navy trials are also expected to benefit from the fact such kite-mounted sensors offer huge cost savings.

Ireland's three new patrol vessels, being purchased at a total cost of €150m, already boast the capability of launching Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones equipped with cameras.

The Haulbowline naval base in Cork is now a major support to research facilities such as the National Maritime College of Ireland, the Beaufort Renewable Energy complex and the proposed IMERC campus.