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Patent
Altaeros Energies | Date: 2013-02-25

This invention provides a configuration of suspension lines, anchored with respect to an inner surface of an LTA structure, and which provide reactive forces between an LTA structure and its payload so as to constrain the translational and rotational motion of the payload to be nearly rigid with respect to the LTA structure. Illustratively, the configuration constrains the motion of the payload with respect to the LTA structure along all six degrees of freedom: e.g. horizontal, vertical and longitudinal translation and rotation about the longitudinal, horizontal and vertical axes.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: SMALL BUSINESS PHASE II | Award Amount: 740.68K | Year: 2014

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will develop an ultra-light, modular wind turbine for use in buoyant airborne wind energy systems. Reduced turbine weight has a cascading effect on total airborne system mass, allowing a significantly smaller, lower cost buoyant structure to be used to access high altitude winds. At heights up to 2,000 feet winds are strong and consistent, allowing for the production of low-cost, reliable power at a broad array of sites. High altitude winds have over five times the energy potential of ground winds accessed by tower-mounted turbines, opening the potential for a major new renewable energy resource to be harnessed. In addition, the containerized deployment of airborne wind turbines has the potential to expand wind development to sites that are not feasible today, including sites that are remote or have weak ground-level winds. Overall, the technology holds the potential to significantly lower energy costs and improve reliability for remote industrial, community, and military customers and represents a major step forward in unlocking the abundant high-altitude wind resource to help in the global pursuit of greater adoption of renewable energy sources.

This SBIR Phase II project will focus on reducing the total weight of the wind turbine system. Turbine weight is one of the most critical cost drivers of buoyant airborne wind energy systems. For each kilogram removed from the turbine, an additional kilogram can be removed from the inflatable shell and tethers, resulting in a significantly smaller and lower cost system. The lightest commercially available small- to medium-sized wind turbine weighs 31.1 kilograms per kilowatt of capacity, which is too heavy for an economically-viable airborne turbine. By incorporating a compact, modular architecture, a lightweight permanent magnet direct-drive (PMDD) generator and high-strength composite materials, the proposed Phase II research effort aims to double the power density of traditional medium size turbines, making the proposed system suitable for use in an airborne application, while maintaining a high level of reliability and cost performance.


Patent
Altaeros Energies | Date: 2013-01-17

The invention provides an improved aerostat system including an aerostat, multiple tether groups and a base station. Spatially distinct tether groups allow for improved stability and controllability over a wide range of wind conditions. Independent actuation of the tether groups allows for control of the aerostat pitch and roll angle. A rotating platform including rails to rest the aerostat allows docking without auxiliary tethers, minimizing or eliminating the ground crew required to dock traditional aerostat systems. An optional controller allows remote or autonomous operation of the aerostat system. The invention is intended to extend the flight envelope in which aerostat systems can safely operate.


Patent
Altaeros Energies | Date: 2015-04-06

A wind-based power generating system provides a wind energy converter for converting wind energy into another form of energy using a lighter-than-air craft configured to produce a positive net lift. The net lift includes both a net aerodynamic lift and a net buoyant lift. A tethering mechanism is configured to restrain the lighter-than-air craft with respect to the ground. The lighter-than-air craft defines an interior volume for containing a lighter-than-air gas, and the lighter-than-air craft has a fore section and an aft section. The tethering system has at least one attachment point on the fore section of the lighter-than-air craft and at least one attachment point on the aft section of the lighter-than-air craft. The lighter-than-air craft provides a stable aerodynamic moment with respect to a yaw axis about a center-of-mass of the lighter-than-air craft. The craft can be formed in a variety of aerodynamic profiles/shapes.


Patent
Altaeros Energies | Date: 2015-11-16

A control system for a tethered aerostat is provided, where at least one rotational and at least one translational degree of freedom are controlled to setpoints through the variation of tether lengths by an actuator system. The term tether includes a single tether, a tether group or a sub section of tether controlled by an individual actuator. Accurate rotational and translational control is essential for the successful operation of an aerostat under several applications, including surveillance, weather monitoring, communications, and power generation. For a given use case, the controller can be constructed and arranged to manage the tradeoff between several key performance characteristics, such as transient performance, steady-state pointing accuracy, tether tension regulation, and power generation.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 155.00K | Year: 2013

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop a novel low-cost, high-performance fabric suitable for long service life helium inflatable structures, including aerostats and airships. Traditional fabrics for lighter-than-air (LTA) applications utilize woven polyester or vectran basecloths laminated with various materials that improve gas retention, environmental resistance and allow the material to be thermally bonded. This combination has excellent performance, providing a useful service life in excess of seven years, but comes at a high cost, which limits the commercial application of helium inflatable structures. The proposed low-cost, high performance fabric replaces the woven basecloth with a scrim of high-strength synthetic fibers, similar to those in high-end sailcloth. This type of material has not seen wide use in helium inflatable structures where seams are subject to long-term loading from internal pressure. The impact of scrim pattern and yarn alignment on seam stiffness and long-term holding strength is considered. This Phase I research will investigate the behavior of these materials, as well as one or more alternative woven fabrics, under long-term loading, UV exposure, and mechanical wear and tear, in order to evaluate their suitability for helium inflatables.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be a step toward the widespread commercialization of LTA inflatable structures in traditional and new application areas. Helium inflatable structures are traditionally used for transporting or elevating high value payloads, such as military surveillance equipment or advertising, where the relatively high cost of the fabric envelope is not a barrier to commercial feasibility. The advent of a low-cost, high performance helium inflatable fabric will make LTA structures economically viable for a number of industries that are cost-sensitive, including remote and emergency wireless communication; low-cost freight transport; and airborne wind energy production. The research will also enhance the understanding of the behavior of scrim-based fabrics under loading conditions, which may benefit a wide range of industries that could use these fabrics, including sailing, architectural fabrics and air inflatable structures.


Patent
Altaeros Energies | Date: 2012-09-17

A control system for a tethered aerostat is provided, where up to two rotational and at least one translational degree of freedom are controlled to setpoints through the variation of tether lengths by an actuator system. The term tether includes a single tether, a tether group or a sub section of tether controlled by an individual actuator. Accurate rotational and translational control is essential for the successful operation of an aerostat under several applications, including surveillance, weather monitoring, and power generation. For a given use case, the controller can be constructed and arranged to manage the tradeoff between several key performance characteristics, such as transient performance, steady-state pointing accuracy, tether tension regulation, and power generation.


Grant
Agency: Department of Agriculture | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 450.00K | Year: 2012

Wind turbines have reshaped rural America by boosting incomes, creating jobs, and harnessing local energy sources. However, conventional tower-mounted wind turbines have three main problems that limit their potential: (1) only about 12 percent of communities have strong enough ground winds to make projects economical; (2) installations are too expensive, requiring a crane and concrete foundation; (3) many communities oppose wind, citing noise or avian impact. This project will develop a breakthrough Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) to expand the potential low cost wind energy in rural communities. The AWT uses a helium-filled inflatable shell to lift a lightweight turbine 50 to 200 stories high, where winds are up to five times stronger than those reached by a tower. A conductive tether holds the AWT steady and sends power to the ground. The lifting technology is adapted from aerostats: tethered blimps that have been used for decades to reliably lift telecom and surveillance equipment into the air for months at a time. The AWT can expand low cost wind power to hundreds or thousands of new rural communities by tapping stronger high altitude winds, reducing installation time, and lowering community impact. The key research objective of this project is to develop and test a fully-functional AWT prototype that demonstrates its potential for commercial deployment. There are three main technical objectives: (i) design and fabricate a rotor and drive train that integrate composite materials and compact design to significantly lower weight relative to leading tower-mounted turbines, (ii) demonstrate extended, autonomous operations of the AWT prototype in real-world environmental conditions, and (iii) demonstrate a communications and controls systems that allows for remote monitoring and control of the AWT prototype. Following on the Phase I feasibility analysis, Phase II will include a requirements definition, the design and fabrication of a custom lightweight turbine, development of the controls and communications infrastructure for remote operation of the AWT, assembly of a sub-scale inflatable shell, and extended duration autonomous testing in real world conditions. Altaeros anticipates that this technology will demonstrate reliable, high capacity power production beyond the current technology of tower-mounted turbines. The main commercial opportunity is to develop a mid-sized AWT that can expand economical wind power to regions with weak ground-level winds. In addition, the AWT can displace expensive diesel fuel used in off-grid generators used at a variety of sites including remote industrial, island and arctic communities, emergency power, and military bases. In the long term, the AWT will be scaled up to provide a solution to harnesses vast offshore wind resources located over deep water. This research supports USDA goals by enhancing rural prosperity by lowering consumer energy rates, increasing electric system reliability, mitigating climate change, decreasing regional pollution and water shortages, and providing new direct turbine lease payments to rural landowners.


Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2013

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop a novel low-cost, high-performance fabric suitable for long service life helium inflatable structures, including aerostats and airships. Traditional fabrics for lighter-than-air (LTA) applications utilize woven polyester or vectran basecloths laminated with various materials that improve gas retention, environmental resistance and allow the material to be thermally bonded. This combination has excellent performance, providing a useful service life in excess of seven years, but comes at a high cost, which limits the commercial application of helium inflatable structures. The proposed low-cost, high performance fabric replaces the woven basecloth with a scrim of high-strength synthetic fibers, similar to those in high-end sailcloth. This type of material has not seen wide use in helium inflatable structures where seams are subject to long-term loading from internal pressure. The impact of scrim pattern and yarn alignment on seam stiffness and long-term holding strength is considered. This Phase I research will investigate the behavior of these materials, as well as one or more alternative woven fabrics, under long-term loading, UV exposure, and mechanical wear and tear, in order to evaluate their suitability for helium inflatables. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project will be a step toward the widespread commercialization of LTA inflatable structures in traditional and new application areas. Helium inflatable structures are traditionally used for transporting or elevating high value payloads, such as military surveillance equipment or advertising, where the relatively high cost of the fabric envelope is not a barrier to commercial feasibility. The advent of a low-cost, high performance helium inflatable fabric will make LTA structures economically viable for a number of industries that are cost-sensitive, including remote and emergency wireless communication; low-cost freight transport; and airborne wind energy production. The research will also enhance the understanding of the behavior of scrim-based fabrics under loading conditions, which may benefit a wide range of industries that could use these fabrics, including sailing, architectural fabrics and air inflatable structures.


Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 740.68K | Year: 2014

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will develop an ultra-light, modular wind turbine for use in buoyant airborne wind energy systems. Reduced turbine weight has a cascading effect on total airborne system mass, allowing a significantly smaller, lower cost buoyant structure to be used to access high altitude winds. At heights up to 2,000 feet winds are strong and consistent, allowing for the production of low-cost, reliable power at a broad array of sites. High altitude winds have over five times the energy potential of ground winds accessed by tower-mounted turbines, opening the potential for a major new renewable energy resource to be harnessed. In addition, the containerized deployment of airborne wind turbines has the potential to expand wind development to sites that are not feasible today, including sites that are remote or have weak ground-level winds. Overall, the technology holds the potential to significantly lower energy costs and improve reliability for remote industrial, community, and military customers and represents a major step forward in unlocking the abundant high-altitude wind resource to help in the global pursuit of greater adoption of renewable energy sources. This SBIR Phase II project will focus on reducing the total weight of the wind turbine system. Turbine weight is one of the most critical cost drivers of buoyant airborne wind energy systems. For each kilogram removed from the turbine, an additional kilogram can be removed from the inflatable shell and tethers, resulting in a significantly smaller and lower cost system. The lightest commercially available small- to medium-sized wind turbine weighs 31.1 kilograms per kilowatt of capacity, which is too heavy for an economically-viable airborne turbine. By incorporating a compact, modular architecture, a lightweight permanent magnet direct-drive (PMDD) generator and high-strength composite materials, the proposed Phase II research effort aims to double the power density of traditional medium size turbines, making the proposed system suitable for use in an airborne application, while maintaining a high level of reliability and cost performance.

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