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Yes, This Power Plant Can Actually Fly

One of the biggest problems with generating power from wind is the fact that breezes come and go. They vary in force and reliability, making wind a subsequently unreliable source of energy.

But engineers at Makani Power knew that wind was relatively strong and constant a quarter mile up, decided to bypass traditional, anchored wind turbines and built one that could fly.

This power plant fly:

According to Makani Power's website, this is "the first kind to demonstrate both power generation and the autonomous flight modes needed for launching, landing and crosswind flight." The craft -- Wing 7 -- weighs 130 pounds with a wingspan of Wing 7 has a wing span of 8 meters with a rated power of 20 kilowatts.

Popular Science has more on the technology:

Wing 7 takes off vertically with rotors up, rotates into horizontal flight and autonomously flies in swooping circles. Wing-mounted turbines generate electricity, transmitting it to the ground through the tether. A first-of-its-kind vertical tail wing allows the craft to transition through the various flight modes, [Corwin] Hardham says: "It's a whole new take on aviation." Eventually, fleets of autonomous, power-producing craft may be tethered to land or to buoys at sea.

With funding from the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) — as well as from venture capitalists such as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin — Makani plans to develop a 1-megawatt unit by 2013 that can fly above 1,800 feet, with hopes of taking it to market two years later.

The Wing 7 Program is an 18 month program and this flight marks the program's third milestone. Makani will later demonstrate launching and landing on a perch and a full power curve that complies with the International Electrotechnical Commission's standards.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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