On KiteTugs©  copyright 1996, Dave Culp Speedsailing

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Will it Happen?

The largest free flying inflated flying wing built to date is 7,340 sq. ft.20. Materials technology, in the form of Spectra and Kevlar reinforced Mylar fabrics and films, Spectra cordage, computerized controls and autopilots and telemetry devices are taken directly "off the shelf."4,15 The US government stockpiles millions of cubic feet of helium and indeed, is considering disposing of it. Unmanned Aeronautical Vehicle (UAV) technology, fly-by-wire, and computer modeling presumptions are state of the art and require no break-through innovation17,21. Costs for these systems are in the $10^3­10^4 range, and are tumbling fast. The KiteTug dispatch service envisioned is a straightforward exercise in computer database generation, weather reporting and communication.

This concept is not a "dream awaiting technology," nor a technology awaiting a shift in world market conditions. Included cash-flow projections, with the exception of Option 4, presume 1997 dollars and current world wide fuel costs and vessel usages. While further development work is needed, enabling technology and a number of fully operational kite powered boats4,8,22,23,24,25 exist today.

An interesting exercise would be to computer model present-day world shipping, overlay it with average wind patterns and flows, and then simulate a virtual KiteTug's capabilities and utility on an artificially accelerated timeline. Such an exercise should be well within the capacity of fast desktop computers, and would go far towards verifying or refuting the assumptions in this study.

There are no economic issues preventing the KiteTug's inception. Whether KiteTugs will be accepted by the world's shipping industry, or by investors, is beyond the scope of this study. Current data suggests that such a concept is economically viable today. Future increases in fuel costs, or worldwide shortages in petroleum supplies, may well render it imperitive.

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