Airborne Wind Power

Project Type: Power Conversion

Project Information

Project Description:

The task is to design and build a wind-generating kite similar to the early Makani prototype shown in the photo. Wind power is obtained by fitting a kitesurfing trainer with a propeller-driven generator. DC electricity is fed to the ground station via the control tether where it is converted to AC electricity suitable to recharge a cell phone. Significant challenges will be encountered and include mounting a heavy generator on a light airfoil; controlling the kite’s figure-eight flight pattern; building a strong, light tether that will deliver electricity with low power loss; and managing smooth electrical power from constantly changing generator speeds.

Level of Difficulty: Medium


airfoil, stall speed, prop pitch, Faraday's law of induction, Bernoulli's principle, winds aloft, permanent magnet generator, electrolytic capacitor, buck-boost regulator, DC-to-AC Inverter, resistivity


“The Winds of Change are Blowing: New Kite-Like Wind Turbine Promises to Revolutionize Wind Energy,” by Erin Dahlstrom, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, May 5, 2015.

“High Altitude Wind Energy from Kites,” Saul Griffith, TED Talk, 2009,

How to Choose a Trainer Kite,

Team Roles

Electrical Engineer (2) – Electrical Engineers on the project are responsible for the power system chain, from the kite-based generator to the ground-based power converter. The 12-V generator delivers power to the ground where a buck-boost regulator and DC-to-AC inverter prepares the power for customer use. EEs are also responsible for electrical safety.

Mechanical Engineer (2) – Mechanical Engineers are responsible for the means to transport, anchor, deploy, and operate the kite safely. This includes modifying the kite control tether to incorporate a light-weight wiring system that carries DC power from the generator to the ground station.

Aerospace Engineer (2) – Aero Engineers are responsible for modifying the kite with light, removable spars to help the airfoil support an attached generator. AEs select and install the appropriate propeller to convert wind velocity to generator torque at a speed less than 3000 rpm. AEs are also responsible for the final flight characteristics of the modified kite.

Atmospheric Scientist (2) – Atmospheric Scientists work with the AEs to set wind limits on the modified kite. The AEs are in charge of operational safety in the field based on surface wind forecasts. Atmospheric Scientists are also responsible for determining the system’s efficiency in gathering available wind energy and delivering it to customers.

Designer (2) – The Designers will work closely with the Engineers to manufacture a portable, battery-powered system that can be operated in remote locations. Furthermore, the integrated design must be safe for groups observe our power conversion demonstration.

Journalist (1) – The Journalist documents the project’s progress on the website, communicates with the local media, and is responsible for a final report to the principal sponsors and Power Mountain Engineering. The Journalist also works closely with the Multimedia Artist to provide video and graphic art displays for demonstrations that explain the project to the public. The whole project is your project.

Multimedia Artist (1) – The Artist also documents the project’s progress on the website and works with the Journalist to maintain the project’s presence on social media. Additionally, the Artist designs and organizes all public relations events to assure spectator safety and to enhance the community’s awareness of science and technology. The whole project is your project.

Business Manager (1) – The Business Manager is responsible for reporting the project’s progress against a predetermined schedule, determines critical path items to completion, and tracks project spending to assure that costs remain within a fixed budget. The Manager works with all team members to identify problems early and resolve them quickly. The whole project is your project.

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