Maple helps ship set sail

Maple technology has aided in the design of the world’s first cargo ship run on wind power.

The ship uses a computer-guided kite to harness powerful ocean winds and was developed by the German company, SkySails.

SkySails develops, produces, and distributes towing kite wind propulsion systems for modern means of sea travel and transportation. The company used Maple to develop its simulation devices. Maple was chosen for its symbolic computation engine, which considerably simplifies the derivation of the equations of motion for multi body systems. Editing the three-dimensional mathematical models by hand was not feasible within the company’s time frame. Many matrix operations and derivatives needed to be applied in order to set up the equations in three dimensions.

These systems make the operation of ships more profitable, safe, environment friendly, and independent of scarce oil resources. The SkySails system consists of a large towing kite similar to a paraglider, which is navigated by a fully-automated control pod and is connected to the ship via a towing rope. The towing kite, an airfoil similar to that of a paraglider, or parafoil for short, generates propelling forces. The control pod performs similar tasks as a paraglider pilot - shortens or lengthens the control cords, thus changing the aerodynamic profile of the towing kite - and governs its flight path.

The Control System controls the SkySail system, comparable to an aircraft’s auto pilot. The traction forces are transmitted to the ship via a traction cord made of modern synthetic fibres, ensuring high load capacity as well as low weight and low elongation under load.

An automated routing system, aligned with historic routes of large cargo sailers, will allow cargo ships to reach their destination as quickly, and at a much cheaper cost.

SkySails’ first cargo ship, with a huge computer-controlled kite, was flagged off in December 2007 by Eva Luise Koehler, wife of German President Horst Koehler. The ship MV Beluga SkySails started its maiden voyage from the city of Bremerhaven, Germany to South and North America (and back) and the SkySails-System with its 1,722 square-foot towing kite has been put into operation successfully. This new technology can tow cargo vessels and superyachts, reducing fuel consumption by 10 to 35 per cent on annual average.

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