The validation of traction flights is a technical breakthrough, demonstrating that the Seawing system is working as planned, providing the first tonnes of traction that will help reduce the ship’s fuel consumption and emissions.

Until now, we had validated the take-off, ascent, descent and landing phases of the wing. During this latest phase, we managed to lower the wing on the horizon to enable the kite to deliver traction that would help propel the vessel”, Project Manager Mathieu Reguerre explained in a video published on May 16th.

This latest milestone is a particularly important moment for the teams both on board and ashore, who have been working tirelessly to take this innovative system from concept to reality.

Airseas’ Co-Founder and CEO Vincent Bernatets said that “it is the very purpose of the Seawing to provide traction to ships. Being able to demonstrate that for the first time is extremely exciting, and we are all very happy to have completed this step”,

Everyone is moving forward with the renewed confidence that the Seawing works as planned, and we are excited to progress the trials and improve the kite’s performance in the coming weeks and months”.

The road ahead

This achievement shows strong steady progress in the ongoing sea trials, which are testing the Seawing on real-life commercial voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. These tests are conducted by a team of Airseas engineers on board, with the support of Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, which operates the Ville de Bordeaux, and Airbus, which charters the vessel to transport aircraft components between Europe and the United States.

Seawing in flight, May 2023. Credits: PolaRYSE / Maxime Horlaville

These trials aim to test the Seawing system, which is completely new technology developed with expertise on flight control and automation from the aerospace sector, and validate its performance. The final product will function with a high level of automation, flying in “figures of eight” patterns 300 meters above the sea level to multiply the traction force.

With automated take-off and landing now fully functional and traction flights validated, the next phases will focus on dynamic flights, gathering data on performance, and fine-tuning the automation system.

Towards large-scale production

The validation of traction flights also marks a turning point in Airseas’ commercial development, and its progress towards the large-scale production of the Seawing.

Responding to growing demand in the shipping industry for decarbonisation solutions, Airseas plans to open a factory for production of Seawing in 2026, and is currently growing a dedicated industrial department. The company aims to create 70 jobs by the end of 2023, taking its team from 120 to 190 people, as it prepares to accelerate production of the Seawing.

These are industrial, local jobs, which will enable the delivery of our green technology by 2031. To achieve this, we are currently seeking and gaining new partners”, General Manager Pierre-Yves Fouché commented.

Airseas is scaling up its company to meet demand for the solution, with commitments from major shipping lines such as “K” Line, with whom Airseas has a 20-year agreement, with options for the Seawing to be installed on up to 50 of its vessels in total.

Ready for the decarbonisation challenge

This technical achievement and rapid acceleration towards production demonstrates how Airseas is at the forefront of a major push towards innovative cleantech adoption in shipping. Wind propulsion in particular is gaining recognition as an essential element in shipowners’ decarbonisation strategies, with Airseas a forerunner to deliver it.

With IMO and the EU both putting owners and charterers under greater pressure to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, Airseas is dedicated to helping the industry take action now. “Market expectations are extremely high because there are strong regulatory requirements on the industry’s shoulders. They must come forward with solutions to decarbonise maritime transport”, Pierre-Yves Fouché explains.

Harnessing the free and widely available energy of the wind to help reduce the climate impact of shipping will not only help the industry comply with regulations, but also do good for societies and the planet.