The Naval Service will this year make history when it tests new kite sails which will have the combined effect of providing enhanced surveillance and saving fuel.
The Irish Examiner first announced the Naval Service’s plans for using the technology in Aug 2012 and now they are coming to fruition.
Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has just provided funding to enable testing of the equipment this year, making it the first navy in the world to do so.
The system has been developed through the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC) — a collaboration between the Naval Service, UCC, and CIT.
It is also understood that Enterprise Ireland has taken an interest in the project, because, if successful, it could potentially be sold off to other navies around the world. The kites will be attached to the ships by steel cable and rolled out when needed.
Normally a ship’s radar has a sweep of 12 to 15 nautical miles, but sensors on the kites — which would fly up to 100 metres above the vessel — would significantly increase the radar sweep and other surveillance technology to up to 50 nautical miles.
“This system is relatively new technology. If the concept proves viable the system could be in use in a few years’ time,” a spokeswoman for the Naval Service said.
The kites will provide the added bonus of also reducing fuel bills, especially as the Naval Service uses around 40% of the fuel allocated to the Defence Forces.
When in use they could provide speeds of up to eight knots, which is as fast as an average trawler.
Because the system will require some available deck area space it is likely that it will be tested by the LÉ Eithne.
However, it could also be tested on the new €50 million LÉ Samuel Beckett which is being built at a docks in Appledore, Devon.
It is nearly completed and after sea trials it is expected to be delivered to the Naval Service late next month, or in early March.
The LÉ Samuel Beckett will replace the decommissioned LÉ Emer which was purchased by Nigerian-born businessman Cyprian Imobhio last year.
The 35-year-old LÉ Emer, which had been stripped of its armaments, made just €320,000 at auction — which was €80,000 below what she was expected to sell for.
The Naval Service has, meanwhile, ordered a second replacement ship for the fleet.
It is also being built in Appledore and is expected to be delivered in the spring of 2015.
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