High hopes: Navy airs fuel-saving idea

The navy is going back to basics in a bid to cut its soaring fuel bill — wind power.

Commodore Mark Mellett confirmed the navy was collaborating with the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster, UCC, and CIT to develop “kite sails” which would be used to save fuel when a ship was carrying out surveillance.

The sails will have an added hi-tech edge which the service hopes to sell to other navies around the world.

“The kites would be used to reduce our energy bills, as we use 40% of the fuel allocated to the Defence Forces,” said the commodore. “They could provide us with a speed of up to eight knots, which is as fast as a normal trawler.”

The kites will be fitted with sensors which will enhance ships’ radar capacity.

“Normally, radar capabilities are to the horizon, which would be 12 to 15 nautical miles. But if we put sensors on the kites, which would be 100m up in the air, that capability would be increased to up to 50 nautical miles.

“If the concept proves viable, the technology could be in use in a few years’ time. The innovation could also be valuable to other navies.”

The kites would be attached to the ships by steel ropes and could be wound down when not in use.

The commodore also revealed the navy has helped to develop and test hi-tech firefighting suits which it hopes to sell to fire brigades around the world.

In conjunction with the Irish company Seftec and CIT, it has developed suits fitted with wireless sensors and infra-red pressure pads which allow the tracking of firefighters within ships and buildings, no matter how bad the smoke is.

CIT researcher Dr Paul Walsh said: “We are hoping to market the suits in the next few months. It’s a very exciting prospect and we’ve trialled them with the navy and know they work.”


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