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Unlike conventional wind turbines, the Ampyx Power AWES is not rigidly attached to the ground, and generally involves an aerofoil (or ‘wing’) flying at heights greater than can be reached with fixed blades.
Our system comprises an autonomous aircraft, the PowerPlane, tethered to a platform. When the PowerPlane moves in a figure 8 pattern, it pulls on the tether which turns a winch within the platform, that drives a generator. Once the tether is fully reeled out, the PowerPlane automatically descends and the tether is reeled in. It then starts the figure 8 motion, and repeats the process. The aircraft takes off and lands on the platform autonomously using on-board autopilot systems, aided by a vast array of sensors to perform the task safely.
For further information see our Technology page.
The key advantage of the technology is that it uses a fraction of the material required for conventional wind turbines – by a factor of ten. This means they can be mass produced much more cheaply than current technologies, leading to much more cost-effective energy production. Accessing the winds at higher altitudes and across broader swept areas increases the energy yield which can be harvested from a wind resource. Environmental and social impacts are also much lower than existing wind energy technologies.
To date, Ampyx Power has flight tested and proven the concept at a small scale – our current prototype glider has a 5.5m wingspan and produces up to 20 kW. To be cost-effective, however, we need to scale up so that we can produce similar outputs to current wind turbines – in the order of 2-3MW. To do this the aircraft needs to be significantly larger than our current models which means we also need a larger test area.
Australia was identified in a worldwide search of potentially suitable deployment locations due to its availability of open space, good wind and grid resources, and its supportive regulatory environment. Within Australia various potential areas and sites were considered against a broad range of variables and attributes – such as wind speed, strength of power grid, proximity to population centres, absence of vulnerable flora and fauna, and viable approval pathways. Winchelsea was one of several potential areas identified through this process, and mutually agreeable arrangements with landowners have been reached which will allow the development of the site.
We anticipate running flight test operations at the Winchelsea Test Centre for around 2-3 years, starting from early 2018.
When the project objectives of the next generation prototype which will be deployed at Winchelsea have been achieved, it is expected that the facility will be shut down. All above-ground infrastructure will be removed and the site will be returned to its pre-construction state.
There is a possibility that testing of subsequent prototypes may take place at Winchelsea. As these prototypes have not yet been designed we are not able to determine whether or not this may be feasible – however, if it were to go ahead, it would be subject to subsequent approvals and agreements with relevant landowners and other parties.
It is anticipated that there will be 10-15 full time roles based permanently onsite involved directly in flight testing. These roles will include ground based pilots responsible for the safe operation of the flight testing, people who will maintain the aircraft and ground-based systems, and engineers of various types who will run and monitor the numerous test and verification campaigns. Numbers of onsite staff will vary with the phase of testing – as will the number of visiting and contract staff – meaning there could be up to 20 people onsite at any one time.
Are you interested in joining us? Please see our Vacancies page to check out positions we are currently recruiting!
The physical footprint of the Test Centre Winchelsea is relatively small – there will be an area with office and hangar buildings with associated parking and amenities just off the Inverleigh-Winchelsea road; a platform of approximately 20m diameter onto which the aircraft will land and from which it will launch, sunk into the ground such that the top surface is flush with the surrounding land; and a prepared, grassed landing field extending out a couple of hundred metres from the platform. In all, these should take up less than 20 Hectares of land.
The area over which the aircraft flies, however, is much larger – for any given flight day we anticipate that we will need to create an exclusion zone covering up to 400 Hectares of farmland in order to satisfy aviation safety requirements for experimental aircraft. We have agreements in place with the landowners of these areas which allow sufficient access to enable farming operations to continue as they are currently run, whilst also enabling flight operations with the strictest of safety requirements. See our Safety page for more details.
Ampyx Power Australia is currently in the process of obtaining a Remote Piloted Aircraft Operators Certificate (ROC), and will also seek certification for the Test Centre Winchelsea as a registered Remote Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) operating area.
In parallel to this, we will be seeking a planning permit from the Surf Coast Shire Council to build and operate the Test Centre as a Research and Development Facility.
A number of precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of operators, other aviation, public infrastructure, and the general public. We hold ourselves to the highest standards of safety, and build this into the systems we design and build as well as the test procedures we carry out on them.
Our primary safety mitigation is the establishment of a ‘Restricted Access Zone’ whenever the aircraft is (or is about to be) airborne – and ensuring that no unauthorised persons are in, or will enter, this area whilst it is in force. This area will not overlap any areas accessible to the public (such as public roads), and agreements are in place with landowners of the areas it covers to ensure it can be maintained.
No. For the majority of the time, noise due to the Test Centre operation is expected to be below background noise levels for any observer standing outside the site. This is based on wind tunnel noise testing conducted on system components. Monitoring of noise generation and propagation will be one of the many tests to be undertaken during the course of the Test Centre operation to build our understanding of the PowerPlane system.
A number of buildings – including a hangar and a number of demountable site offices – will be located in a compound area about 100m in from the Inverleigh-Winchelsea road. Existing farm tracks will be used (and, in some cases, extended and upgraded) to access the platform area. The platform itself will not be visible except for the top surface, as it will be buried in a pit excavated down to about 3-4 metres which will also house the winch, generator and electrical equipment.
When the plane is flying it will be visible to those who know where to look – even at the closest point on the Winchelsea-Inverleigh road the full wingspan will appear to be just a bit bigger than the diameter of the sun or moon.
We may mount a camera to the aircraft to assist the ground-based pilot in cases where they may need to take over control to safely land the aircraft, and for fault detection and analysis. If this is the case, it will only have sufficient resolution and focus to enable a pilot to see the aircraft’s immediate surroundings in order to conduct a controlled landing – it will not be able to see into neighboring properties.
Local aviators will be contacted to inform them about the Ampyx Power Test Centre Winchelsea– either directly, or via Notices To Airmen (NOTAMs). The Test Centre will be marked on aviation navigation maps, with a zone warning aviators not to fly within such a zone.
When operational, a registered pilot will at all times be responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft – including the identification, warning and (if necessary) avoidance of any other aircraft flying in the area.
Visit our main website to learn more about Ampyx Power’s history, and the development of the technology.
Do you have any other questions? Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.