Oklahoma State researchers are working with Toyota to develop new energy efficient technology that could be used around the world.
“Toyota has a concept for the future of creating an energy platform that would be in the jet stream over Japan with solar panels, wind turbines, optical communication with satellites and that would transmit power back to the ground,” said Research Engineer, Kathleen McNamara.
They also attempted to break a world record for highest altitude flown by a kite. Even though they didn't get it, they said they learned a lot in the process.
Researchers said they wanted to be far away from infrastructure out on the tall grass prairie as they work to develop new alternative energy solutions strong enough to generate power for the entire country of Japan.
Students and Researchers with the OSU Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Program are working with Toyota on the “Mothership Project.”
They want to develop a kite system that could sit 30 thousand feet up in the air and transmit power back to Japan.
"If we could have a kite platform that could be sustainable and would be able to remain in the jet stream, we are getting constant wind energy,” said McNamara.
"Especially in Japan we are very serious about energy issues, so we are looking for renewable energy," said Group Manager for Toyota Japan Eiji Itakura.
These kites are about 8 meters squared, and weigh just under 5 pounds, but the kites they would use in Japan would be well over 100 meters.
They said the kite needs to be light weight so it can hold more technology.
"We can put more solar panels on our kite, we can put more wind turbines on our kite, we can put more solar panels on our kite,” said McNamara.
OSU Researchers said having a system sitting up in the jet stream would not only improve weather collection data but could also help improve communication.
They’ve been working for the past two years to develop the most efficient and light weight kite to send up into the air but said testing them has been difficult especially with the changing weather conditions in Oklahoma.
“It’s neat to look over our videos from the last year,” said McNamara. “Some of our kite tests were bundled up in coats and hats like we are today and in our other kite tests were out there dying in the summer heat of July, but we’ve learned a lot and we definitely have improved our system over the last two years.”
The kites have a sensor that communicates with their system on the ground and tells them how high it's going.
It could also potentially be used in place of cell towers or could even help law enforcement agencies with surveillance.
“In the future you may see large kites over Japan not just for energy usage but also for improved communication,” said McNamara.
"Technology comes from the aircraft so that's why I contacted this university because they have lots of similar technologies," said Itakura.
The Oklahoma winds weren't working in their favor today so plan to attempt the world record again in the future.