Google Patents Kites to Power and Steer Floating Data Centers

High-flying wind turbines could deliver electricity to ships carrying computer servers cooled by circulating ocean water.

For Google, a kite is way more than high-flying fun. The tech giant sees potential to create a sophisticated kite system capable of generating enough electricity to power and propel a cargo ship.

The tech giant was issued a patent this year that describes an airborne rigid kite containing an on-board power plant that connects to a ship through an electrically conductive tether. Flying high above the water, the kite's wind turbine would both power the vessel and steer it around.

This unusual vision isn't entirely surprising since Google X acquired the energy kite company Makani in 2013. These energy kites can reach higher altitudes and access stronger winds than conventional wind turbines, according to the company. They're also designed to eliminate 90% of the materials existing turbines require.

Currently Makani's system includes a kite that simulates the tip of a wind turbine blade. That kite is tethered to a station on the ground by a conductive wire. Google's patent makes it sound like a similar setup could be headed out to sea.

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"When a desired height is attained, the aerial vehicle may transition from a hover mode to a cross-wind flight or flying mode, and operate in the power generation mode," the patent reads. "In addition, when the ship is docked, the airborne wind turbines may also be used to generate energy that may be used later for propulsion."

The patent, issued at the end of May, was spotted by eagle-eyed Deepak Gupta a.k.a the Patent Yogi. He's super psyched about the development, and speculated that Google might use the airborne wind turbines for floating data centers cooled by circulating ocean water. Given the company's work developing floating data centers, his theory makes sense.

"Basically, [the kites] can propel the floating data centers to any part of the world, taking the data centers closer to the end users, which is always better," Gupta mused in his detailed video about the patent.

Google hasn't made an official announcement relating to this particular patent yet, but I doubt their kites will be tied to the land for long.

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