Smart ships

The European GALATEA project is focused on the creation of Smart Ships, applying innovative technology from the design, communication or navigation fields, to transportation of trading vessels.

In this framework, the KTMS project aims to develop an autonomous navigation system based on kites. INLOC Robotics has been awarded with this project, and it will collaborate with the french company Beyond the Sea on the modeling and development of a reliable control system for transportation of massive vessels.


Auxiliary propulsion system in kite-based boats

The use of an alternative renewable energy source for vessel propulsion has been studied by Beyond the sea company since its foundation in 2007. Kites had been used mainly for energy generation. Beyond the sea applied the same technology to create an auxiliary propulsion system. One of the main motivations for this technology is the reduction of environmental impact, i.e. the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Over the years, several companies joined the project and an extensive literature about different approaches on kite modelling and control has been developed.

INLOC Robotics, which has a wide expertise on navigation and control systems, is currently working closely with Beyond the sea to create the best solution for modelling and control, giving special effort to reliability, efficiency and robustness. An accurate (yet practical) model of the ship-kite system is critical in order to achieve reliable and efficient autonomous navigation. This model should be complex enough to consider the relevant forces and kinematics, including the kite aerodynamics.

However it should be simple enough to achieve a resoluble control system with the given sensors, processors and data. Kites can fly in dynamic mode, which means that it will perform a particular shape trajectory while flying, increasing the apparent wind and therefore improving the aerodynamic forces and traction.This requires the study of kite’s dynamics, as well as the appropriate sensing and monitoring of the data (kite localization, tether effort monitoring, wind sensor, etc.) in order to apply the optimal control law.

The future of transportation of large vessels

As a result of this challenging and innovative project, GALATEA will lead the future of transportation of large vessels, especially container ships. Current shipping is not sustainable in terms of energy consumption from non-renewable sources. Reducing the greenhouse gas emission and the fuel consumption is not only relevant economically, but it will also have a positive impact on the shipping carbon footprint.


Image source:
CADALEN, Baptiste. (2018). ”Modélisation Et Commande Robuste D’une Aile De Kite En Vol Dynamique Application A La Traction D’un Navire”. PhD. Thesis, L’Université De Bordeaux.


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