Meet Makani – Google’s new energy kites

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How do you get more electrical power from wind than you can from wind farms? The team from Makani (owned by Google) thinks a flying plane attached to a pole is the answer. By being able to fly higher in the air, these ‘energy kites’ can access stronger winds all while using 90% less materials than current wind turbines.

How Makani’s energy kites work

The energy kite is launched from the ground station by the rotors, which act like propellers on a helicopter taking off. Once in the air, the energy kite generates power by flying in large circles where the wind is strong and consistent. Air moving across rotors mounted on the energy kite forces them to rotate, driving generators to produce electricity, which travels down the tether to the grid. The energy kite’s path is guided by the flight computer, which will use GPS and other sensors to make many thousands of calculations and adjustments to fly the kite in strong and steady winds.

Watch this video on Makani in class to explore further.

Inquiry – digging deeper

Class Challenge! Can you create a paper plane that outflies the world famous Nakamura Lock Plane?

Successful paper planes have the ability to harness the power of the wind, just like the Makani Kite.

  • Follow the Nakamuri plane design below. Test it out. How far can it fly?
  • Design your own paper plane – can it outfly the Nakamura?

Think about birds, natural fliers. They are very light. They have a wingspan that stretches out and their feathers lay down smooth allowing the air to pass under and over their body. Wingspan, weight and shape are also important to the success of a paper plane. When the plane is pushed into the air, its shape determines whether it pushes against the air or the air travels both under and over the plane. A paper plane flies well when the wind works with the plane, not against it.



1. Fold a sheet of paper in half lengthwise. Unfold so that the crease is ‘valley’ side up.



2. Fold the top corners down to the centre fold.



3. Fold the tip down.



4. Fold about 3cms of the tip up; unfold.



5. Fold the top corners down to the centre fold so that the corners meet above the fold in the tip. 


6. Fold the tip up. This is the Nakamura Lock.


7. Fold the entire plane in half so that the tip is on the outside.


8. Fold the wings down. Colour in and fly!



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