RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Windlift, the Triangle-based engineering and computing firm focusing on developing aircraft that serve as airborne power generators (APGs), has raised the first $115,000 of a targeted $1 million from four investors, according to an SEC filing.

Windlift says there’s a huge opportunity in the deployment of airborne power generators, which operate on the same principles as land-based wind turbines but require as little as five percent of the total materials.

Developed by founder Robert Creighton in 2004, its wind system allows unmanned aerial vehicles to harvest electricity anywhere there is wind, both onshore and offshore.

How do APGs work?  When deployed in the proper locations, wind propels the aircraft at high speed, “providing airflow to on-board turbines and generators from which electricity flows down the conductive tether to a ground station for storage and distribution,” reads the company’s website.  “This enables mobile deployment, and unlocks new possibilities from sensing to communications.”

Raleigh’s Windlift is an engineering and computer programming company that focuses on airborne wind energy.

“Windlift is a good alternative to offshore wind farms, because they are not visible from shore,” Creighton told WRAL TechWire last year, explaining that systems like turbines have caused controversy in the past.  “The cost of installation is also significantly cheaper than turbines currently being used.”

The company serves the military industry, as well as disaster recovery, adventure, and islands and remote villages, and as of May 2020, the company reported on its website that it had received $2.3 million in funding from the US Army and Marine Corps.

“On the most remote military bases, under the most challenging circumstances, and in the least hospitable environments on the planet, Windlift APGs are engineered to perform at the highest levels,” reads the company’s website.

The Airborne Wind Energy (AWE) industry has moved from a hobbyist’s curiousity into viable commercial opportunity, found an IDTechEx report in 2018, which found at the time of publishing that at least $200 million had been invested into the industry, including investments from Google, Softbank, EON, Shell, and Tata.

“AWE is a new wave, zero-emission generator—mobile, no infrastructure and often capable of managing with little or no energy storage,” reads the summary of the IDTechEx report, updated for 2019.  “In 2018 AWE moved from mainly engineering-led projects seeking size and, on the other hand, modest sales of hobbyist systems to something in-between that is far more promising—first sales of 30-100kW systems into key verticals.

IDTechEx found in 2018 that aviation authorities were adapting to accommodate the needs of these kites, tethered wings, aerostats, and drones—no matter whether intended to power a ship, a small farm, or supplying a national grid (as GW offshore arrays).  “Potentially, AWE will do all that with no emissions and at a fraction of the cost of the conventional wind turbines, down where wind is weaker and more fitful,” the report found.

Windlift has three listed job openings on its website.