French innovative thinking has brought tyre maker Michelin into the shipping industry with the Wizamo wind propulsion project. Wisamo is an inflatable wing sail. One can see the similarities with the inflatable marketing character that many of a certain age will remember.
The system is a vertical inflatable plane wing that is designed to do what other wing sails do, to provide additional thrust so ships’ engines can be run slower or more optimally thus save fuel. The system is designed with an air compressor that blows the system into the shape of a telescopic mast which when in full shape will act as a vertical airplane wing through the air. It works like other wing sails in that the air passing over the structure creates different air pressures on either side. ON an airplane this becomes lift, on a vertical wingsail it acts like forward thrust.
Being made of fabric, the design team says it is robust and flexible with little stress on the material. And they say it deflates completely too for when a vessel may be in a tricky port environment. A trial has already been made on a pleasure yacht and the team behind it is now looking to take the next step into the commercial shipping industry.