Rune Kirt & Mads Thomsen
Knarr Cargo Airship
Knarr Cargo Airship
KNARR is a wind turbine freight system by modern airship technology powered with solar energy. An alternative to existing heavy cargo freight systems – focusing on wind turbine. Transporting wind turbine parts up to 1000 tons from manufacture facilities to installation site with zero carbon emissions.
Mads Thomsen, industrial designer/conceptualizer
Rune Kirt, industrial designer/conceptualizer
Hugo Dines Schmidt, lecturer, mentor
Alix Gillet-Kirt, graphic design advisor
The judges felt that this design proposal was highly visionary, spoke to a very real issue, and demonstrated brilliant execution. Even though the notion of a dirigible is not new, the application and adaption of the concept for the delivery of oversized components for large-scale wind energy generation places it in the category of a new paradigm. If this project were to get support, and become viable, it would be instrumental in bringing about a large transformation in wind energy production.
Knarr Cargo Airship
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
The existing transport system of wind turbines is expensive and complex.
If have you ever driven a car behind a wind turbine component on a highway you know that modern wind turbines have evolved into enormous industrial constructions. For example, the recently launched Vestas V164 turbine blades are 80 metres long each – the length of nine London doubledecker buses. At the time we initiated the project in 2008 the longest blade was 45 meters. Blades of 80 meters length can no longer be transported on normal roads - they are limited to offshore transport.
On top of these challenges, the transport process emits a high amount of carbon emissions because a large amount of trucks, vessels and trains are involved - thus conflicting with the sustainable aim of wind energy.
These two thrilling challenges – the size limitations and eco-friendliness led us to tell ourselves: “If we could solve this, it would have a sizeable impact on the wind industry as well as helping minimizing the global carbon footprint”.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
We saw potential in modern airship technology. During the design process we experienced scepticism towards the idea of using airships for cargo transport. This made us highly aware of the importance of addressing every aspect of this technology connected to airship technology. To reinforce our initial idea, we created storyboards of transport scenarios, detailed compliance to international flight rules, building and maintenance, went on study trips - to Zeppelin NT in South Germany and to the port of Aarhus. We could then confidently focus on the actual design of the airship including cockpit and cargo hold.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
We had the interests of the wind industry at heart all along the process. The wind turbine producers would be the ones to use and pay for the service. Their main concerns are easy and safe components loading transport and installation.
We later looked at the users” which would be airship captains, navigators, cargo hold managers, crane operators and airship technicians. This is where life rhythms come into play. The airship will be a large vessel sailing around the world. Flying 24/7requires 6 pilots (2 teams), a cargo manager and an airship technician. Interests like well-designed crew quarters for sleeping, eating and socializing are as important as ensuring good working conditions. Airship technician must be able to circulate around the airship during flight; pilots must have access to a clear view, efficient dashboard and communication means.
There is a lot of other elements to be considered around operating the airship. Hangar facilities are needed for assembly and maintenance. When flying the airship, airports, larger cities and main traffic routes need to be avoided.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
Today there is a limited number of operating airships around the world. It is crucial to watch them in real life to understand the dimensions of such a project to get a more qualified insight in the processes of assembly, maintenance and operation.
Regarding the airship design we have spoken with pilots and engineers, conducted extensive desk and field research and went on field trips to Zeppelin NT who is producing and operating airships today. For the cargo handling (loading/unloading) we went on study trips to study and talk with crane operators, harbor laborers and cargo loading managers. We have also studied how other airborn cargo transport means such as planes and helicopters deal with loading, securing and unloading their cargo items. From the wind turbine manufactures we have received facts about today's transport of wind turbines and feedback on our ideas and concepts.
We have also contacted producers of the newest materials for light-weight constructions such as fiberglass, plastic fibre ropes, carbon fiber sandwich constructions, etc. Engineers have calculated the solar efficiency of solar cells on the airship.
The airship is shaped from the principals of flying, the operational needs of the pilot and the functionality of handling large wind turbine components. The shape is designed after an extensive process of building scaled models, sketching and dialogues with airship engineers.
The shape and principles of aerodynamics are derived from airship companies like Hybrid Air Vehicles and Aeroscraft, but the expression of the airship takes its source in both nature and modern architecture – creating an expression that is both present and timeless. It was important to create a mean of cargo transportation with a non-threatening, professional and serious expression. The great wing shaped hull is aerodynamic with a large flat underbelly that opens up towards the ground, so the transported parts can be hoisted up into the cargo hold. The structure is flexible and uses the inherent strengths of the combined inflated shapes secured to the main cargo structure that holds the cargo.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
This project has sufficient impact to spark a societal debate. The current environmental challenges we are facing call for ground breaking , provocative yet realistic solutions. In our view, saving energy isn't about recession, but about optimization and, ultimately, intelligence. By combining wind energy – a beacon of renewable power – and a technology rooted in decades of innovation – airships – we aim at providing one of the constellation of proposals that will make the world a more energy efficient place.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
Investigated other sizes of airships for transporting wind turbines. In other words created a product series and what impact does smaller or larger sizes airship have on wind turbine transport.