Science fiction writers have given us a genre full of things once thought unimaginable. Often set in some general time period anywhere from 30 to 100 years in the future, fans of the medium have had their minds filled with images of flying cars, cybernetic enhancements, and faster-than-light travel to galaxies far, far away. To their credit, these writers were not lacking in creativity, but one core weakness persists across many of their imagined universes– their timing is often wildly incorrect. Look no further than the 1982 hit film Blade Runner, a hyper-futuristic noir set in the faraway setting of… 2019 Los Angeles. While fans of the movie might find themselves disappointed by the lack of hovercraft and humanoid robotic clones in real life, one Swedish company is unveiling an underwater vehicle that might just scratch that decades-long itch.
Named “Sea Dragon”, the creation – almost 15 years in development – comes from Minesto, an offshoot of an aerospace manufacturer called Saab. It is a passion project for Minesto CEO Dr. Martin Edlund, who founded the company with the hope of one day creating an underwater power generation method that utilized the massive energy potential of the world’s oceans sustainably. Considering the fact that oceans outnumber the earth’s continental landmass at a rate of about 2-to-1, a product like this could be the first of many seeking to harness the currents as a possibly enormous untapped power source.
The kite resembles both a passenger plane from a time yet to come and other renewable energy products like wind turbines and solar panels.
With the power cord attached to a large battery serving as a sort of hi-tech tether, the Sea Dragon uses onboard steering technology to fly in a continuous figure of eight. In doing so, the kite moves against the underwater current, which allows water to flow through the attached turbine at a speed far greater than it would be under natural current conditions. That kinetic energy is then converted and stored in the battery that is linked via the power cord.
The possibilities for this product could have immense implications on the energy market as a whole. While the world has been making a push for solar and wind technologies that capture the power of the above-ground elements, the idea of using the force of the movement of the oceans as a means of power generation is a relatively unexplored one. Reliability is hardly a factor since ocean currents can be predicted algorithmically, and the Sea Dragon allows producers to tap into these tides in a way that generates significantly more electricity than with stationary turbines. And if nothing else, it makes for a great setting for another sci-fi movie– Blade Runner III: Underwater Replicant perhaps?