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Generation Global Swiss start-up dreams of powering homes using drones

Switzerland produces less wind power than other European countries but has ambitious future targets. A Lugano start-up is developing drones to generate electricity from high-altitude winds. 

In the lead up to October's parliamentary electionsexternal link, this is the third in a video series dedicated to looking at how political decisions affect the everyday lives of Swiss people. 

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Winds, especially at high altitude, offer huge potential as an alternative renewable energy source to help solve the climate crisis. 

In Switzerland, the main source of energy is hydropower. Building large wind turbines, especially in Swiss valleys, is controversial.

Aldo Cattano and Nicola Mona, the inventor and chief executive officer of the start-up firm "Skypullexternal link", want to contribute towards finding cleaner energy sources by making best use of the winds on Switzerland’s mountain tops. 

The small Lugano-based team is developing a system using an autonomous drone connected by a tether linked to a generator on the ground that can generate electricity from high-altitude winds. 

Their drone can fly as high as 600metres, about three times the height of a traditional wind turbine. The prototype is a rigid-wing, multi-copter "box-wing" drone that can take off and land by itself, with no need for a launcher or ground wind. 

Their plan is to develop a drone with a 17-metre wingspan which could produce electricity for 1,000-1,100 households. However, their project could take another three to four years to realise. 

In 2018, wind power only produced enough energy for 36,500 households in Switzerland – 0.2% of the country’s total power consumption. But the government has set out ambitious energy targets. By 2050, it wants 7-10% of Swiss energy consumption to be covered by wind power.

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