Flying Wing Anchor

Physical Sciences : Civil Engineering

Available for licensing


  • Robert Gilbert, Ph.D. , Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering
  • Aaron Bradshaw , University of Rhode Island
  • Kenneth Gavin , University College Dublin - Ireland
  • Paul Doherty , University College Dublin - Ireland
  • Vinayagamoothy Sivakumar , Queens University Belfast
  • Charles Aubeny , Texas A&M University
  • Hande Gerkus , University of Texas at Austin
  • Eugenio Iturriaga , University of Texas at Austin

Background/unmet need

Offshore facilities generate nearly a third of the energy used in the United States, and they have the potential to provide significantly more--both with oil and gas and with renewable sources including wind, wave, current and thermal energy. The challenge in the future will be to produce this energy at a minimal cost and with minimal impact to the environment. Conventional anchors for offshore facilities are not very efficient, essentially requiring that a load near their desired capacity be applied during installation at considerable expense and environmental impact, when in service it is unlikely that the anchor will ever experience a load that large.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have designed a Flying Wing Anchor which is based on two innovations:
- For installation, the anchor is dropped from above the seafloor so that it embeds into the sea floor under its own weight like a knife-shaped torpedo. This innovation of gravity penetration is achieved with a geometry that has the center of gravity located below the center of lift, keeping the anchor vertical during free fall and penetration.
- When it is loaded in service, the anchor pitches, dives deeper, and ultimately provides the maximum possible holding capacity with the line pulling normal to the plane of the anchor. This innovation is achieved with a triggered hinge that holds the shank parallel to the fluke until the angle between the line and the fluke exceeds a threshold.


  • The Flying Wing Anchor is analogous to supply-on-demand in business.
  • It uses its own weight and natural forces to provide a load-carrying capacity, significantly reducing the time, effort, energy, environmental impact, and cost of installation.


  • The Flying Wing Anchor penetrates deeper during gravity penetration than a conventional torpedo pile of the same weight, due to its efficient shape.
  • The Flying Wing Anchor is more versatile than a conventional plate anchor because the same anchor can be used in a variety of soils, since the triggered hinge releases at a threshold angle. A conventional plate anchor with a fixed angle between the shank and the fluke requires a shear pin that breaks at a threshold that varies depending on the type of soil.

Market potential/applications

Oil and gas offshore facilities; marine renewable energy platforms

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 1 foreign patent application filed
  • 1 U.S. patent issued: 9,643,687