At the opposite end of the spectrum from the various blimp and rigid-hull airships Goodyear has created over the years stands the Goodyear Inflatoplane, the company’s foray into experimental inflatable aircraft. Goodyear had recently created a rubberized nylon material they called Airmat, the faces of which were connected internally by nylon threads. This material was originally developed during research into the viability of emergency airplane wings.
The United States military became interested in the Inflatoplane after Goodyear had performed successful testing of demonstration model GA-33. They believed that the Inflatoplane could be dropped from the air in a rigid container to facilitate an emergency rescue, or trucked around with the rest of the cargo as a last resort for just exactly the right situation. It seems like a good idea on paper. The Inflatoplane could stay packed into a fairly small container until it was needed. The GA-468 one-seater model could go almost 400 miles on 20 gallons of fuel, and required less pressure to inflate than the average car tire.
This episode of the Discovery Channel series WINGS includes a real-time demonstration of taking an Inflatoplane from crate to air set to late ’80s montage music. It takes the pilot a full five minutes to unfurl and the plane, and he does it on a nice and level grassy spot by a lake that looks more like a cozy picnic spot than threatening enemy territory. While it’s better than not having an inflatable emergency aircraft, it just isn’t that practical.
Goodyear had all kinds of plans for future improvements, such as a vertical takeoff model and a rocket-powered version. But the Inflatoplane military initiative was grounded around the time that someone speaking for the Army deadpanned that they “could not find a valid military use for an aircraft that could be taken down by a well-aimed bow and arrow.”
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: On the Wings of Goodyear”
It doesn’t have four rotors, but this advanced-glider is every bit as impressive as the most complicated of quadrotor offerings. It’s the first glider that can successfully perch on your arm. We can’t help but think back to the owl in the original Clash of the Titans movie.
The team at the Aerospace Robotics and Control Lab of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is happy to show off the test flights they’ve been conducting. We’ve embedded two of them after the break which show the unit landing on this person’s arm, and on the seat of a chair. The image above shows a montage of several frames from the flight, and gives us a pretty good look at the articulated wings. You can seen them both bent in the middle of the flight to zero in on the landing zone. In addition to this there are flaps on the trailing edge of the wings and tail. The flight path is a bit wandering since the glider has no vertical tail to stabilize it.
Now if they can make it harvest power from overhead electrical lines they’ve got a spy-bird which can be dropped from a plane (or from a drone).
Continue reading “Robotic falconry: winged unit lands on you!”
This pair of backpack-mounted wings was conceived after seeing the Angel/Archangel character in the movie X-Men: The Last Stand. They measure 14’6″ inches across, but they fold up so that the wearer can actually get around in them. The mechanism is built from MDF, using several layers of gears cut from the material as well as pieces that act as the skeleton for the appendages. This makes them look and work well, but adds a lot of weight as the project comes in at about 25 pounds.
The steampunk wings we saw a few days back were partly inspired by this set. But this pair is more true to the Steampunk concept, relying on pneumatics instead of electricity for motion. A pair of pneumatic rams originally made to cushion the closing of screen doors let the wearer automatically extend the unit. As you can see in the video after the break, this happens quickly and gracefully. They do have to be folded back up by hand, and we’d bet you need a second person to assist with this, but we could be wrong.
Continue reading “Steampunk wings: bigger, heavier, and steampunkier”
From a small-sized backpack these wings slowly grow to full size in a Steampunk costume that hearkens back to DaVinci flight designs.
The mechanism that unfolds the wings was fashioned from parts of a baby gate and an old back massager. The massager features a pair of orbs that are meant to move slowly up and down your back. This is what accounts for the slow unfurling of the wings. After a bit of prototyping with Popsicle sticks [Dannok] and his daughter figured out the best arrangement for the pivoting skeleton. From there, the slats from the baby-gate were used to build the frame, then covered with fabric to finish the wing element for this Halloween costume.
A 12 volt gel battery powers the device, which is activated with a brass pull-chain meant for a light fixture. Once full extended, as seen above, the wingspan is eight feet. Don’t miss the pair of videos we’ve embedded after the break which show the workings of the device.
Continue reading “Personal flight from the steam age”