I want one with wings please!
I want one with wings please!
This is the fifth installment of The Man Birds, chapter five. The first chapter is here.
It turned out that the Virtual Man Bird was a perfect vehicle for all sorts of ventures from feature films to video games, but first it was the centerpiece for the big show. The FF set about finding and investing in companies that were developing technologies that he felt would be useful in the creation of the Man Bird machine. There were prosthetic companies that were developing powered prosthetics; there were materials companies that were doing cutting edge work in plastics and carbon composites; robotics and software companies and companies exploring mind control. And there were a few hang glider, ultralight and sport aircraft companies. Where ever he could buy into the interesting firms or even gain majority positions, he had his investment team go there. The idea was to gather as much up to date information as was possible right from the sources.
We've been following Honda’s Stride Management Assist since its first unveiling in 2008, to the introduction of its sturdier cousin into the workplace and then its U.S. tour in 2009. Now the ASMIO spin off is scheduled to undergo field tests by Japan's National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology (NCGG). The NCGG will test 40 units of the device on people with limited walking ability at the Elder Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Center at Resora Obu Shopping Terrace in Obu, Japan.
How long before it will let you leap tall buildings?
An email from Ari led me to this web page of "lecture notes" on Bird flight. The credit for the page is not clear, but it is a fantastic trove of information on bird flight that I have only scratched the surface of. It is full of illustrations, images and data on just exactly what goes on when birds fly.
One particular YouTube clip is included down near the bottom of the page is an excellent example of what I am talking about when I try to stress the importance of control in avian flight and the need for comparable control in any man made machine that tries to emulate bird like flight.
The clip is a slow motion video of a Bald Eagle attempting to land on a rock in high gusty wind. The most obvious feature of the clip is how it illustrates the Eagle's control actions to compensate for the rapidly changing and chaotic flow of the air he is having to deal with in order to safely touch down exactly where he wants to. Here is the clip:
Currently, most man made flying machines use a combination of mass, speed and large open areas to make safer landing possible. However, it should be noted that the air can and occasionally does produce conditions where even these advantages are not enough for a given machine.
The Eagle and all other birds, weighing in at less than 35 pounds do not have the mass and speed to avoid being pushed around by the wind and they do not usually have the option or the desire to land in large open spaces. So they have adapted. Their wings are infinitely variable in the size and shape that they can use to conform to the given conditions.
No "fixed wing" machine with its tiny ailerons and or flaps even comes close to what a bird can do. These "control surfaces" can change the shape or lift producing characteristics of a wing by only a few percent. Any current man made flying machine that attempted to do something comparable to what that Eagle did would be quickly dashed to pieces on the rocks. And we won't even mention landing in a tree under any conditions.
I tried to imagine how birds might fare if they were limited to the degree of control that man made fixed wing aircraft have. Water fowl take off and land in large open spaces and the air over water is generally smoother, less turbulent. In the world of possible environmental niches, that leaves out the vast majority of places where birds make a living.
The analogy is that current man made aircraft are also limited to a tiny environment from which to operate, airports and waterways. It seems that every year that goes by, we see announcements of new designs for machines that attempt to combine the capabilities of the automobile and the airplane. Someone is about to or has tested the concept of a plane that can be driven to and from an airport and parked in your garage. And of course there are fly and drive communities dotted across the country. All of which are attempts to get around the necessity to have large open spaces to safely operate machines that cannot handle what the air can hand you at any time.
If there is one thing that is the defining feature of the Man-Bird™ it will be that it can duplicate the capability that the Eagle demonstrates in that clip.
UPDATE: I cross posted this article over at the Flapping Wings Forum and got a comment from henryk that I thought was great. He just replied to my post with this video, watch it and you can see why.
Well here is my reply: Interesting video. Would it surprise you to know that I know both the location and the pilot in it? I should say, I knew him. Dan Rackanelli died in a freak accident some years ago. He was an awesome pilot and was one of the first truly amazing aerobatic pilots. But his death was the result of exactly the kind of landing control problem I am talking about. What happened is this, another pilot was attempting to land. He was a US national competition champion but on approach he was caught in turbulence and blown into high tension power lines. The pilot was un hurt but he was suspended from the live wires. Dan or "Rad Rac" as he was known walked over to see if he could help and to laugh and point at the hapless victim. Just as Dan approached, the wind caught the suspended glider sail and whipped it into him. Dan was electrocuted.
Oh and about the video, the site is Fort Funston on the beach south of San Francisco. It is where I earned my Hang 3 rating in 1974. It being a coastal site, the air is as smooth as glass and very predictable and that is the important point. It is where thousands of pilots have learned to soar because you will not find better conditions anywhere for steady consistent lift.
I guarantee that you will hardly ever see that sort of trick flying at any inland sight. There are no thermals or gusts at Funston or any beach site. A hang glider in the hands of an expert like Dan could do that at a beach site but nowhere else.
We've covered a number of amazing exoskeletons here on Gizmag, ranging from the solutions for paraplegics – see REX Bionics' and Berkley Bionics' exoskeletons – to the downright wacky Kid Walker mecha for children. Last year we saw Activelink's Power Loader, an exoskeleton that takes its name from the suit of the same name in James Cameron's Aliens. The company, a subsidiary of Panasonic, has now come out with a lightweight version, appropriately named the Power Loader Light.
And here is another available from Panasonic for only $200 K or so.
The Pentagon has long had a fascination with machines that turn soldiers into supermen. Back in the 1960s, it funded General Electric’s work on Hardiman, an exoskeleton that was intended to allow its operator to lift loads of 1,500 lbs (680 kg). Almost half a century later, it’s still pouring money into all sorts of exoskeletons, assisted lifting devices (think robotrousers) and similar aids. Now Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has been selected by DARPA to spearhead the effort to develop a new “smart suit” intended to improve the endurance of soldiers in the field.
The big objection to the idea of human powered flight has always been, we just aren't strong enough. That can now be got around.
Sometime in the future, perhaps sometime soon, the robotic jellyfish, octopi and fish cruising the world’s oceans may have to make way for one other companion – the robotic ray. A team led by University of Virginia engineering professor Hilary Bart-Smith has created such a “creature,” in hopes that its autonomously-operated descendants may someday help us humans explore and study the sea, or possibly perform surveillance for the military.
It's not such a great leap from "flying" in water to flying in air. The movement needed is virtually the same.
This is the fourth installment of The Man Birds, chapter four. The first chapter is here.
A bazillion to one? No, actually they know pretty precisely what the odds of winning the lottery are, they post them right there on the web site. So everyone knows that as a financial plan, lottery tickets are a pretty poor choice for Plan A. But then someone does win and if you don’t play, that someone isn’t ever going to be you. Chances are even greater that the someone who does win hasn’t a clue what to do with so much money. Most do nothing significant with it. You hear stories of garbage men who plan to keep working their same jobs. And you hear about people to whom the sudden great wealth is a disaster. The First Feather always had at least the idea of a plan.
If I was in India...
Gitam University is conducting a two day national workshop on ‘Ornithopter Design & Fabrication’ at its Hyderabad Campus on July 27 and 28. The Director of Hyderabad Campus Dr. Ch. Sanjay said that, the workshop looks correlation between birds and ornithopters and aims at understanding the various concepts of such flights.
Exposure to multi disciplinary content behind ornithopters, introduction to opportunities in research, exposure to innovative projects in the field of mini and micro air vehicles are the highlights of the workshop. The last date for registration is July 23. Further details can be had on 97055-98279 or 93965-21717.
This is the third installment of The Man Birds, call it chapter three. The first chapter is here.
We always refer to him as the First Feather or FF but never to his face. He hates it. Most everyone just addresses him as Sir. No one remembers, or will admit tagging him with the FF name, but it kind of fits with his position as the founder of the Man Birds community. He isn’t in any way an authority figure in the management of the community; it’s more like an honorary thing. He was after all the one who had the original idea and got lucky enough to be able to make it happen the way he envisioned it.