Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The preceding video is the result of a project done by the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. Several champion bicyclists took carefully designed ultralights and flew them for many hours. These ultralight airplanes were powered by human-driven propellers that moved in the same way that wheels move when humans pedal bicycles.
Ironically, the Wright brothers were bicycle shop owners before they constructed the Airplane. I would not be surprised that this idea did not cross their minds at some point. Before inventing the first airplane in 1903, they begin improving the designs of gliders made by Otto Lilienthal. I am sure that they pondered a "flying bicycle" at some point. But materials back then were much heavier and less durable.
The 21st century has seen many years of ultralight pilots and aircraft builders. If aviation and transportation is to become more green as people like, then this has a lot of potential that could be expanded with time and research.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I remember it being a very exciting experience. Flying it around involved many different skills, including...
- Learning to operate electronics.
- Learning to fix the plane when it broke during flight.
- The skill of replacing parts.
- Learning how the wind affects the plane in flight.
Then there was the point where I had destroyed the aircraft so much that it was unflyable. What did I do? I salvaged the engines and made my own body from paper, wood, duct tape, and played around until I got something that was flyable.
To this day, I still enjoy RC Aircraft of many different types, and commonly use them as teaching tools with students. Over the years, RC aircraft have become less expensive, more durable, and more electronically sophisticated. There are even flight simulators that help assist people with understanding how to fly the aircraft before flying them.
EDF jets are particularly fun to fly. They are inexpensive and generate a pretty good amount of thrust for the plane. These particular aircraft inspire me to look into furthering the technology of electric power in ultralight aircraft, as many people are already doing (which shall be the topic of some other post).
From a pedagogy perspective, RC Airplanes allow schools to start Aerospace programs. This allows for many schools to provide a child to learn about all of the key principles of Aeronautics without the costs that come from having real airplanes/helicopters.