New Tech: Innovative heights

While scouring the Internet for my usual dose of random geekery, I stumbled across some amazing information about man-powered flight. Not the airplane used in the flight of the Wright brothers, but a solely human-powered vehicle that could fly. An even crazier idea is that the people behind these designs are just students! The Daily Mail says teams or groups of students from various universities were assigned the challenge of conquering human-powered flight.

Mind you, this is not something you can take to the Bahamas with (yet...), but the thought and idea behind it is what amazed me the most.

Having the ability to essentially fly your bike to work or school only seems like a crazy dream I would have after a night of drinking. The limits and uses for a technology capable of this are endless, and the prospects are even greater. Before I get too excited about the whole topic, let’s look into how it works.

According to Inhabitat, here is an example of a successful design:

The University of Maryland has a team of students who are developing a helicopter using four rotors (a quadrocoptor). To power the craft in the middle, one pedals a bicycle with both hands and feet. The use of multiple rotors makes liftoff easier than using a single very large rotor because it spreads the lift over a larger area. Balance is also obtained more quickly and is sustained using numerous rotors instead of the large, single, unruly rotor.

As I was saying earlier, the distance and length are not very long, but the idea is astounding. So far, a flight time of about 50 seconds has been achieved reaching a maximum height of 8 feet. However, with each new improvement, results seem to be improving. Aerial self-powered commutes might not be in the near future but might happen soon. Inhabitat continues to say the team that reaches an altitude of 10 feet first will win the Sikorsky Prize, a $250,000 reward.

A number of areas would be affected by this kind of improving technology. Sustainability would reduce dependence on different types of fuels. Commutes would be simpler for those in areas where biking on heavily trafficked roads might be dangerous or hills and highways might prevent easy ground transportation.

Still, Effectively powering the vehicle requires a certain amount of athleticism. There would be obstacles to overcome along the way, but I think the end result is something to look into. For my daily commute to school, I would enjoy riding my bike above the trees only to park at a bike rack on campus. Life would be so much easier, don't you think?

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