Jun 12, 2009

Inflatable Tower

Incredibly strong inflatable "fabrics", made from kevlar and polyethylene, can be utilized to form immense structures. This is another handy reminder that, as materials like kevlar, buckyball nanotubes and metallic fibers become finely manipulable, today's high tech has a lot to learn from yesterday's textile technology.

Inflatable pneumatic modules already used in some spacecraft could be assembled into a 15-kilometre-high tower.... If built from a suitable mountain top it could reach an altitude of around 20 kilometres, where it could be used for atmospheric research, tourism, telecoms or launching spacecraft. Pneumatic modules already used in some spacecraft could be assembled into a 15-kilometre-high tower. The team envisages assembling the structure from a series of modules constructed from Kevlar-polyethylene composite tubes made rigid by inflating them with a lightweight gas such as helium. To test the idea, they built a 7-metre scale model made up of six modules (see image). Each module was built out of three laminated polyethylene tubes 8 centimetres in diameter, mounted around circular spacers and inflated with air.

Inflatable tower could climb to the edge of space.

Mar 25, 2009

Compare Unique Heavier-than-air Flight Patterns

The graphic below enables visual comparison of flight pattern differences between the 10 most active aircraft models being monitored by the FAA on August 12, 2008 over a 24-hour period. It is one of about ten overlapping graphics at the link below. By clicking the buttons on the right, you can toggle images, and check out differences such as range (for example, the Boeing 738 is capable of traveling 3,060 nautical miles in a flight, while the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ2) at 980 nautical miles is a puddle jumper).

This project was a collaboration between Koblin, FlightView and Wired Magazine.

Source: Wired, compare flight patterns.

Flight Patterns in the USA

Aaron Koblin, FlightView and Wired Magazine collaborated to produce a series of animations of heavier-than-air vehicle flight over the United States. Below is the Northeast: click the menus at the end to see other patterns.

New York City to add Flight Lanes

Aaron Koblin's New York Flight Traces captures the flight path of every plane that arrived or departed Newark, LaGuardia or JFK on August 13, 2008.

Wired published this to illustrate an article on the flow of aircraft in and out of New York City.

To help reorganize this airspace, the FAA called on Mitre, a Beltway R&D firm that works exclusively for the government. Mitre's scientists and mathematicians, in cooperation with some of the region's air traffic controllers, are completely rethinking the flow of aircraft in and out of New York City. Current flight patterns evolved like a rabbit warren, with additions tacked on to an existing architecture. As airports grew busier and airplanes started flying higher and faster, that architecture became increasingly inefficient. The plan, the unfortunately named New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Redesign, aims to bring order to the air.

Think of it as a redrawn map of the roadways in the sky. While planes used to chug in and out of the city on a few packed roads, the redesign spreads out the aircraft by adding new arrival posts (exit ramps), departure gates (on-ramps), and takeoff headings (streets leading up to the intercity highways). But the biggest move will be making the space for all these additions. Mitre's proposal is to extend the boundaries of this airborne city into a 31,180-square-mile area that stretches from Philadelphia to Albany to Montauk.

Source: Wired March 2009, Air Repair by Jeffrey Milstein

Mar 15, 2009

Tomas Saraceno

Tomas Saraceno is the world's most active artist and architect working on life in the air.

Saraceno's Museo Aero Solar is a flying museum displaying the art of nylon bags. A similar solar-powered dome is shown in this video:

Saraceno's Air-Port-City project proposes a floating international city in the sky, kept afloat by solar-fueled Aerogel, the lightest material ever created. His idea is to establish a residential urban district for migrants which is itself migratory, constantly crossing and blurring boundaries. Saraceno wrote,

These habitations would move like clouds, eliminating geographical and political boundaries, generating human and political communities in continuous transformation and re-definition. These airport-cities would be freely constituted in compliance with international laws, challenging the political, social, cultural and military restrictions presently in effect around the world.

Saraceno has been working consistently for many years to realize these dreams. He has designed buildings for airborne habitation, investigated human flight through solar energy and flying gardens, and many visualizations of what life would be like under these airborne conditions.

In conversation with me, Saraceno spoke about the need for "bicycle paths" of the sky. Air traffic lanes are currently dominated by the needs of commercial heavier-than-air aircraft. Solar powered balloonists and other passive flight vehicles play second place to the needs of heavier-than-air aircraft. Saraceno was pleased that this blog began, and plans to support it and contribute in future.

Here is an amateur video of his biosphere:

Some of my summary above based on this report at WorldChanging:
Review of Saraceno Air-Port-City at WorldChanging.com

More links:

Jan 2, 2009

Video Game

To promote passive flight and the Law of the Air, imagine a video game.

The game would have a NASA WorldWinds engine at its heart (WorldWinds has better wind information that Google Earth). The clouds would have real dimension and moisture.

The goal of the game could be to fly from point A to point B (say Munich to Amsterdam).

Thanks to Tomas Saraceno for brainstorming about this idea with me.

Jan 1, 2009


Living in the air is quite difficult. People must be ready to be very cold, oxygen deprived, and tolerate bright sunlight.

To make progress, we need a millionaire to finance a LawOfTheAir "X-Prize."

The first person to live off Earth for two months would win.

The qualifications need some more defintion, of course.
  • do we require gray water recycling?
  • can the aeronaut land daily to get food and let out black water?
  • are there navigation requirements? Or just the need to stay aloft?
Thanks to T. Saraceno for brainstorming about this with me.