#1898: Wellinktons

The parents of schoolchildren often get told to buy standard wellingtons for travel in school uniform on wet days.

These will probably all have to be black, which causes a major headache in most junior classes, when kids arrive home wearing two unpaired boots.

When I was five, a parent suggested the clothespeg solution, but this could sometimes result in the forgotten peg problem.

Today’s invention is wellies with left/right sole treads which interdigitate and remain joined as a pair when pressed together (at least until gratefully pulled apart at ‘home time’).

#1897: FreightFoil

Today’s invention is a flying pallet which can be used by transport helicopters to move freight.

Such a system could help maintain an underslung load in a stable orientation.

Its main benefit however is that a wing of this kind will generate substantial extra lift when the helicopter is travelling forwards -as long as it’s far enough below the source of the downwash (and trimmed to the right angle of attack by altering the lengths of the suspension framework).

Although this is no help hoisting eg a shipping container off the ground, once in motion the wing could be made light and strong enough to reduce the loading on the main rotor, especially over long distances.

#1896: BasketStack

After a brutal afternoon at the supermarket and just before I get shouted at by the stupid self-checkout, I tend to get a little frustrated by the shopping baskets.

I try to drop the empty basket on the stack provided but every time one or both handles of the preceding one are in the way, so I have to bend down and adjust them -or fling the basket in the aisle in despair.

Today’s invention is a new handle design for shopping baskets.

Each handle is prevented from falling forward from the carry position (bright blue) by a small stop on the lip of the basket.

When the basket is set on the stack and the handles released, both have no option but to rotate down into the end positions shown (pale blue), guaranteeing that they will be out of the way so that the next basket can nest without obstruction.

#1895: Storedoors

Lots of warehouse-type stores employ sliding doors, partly in an attempt to avoid heating up the outside atmosphere.

These sense the arrival of people (via simple movement detection) and then open completely to admit them -with the effect that a large amount of heat is transferred too.

Today’s invention is a set of sliding doors which can find the overall shape of arriving customers (including those pushing a trolley with a door slung across the top) using simple image processing.

The doors move so that the seam between them is located at the centre of the approaching objects.

The doors then open only widely enough to comfortably clear the edges of those entering (or exiting).

This could cut heat loss via these big doors by 50%.

#1894: Dualarm

It seems that my nightly waking period starting at 3:14am (known domestically as Pi time) may not be insomnia but a natural break in a bimodal sleep pattern that we have mostly forgotten.

This is a period during which I often have a torrent of new ideas. Today’s invention is therefore designed to ensure that I wake up at the right time and, in case I fall asleep without resetting it, again in the morning.

It’s an alarm clock with two settable alarm times: one at 03:14 and the other at, in my case, 06:00.

#1893: PocketSprocket

Today’s invention is a new way to reduce the ease with which thefts of bikes can occur.

Consider the simple case of a fixed-gear machine first.

Both sprockets would have irregularly-spaced teeth, in exact correspondence with the pattern of teeth in the chain, which would be unique to an individual bike.

When an owner leaves his bicycle, he slips off the pedal sprocket and takes it with him.

A thief will be unable easily to substitute for this and would find that even wheeling the bike away will be difficult, due to the loose chain interacting with the rear wheel.

This could be extended to derailleur systems, by removing the two-ring front sprocket.

#1892: JudaShoal

If we can make a robot fish which convinces real ones to form a shoal around it, then today’s invention is one such cyber creature which can support the fishing industry.

A number of robot fish would be cast overboard and swim until they had attracted a sizeable number of fellow pisceans.

Each robot fish would then locate the nets of its home fleet and swim inside.

It would then exit, by homing in on a fish flap in the net -allowing the process to be repeated.

#1891: Conveyoroad

Rolling roads are routinely used in training and assessing racing cyclists.

Today’s invention extends this to the races themselves.

Rather than spend insane amounts on a velodrome, a larger-than-usual-scale rolling road could be made wide enough to accommodate several machines in parallel -and cost relatively little.

This would need to have a cushioned surround area in case someone made an error and fell off.

Systems such as this could installed all over the country allowing regional competitions without the need to travel to the capital all the time.

As shown, the road could even be mounted on a base using hydraulic actuators to simulate the effects of hills/banking etc.

#1890: Explodrain

Blast-resistant bins have been developed which seem to me to be massively costly and probably not very effective.

Today’s invention is an alternative, inspired by a scene in the film Speed.

A solid steel box with a sprung lid is attached to a large cage.

The whole system is bolted to the surround of a manhole cover, once the cage has been inserted into this, as shown.

Any rubbish thrown in ends up in the cage in the drain or conduit. The bins are extracted and cleaned each night, when crowd density is zero.

This means that nothing deposited will ever be above ground level, so that if a bomb is dropped in, it will detonate below ground, sending blast waves along the pipe in both directions (as well as vertically), thus causing minimal injuries/damage within the street.

#1889: Coasteering

Today’s invention is a rollercoaster with points -like a railway track.

This would add a certain extra challenge to those trying to hold onto their breakfasts, by allowing the car to take multiple alternative routes.

Rather than have these points change in a predictable way, it might be possible to have them switch, during the course of a ride, in response to the phone messages from observers and/or passengers.

The next step after that is multiple cars with the potential for overtaking!