#2447: Transformair

If we can have flying machines like the Osprey whose rotors turn into propellers, then today’s invention is another form of slightly unlikely aircraft.

Imagine a large, twin rotor helicopter, powered by two gas turbines and capable of vertical takeoff.

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At altitude, the rotor blades on each axle slide around and link together -forming two sets of fixed, conventional wings (grey).

After a few seconds of steep glide, the jet turbine exhaust(yellow) is directed backwards to provide propulsion (and, via the new wings, lift).

#2446: HuBurst

In the higher reaches of motor racing, pitstops can be crucial. Shaving a few hundredths of a second off your time spent at zero velocity is surprisingly important.

Today’s invention is a small contribution towards that goal.

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As the car is jacked up, an air driver is used to remove the wheel nut (yellow).

As the nut is removed, it rips open the tyre’s air valve, causing it to deflate via a tube directed towards the chassis (red).

This provides some extra momentum to the wheel being removed, so that it flies more readily off the axle.

#2445: Blackspotlights

Streetlights seem to be either on, or off (if we forget about any warming up period).

It’s usually hard to make a case for lighting some streets more brightly than others.

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It seems, however, that New York has now made available data which map where road accidents occur.

Today’s invention is to use this information to vary the light emitted from individual streetlights.

An area with a high incidence of traffic accidents would automatically get their lights set to brighter-than-normal. Other, less accident-prone streets would be less brightly illuminated.

This would result in an easing of accident blackspots, as well as a net reduction in the lighting costs for hard-pressed city administrators.

#2444: MagmaMould

In many places volcanoes exude a flow of liquid rock almost continously.

Today’s invention offers a way for local communities to exploit this, by offering mementos to visiting pyrophiles.

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A mould could be created (by local craftsmen) and attached to a tractor using a long spar made of high melting point steel.

As the tractor drives the mould into the magma, the trapped gas escapes through a vent in the top.

The tractor withdraws and the rock within the mould gradually cools, allowing stone sculptures to be extracted for later sale.

#2443: Launchlift

I’m always in search of new flying systems and today’s invention is a way to help aircraft escape the deck of a carrier.

These vessels have giant lifts which transport planes to the flightdeck from the bowels of the ship.

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Imagine if, instead of a sedate journey upwards, the lift was designed to boost a plane (or several planes) vertically above the deck and say 30m into the sky.

The acceleration would be limited by the pilot’s tolerance for g-force, but at that height, the plane’s engines would fire up and allow it to clear the side of the deck as it fell seawards before gaining altitude and flying away.

#2442: SeatShares

I’ve been spending too much time lately, poring over the minutiae provided on seatguru.com. It almost seems as if they will soon be rating each actual seat: “Seat 29B has an unfortunate stain on the armrest and a non-functioning earphone jack”. I guess with mobile communications, that is currently possible.

Anyway, today’s invention is a new concept in commercial flight.

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It’s normally assumed that when you buy a seat, you will stay located there for all of your journey.

Instead, imagine that you are travelling on a long-haul flight and want to pay extra for a wide seat and some comparatively decent grub…but for only part of your trip.

Halfway through a long flight, a light would turn on over your seat telling you to swap with the person in 22C, who has also bought a cattle+/business- ticket.

(People might have to pay more for a business class seat during the latter half of a flight than the first part).

This system could also work for swaps within a given class…offering hope if you start off sitting beside someone who is too large/sweaty/chatty…or whatever. Seat swaps would have to occur staggered over a few minutes to avoid a chaotic game of musical chairs.

Maybe there is even some scope for a passengerguru.com -which allows people to rate their neighbours.

#2441: Tapwriter

It seems that the Kremlin is thinking of returning to typewriters instead of computers. In the 1970s, the Soviets developed a special sensor which could interpret the vibrations of windows in US Govt. buildings when typewriters were in use.

They could thus read the content of any secret memos in preparation.

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Although silent, non-networked machines are still used to create certain documents, I’m told, today’s invention is simply a tapper device which bumps the window with a wide variety of frequencies and amplitudes whenever a keyboard of any kind is in use in a room. It might be possible to have it tap the window according to the content of a particularly rude but non-secret message, for example.

This should effectively scramble any possible eavesdropping, for both/any sides in a future cold war.

#2440: ChopperChopper

Today’s invention is a new form of armament for military helicopters.

A belt of bullets (with no gunpowder) is fed up a tube inside the drive shaft of the main rotor (red circles).

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This emerges from the end of a rotor blade.

At this point, a computer-controlled chopping device precisely times the separation of a bullet from its belt (white box), so that it flies off tangentially towards its target.

Each rotor blade can therefore act as a catapult arm, delivering enormous firepower (as long as the timing carefully avoids the tail rotor).

#2439: Unstitcher

Unstitching a garment by manually unpicking the stitches is a problem for the recycling industry. In the clothing business, such activity is done largely by sweatshop labour.

Today’s invention is an unsewing machine.

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A section of stitches to be unpicked would be marked with eg an ultraviolet ink at the start and end.

This section would be inserted under the cutting head which would be fitted with a small camera.

The material would be propelled past a small blade. This would be guided, by the camera, to snip any stitches (ie threads larger in scale and/or of a different colour from the main material).

#2438: Gutterace

I’m mad keen on the engineering of speed records. Driving at enormous speed across salt or mud flats is fraught with difficulties, however.

These natural materials are flat because of the evaporation of water from their surfaces, but they still have quite a scaly, dusty texture, which makes route selection problematic and grip uneven.

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Today’s invention is a permanent, uniform track enabling record attempts to be made almost anywhere with the political will to spend the money (countries at higher altitudes may also have an advantage).

First, lay a 15-mile railway track with a super-strong substrate and horizontal to a very finely controlled level of precision. The track would need a loop at either end

Then lay on top of that long sections of big-diameter open concrete gutter (say 5m in diameter). These could be standard civil engineering components but with extra careful caulking at the joints.

The effect would be to create a very smooth, open channel down which a variety of vehicles could be propelled under reproducible conditions.