#1401: TumTime

Small changes in internal temperature can apparently be used to drive the body’s circadian rhythms.

This suggests today’s invention: a new remedy for jetlag.

This takes the form of a pill-shaped pellet inside which is sealed a mobile phone receiver and a small motor whose output shaft rubs against the inside of the pellet wall.

When you are to take a flight to a new timezone, you swallow the device and engage an automatic sequence of calls to it. These are timed to occur so that the frictional heating of the pellet interior warms one’s body just enough, during its transit through the gut, to mimic the diurnal temperature variation normally experienced at your destination.

#1384: Flightframe

Helicopters obviously have limited load-lifting capability.

Today’s invention is a frame (red) to which individual helicopters can be bolted in order to allow truly massive weights to be transported easily, with the load shared between n rotary-wing aircraft.

Given that no pilot is keen to have their craft attached to others, the frame would also contain circuitry which allows n-1 uncrewed machines to be controlled in synchrony from a master helicopter.

#1371: SayScan

People who spend their working lives scrutinising images from baggage scanning machines, need all the help they can get (as well as a doubling of their pay rate).

It seems that if you are prompted by hearing words, you tend to be more effective at detecting related items.

Today’s invention is therefore an MP3 recording which randomly says words like “wires”,”blade”,”drugs” etc to a person engaged in this task, so that they will maintain vigilance and improve the chances of discovering illicit baggage contents.

#1357: BlimpBags

Crisp packets are designed with a foil lining to ensure the product stays fresh.

Today’s invention is to add some novelty to a rather conservative market segment by making more use of the metallised bags.

Fill them with helium and sell them, like balloons, attached to a string.

Helium wouldn’t stay in the packets nearly as long as air is kept out, but, given the small weight of product per bag, imagine the advertising benefit to the company that tries this out first of having people walk back from the shops with their brand held aloft.

#1356: QuailMail

Now that we have GPS and relatively cheap UAVs, today’s invention is to unite these technologies to provide peer-to-peer package post.

Fire up your personal UAV quadricopter, and supply it with your friend’s address. Attach a package and the UAV will travel straight to the target postcode using GPS (avoiding trees, buildings and paragliders).

On nearing the destination, it will detect the wifi generated by the recipient’s hub and travel along a line of increasing signal strength until it messages the receiver who will emerge to collect the package.

#1330: ChopperSwopper

The twin-rotor Chinook helicopter is a remarkable design. If anyone suggested having two sets of counter-rotating interleaved rotor blades they might well be criticised for optimism bordering on naivete…my speciality, in fact.

Today’s invention is a Chinook upgrade in which each rotor blade engages its outer end with the distal rotor hub, driving that hub’s rotors around until it slows enough so that that end then becomes the inner end of the blade rotating about the distal hub.

This stresses each blade more evenly and lessens the overall sweep of the blades as shown in the diagram -in which the helicopter is flying up the page. The single blade shown swaps from hub to hub, providing drive for one rotor from the other without any need for a drive shaft (difficult, but not impossible to achieve).

#1295: LandingSight

I am paranoid about the safety performance of commercial airlines (despite their being statistically safer to travel with than driving to the airport).

If there is some kind of an emergency landing required, I’d really rather not have to rely on the pilot peering out the window in the hope of making a splashdown on a calm Hudson River.

Today’s invention is to provide pilots in an emergency situation with a visual display (based eg on Google Earth) which shows the real-time best landing site (taking into account fuel load, engine conditions, terrain flatness, population density and control systems integrity).

Flying over land, this would provide a moment-to-moment visualisation of where to put down.

In a real emergency, where flight crew were unconscious, this map could talk to the autopilot landing program and increase the chances of getting down in one piece. In a real disaster, it might help the plane to crash with minimal damage on the ground.

#1263: BarrAsh

Following the recent furore about volcanic ash in the atmosphere, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has decided that 2mg/ m^3 is the airborne ash density below which it’s ok to fly.

Military aviators are a lot less cautious about air quality. They also have a range of countermeasures they can employ when being pursued by their opposition. Having seen the damage which ash can cause in a jet engine, today’s invention is a countermeasure based on this.

When followed by a jet aircraft, the target plane would start to inject some of its own ceramic engine outlet components into its exhaust stream, so that they burned (like an ablation shield on a space capsule).

This would periodically cause visible, dense puffs of silica ash (locally >>2mg/ m^3) to be ejected and cause any pursuing aircraft to avoid the clouds. The clouds themselves would remain airborne, a little like barrage balloons, until normal turbulence dispersed them.

#1244: Spacears

In space, no-one can hear you scream…so today’s invention is 3-D hearing for spacewalkers.

The number of people who work in the near vacuum of space is set to increase. These people hear only radio transmissions, the sounds of their suits and their own physiology.

First, equip each spacewalker’s helmet with stereo headphones. All astronauts, and anything movable, would be fitted with a small transmitter sending out a chirp of radio every second or so. These transmissions would be unique to the source person or object.

A processor aboard the Astro’s helmet would receive these and translate them into characteristic, realistic noises in stereo (an approach from the seven o’clock position by a friend or a passing robot arm could be perceived in advance, thus boosting safety and general ‘situation awareness’.

Toolboxes drifting off would soon be detected by their simulated wooshing into the distance as well as an occasional plaintive cry of ‘help’.

The headphones would also drown out one’s stomach rumblings when it’s time for that dehydrated stew, again.

#1237: Choppercropper

When you learn to parachute jump, they teach you to perform a special landing technique called a PLF. This is intended to provide a more gradual and thus less jarring impact with terra all too firma.

Today’s invention is to orient a crashing helicopter in such a way that the tail rotor arm hits the ground first, absorbing a lot of the kinetic energy as gradual, gross plastic deformation of this region.

This reorientation could be achieved by eg having small wings extend explosively from the sides of the tail boom at the moment when the main rotor was sensed to have failed.

The tail could be designed to be internally like an automotive crush zone and also potentially angled much less upwards from the horizontal than normal.

This would allow the cabin to avoid auguring in by having its untimely descent slowed (a bit like a factory chimney demolished by the legendary Fred Dinbah).