Thinking Tech

Bizarre object flies by changing shape

Posting in Design

A Swiss artist may have invented an entirely new way to fly.

Inventors are always dreaming up new kinds of aircraft. But how many can actually say they've invented an entirely new way to fly?

One such person, it appears, is Swiss designer Paul Schatz, who got really imaginative in coming up with SmartInversion, an object that can navigate the skies by turning itself inside out.

This is made possible by strategically attaching together a series of prism-shaped containers filled with helium. The structure, which consists primarily of lightweight carbon fiber tubing, uses a combination of three servo motors and a lithium battery-powered ARM computer processor to power the shape-shifting mechanism. Flight control is done remotely using an iPhone app.

What's particularly neat about this method of flight is the absence of loud rotor blades, gas turbine engines or clunky wings. Instead the object takes advantage of the physics of kinetic motion and momentum to achieve propulsion. And as the Festo design team states on their website, "inversion kinematics can be indefinitely maintained to produce motion through the air."

And as you can see from the video, there's also something kind of surreal about watching it move through the air. The SmartInversion doesn't exactly hover like a helicopter, nor is there anything bird-like about it. Instead it just kind of swims, like a jellyfish.

Currently, it's nothing more than a fun concept since no one's quite figured out a practical application for the technology. For that, Festo is sponsoring a competition which offers cash prizes for students who comes up with the best ideas.

The flying shape-shifting jellyfish prism geometric-shaped thingie is on display this week at the Hannover Messe technology trade show in Germany, where attendees can come take it for a spin -- inverted style.

Author´s note: I know I promised a post about an innovative car of the future. It´ll be posted tomorrow, pinky swear this time!

(via Festo)

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure