Flying circles around the helicopter

时间:2019-03-03 06:03:03166网络整理admin

By David Hambling ECUADOR, 1956. A small aircraft skims dangerously low over the rainforest, making tight circles above a narrow canyon. The pilot is Nate Saint, a missionary from the Mission Aviation Fellowship. He wants to show the Waodani people in the remote settlement below that he is friendly. Gifts are a universal language. Now all he has to do is drop them into a small clearing. Keeping one hand on the joystick, he reels a basket loaded with machetes and cooking pots out of the plane on a long line. When enough rope is paid out, Saint’s tight circular flight path combines with the forces of gravity and drag to hold the basket almost motionless in the air. He lets out more line, lowering the basket until it hovers a metre above the ground. The Waodani understand, and reach into the basket for the gifts. They even leave some in return – a feather head dress, some smoked meat and a parrot which Saint’s son later adopts as a pet. Although Saint’s “bucket drop” technique, perfected over the orange groves of California, proved invaluable for making contact, it has been largely ignored – until now. Almost 50 years after Saint’s flight, Pavel Trivailo and a team of engineers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia are exploring the same basic principles to devise a more sophisticated air delivery system. They are working on an automated device that will allow them to pick up and put down loads – including people – with hardly a jolt. If their system is successful, it could speed up rescues at sea,