Turn Your Fixed-Wing Into A Helicopter?
Australian researchers are working on an idea that could eventually lead to conventional aircraft being able to gently lower and pick up cargo, including people, in places where even helicopters can't make the delivery. And the technology involved requires little more than a sturdy length of cable and a winch. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is patterning its work after the exploits of a little-known American missionary named Nate Saint who used the innovative (and almost impossibly simple) system 50 years ago to exchange (yes, it was a two-way effort) gifts with indigenous people in the jungles of South America. Saint discovered that if he flew his plane in a tight circle while paying out a long rope with a package on the end, the package would, after initially flailing and whirling around in the slipstream, become more stable as he lengthened the rope. Ultimately, the package would become a slowly rotating, nearly stationary object that he was able to lower or raise at will. It was so stable that he would deliver gifts of machetes and food to aboriginal people and they would repack the container with gifts for him, all while he was flying in circles overhead. A live parrot made the trip. The Aussies think the principles could be applied in numerous ways, from search and rescue to military operations, lessening dependence on helicopters, which have speed and payload limitations.