Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Electric aeroplanes

powered by the sky grid
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This idea arose out of the discussion about lightning generators. "If most of the energy is dissipated as the lightning strike travels to the ground," I reasoned, "why not capture it in the sky, before lightning ever forms?"

Float a grid of steel cables, supported by balloons, above the major skylanes. These collect the charge building up in the clouds and aeroplanes travel underneath using electric motors that are fed power using a contact arm that brushes against the underside of the grid. Think fairground dodgem cars in the sky.

Obviously the supporting balloons would need engines themselves to hold position against air currents. The contact mechanism between the plane and the grid would also be very prone to catastrophic entanglement and mid-air collisions would be much more likely since the skylane would be reduced to a 2 dimensional ribbon. The planes would need to store some power to cope with takeoff and landing and the whole infra-structure would be immensely costly to setup and maintain.

But apart from *that*, what have the Romans ever done for us?

gravelpit, Aug 29 2001

Some stuff about balloons http://www.elliotta...1999q1/wavart24.asp
[angel, Aug 29 2001, last modified Oct 17 2004]

And just for fun... http://www.museumof...ia/steam_engine.htm
...a steam aircraft engine. [angel, Aug 29 2001, last modified Oct 17 2004]

What it might look like . . . http://bz.pair.com/fun/electricAero.html
23 Feb 03 | Hey, better late than never, right? [29Kb image] [bristolz, Oct 17 2004]

[link]






       Heath-Robinson meets Harry Harrison. I like it.
Unfortunately, it seems that the normal operating altitudes for balloons and heavier-than-air craft are incompatible. 747s fly at around 40,000 ft, and ballons at around 10,000. I'm not saying that these figures are carved in stone, but there may be a problem in this area.
angel, Aug 29 2001
  

       "Where there's a will, theres a way" - that's what my Grandma always said. If I'd known she was going to will me nothing but books and furniture I'd have done something to promote this idea. But since she didn't, I'll just suspend belief at - oh say - about 40,100 feet. My belief is strong enough to withstand forces incomprehensibile to most mere mortals. So that should keep those balloons aloft in the range which will allow these aeroplanes to keep flying without polluting the friendly skies. Balloon in the shape of a Croissant for you while I ignore what the low altitude angel has to say about all that annoying reality stuff.
thumbwax, Aug 29 2001
  

       Totally agree, [thumb], which is why I pastrified it. A lot of surreal-tech ideas here are discussed in terms of the feasability *and* the half-bakedy-ness; I'm pointing out that I think the former is a dead-end, but I love the latter, like I love steam-powered things, especially helicopters and autogyros. This is such a nutty idea that I'm almost glad it seems to be impossible, otherwise some of the fun would disappear.
angel, Aug 29 2001
  

       Romans introduced the need for security for portable devices - what with those kind offers to take your picture when they suddenly remember they need to pawn a camera - namely, yours.
thumbwax, Aug 29 2001
  

       where can I get a steam powered kettle?
po, Aug 29 2001
  

       this is an intresting idea. Alot of imagination let me just say if you can make it work it will be an amazing acheivment, and an engineering breakthrough.   

       But for the moment the first part of your plan has some merrit. It has been attempted a few times "Float a grid of steel cables, supported by balloons, above the major skylanes. These collect the charge building up in the clouds"   

       the only problem is that weather is unpridictable.   

       I think Canada once tried something similar to this in the 70's, but with todays technology it might work.   

       but it would probably be safer to collect this energy into batterys and then transfer the energy to the planes and other vehicles in loads rather than continuosly in mid air.
wood2coal, Aug 29 2001
  

       [gravelpit]: //…the grid would also be very prone to catastrophic entanglement … // Would the plane, passengers, and freight be electrolysed (sp?) into additional charge for the grid?
reensure, Aug 29 2001
  

       Sure, why not?
thumbwax, Aug 30 2001
  

       It is a dumb idea. Such ideas are frequently advanced by people with insufficient knowledge of physics.   

       So I will ask: Please provide DETAILS on how static electricity can be "captured" and stored at high density sufficient to run powerful engines. You might want to review how much power is required by flying machines. Hint: we are talking MegaWatts for periods of several hours.
boris, Oct 27 2001
  

       Boris has been smoking of that annoying reality stuff.
snarfyguy, Feb 23 2003
  

       What no hullabaloon in the sketch?
lummox, Feb 27 2003
  

       Sorry. They got taken off the market.
bristolz, Sep 27 2003
  
      
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