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Publication numberUS20050288114 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/191,928
Publication dateDec 29, 2005
Filing dateJul 29, 2005
Priority dateMay 7, 2002
Also published asCN101267866A, EP1919587A2, EP1919587A4, WO2007016142A2, WO2007016142A3
Publication number11191928, 191928, US 2005/0288114 A1, US 2005/288114 A1, US 20050288114 A1, US 20050288114A1, US 2005288114 A1, US 2005288114A1, US-A1-20050288114, US-A1-2005288114, US2005/0288114A1, US2005/288114A1, US20050288114 A1, US20050288114A1, US2005288114 A1, US2005288114A1
InventorsJoseph Meadows
Original AssigneeMeadows Joseph S
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
System and apparatus for propelling and carrying a user within a confined interior
US 20050288114 A1
Abstract
The present invention comprises an inflatable balloon of sufficient volume and buoyancy to allow a human pilot to float above the ground and to glide over the ground within an enclosed area. The balloon incorporates several safety features that permit it to be used for recreation, including a prop-bike to enable the user to propel the balloon. Various structures, including a portable structure and a retaining structure in a stadium are described for use with the inflatable balloon.
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Claims(20)
1. A system for allowing a user to float and glide for entertainment, the system comprising:
a portable structure enclosing a predetermined space;
a device for allowing a user to move in three dimensions within the predetermined space, wherein said device includes:
an inflatable balloon;
a plurality of lines secured to one another at one end and operatively connected to said balloon;
a parachute harness; and
a fastener for securing said parachute harness to a free end of at least one of said plurality of lines.
2. The system according to claim 1, wherein said balloon comprises a layer of polyurethane-coated nylon.
3. The system according to claim 1, further comprising a deflation zipper operates to deflate said balloon.
4. The system according to claim 1, wherein said lines are secured to one another at one end by at least one ring.
5. The system according to claim 1, wherein said fastener comprises a locking carabiner.
6. The system according to claim 1, wherein said portable structure comprises a netting.
7. The system according to claim 1, wherein said portable structure is supported by at least one support balloon.
8. The system according to claim 1, wherein said portable structure further comprises:
a retaining structure for retaining said balloon in the predetermined space; and
at least one support for supporting said retaining structure.
9. The system according to claim 8, wherein said retaining structure comprises a netting.
10. The system according to claim 8, wherein said at least one support comprises at least one support balloon.
11. The system according to claim 10, wherein said portable structure further comprises at least one anchor for securing said at least one support balloon.
12. A system for allowing a user to float and glide for entertainment, the system comprising:
a retaining structure enclosing a predetermined space and connected to a permanent structure having at least one side;
a device for allowing a user to move in three dimensions within the predetermined space, wherein said device includes:
an inflatable balloon;
a plurality of lines secured to one another at one end and operatively connected to said balloon;
a parachute harness; and
a fastener for securing said harness to a free end of at least one of said plurality of lines.
13. The system according to claim 12, wherein said balloon comprises a layer of polyurethane-coated nylon.
14. The system according to claim 12, wherein said lines are secured to one another at one end by at least one ring.
15. The system according to claim 12, further comprising a deflation zipper operates to deflate said balloon.
16. The system according to claim 12, wherein said permanent structure is a stadium.
17. The system according to claim 16, wherein said stadium further includes at least one seating section, and
wherein said retaining structure further comprising a protective barrier located between said at least one seating section and the predetermined space.
18. The system according to claim 17, wherein said protective barrier comprises a netting.
19. The system according to claim 16, wherein said stadium further comprises a roof having an opening, and
wherein said retaining structure further comprises a protective barrier located across said roof opening to prevent said balloon from moving through the roof opening.
20. The system according to claim 19, wherein said protective barrier comprises a netting.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §120 as a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/430,676, filed on May 7, 2003, which claims priority to Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/377,976, filed on May 7, 2002, and Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/448,141, filed on Feb. 20, 2003, the disclosures of which all are expressly incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to using balloons filled with helium gas, and more specifically, this invention relates to using helium balloons designed to carry and propel a single person aloft within a confined interior.

2. Related Art

People have used gas-filled balloons for transportation since the Montgolfier brothers, Joseph Michel and Jacques Etienne, invented the first hot air balloon in 1783. There have been hot air balloons designed to carry a single person. Such a device typically includes a compressed flammable gas tank strapped to the pilot's back and a burner above the pilot's head. The open flame needed for heating the air makes such a device relatively dangerous to use, however. Additionally, the burning gas pollutes the atmosphere, and the burner is quite noisy when in use. Moreover, the equipment associated with a single-person hot air balloon is prohibitively expensive to acquire and requires a truck to transport. And the diameter of a balloon needed to carry a single person is nearly 40 feet, making the balloon difficult to maneuver, especially in more crowded airspace. All of these disadvantages make such a device relatively undesirable and wholly impractical for widespread use by the public.

A helium-filled balloon overcomes these disadvantages. Helium gas is plentiful, non-flammable (and therefore safe) and environmentally friendly. Without a gas tank and a burner, a helium balloon is less expensive to acquire, and a deflated balloon can be transported by the pilot inside a passenger car. Finally, a helium balloon one-eighth the volume of a hot air balloon will lift the same weight so the diameter of the balloon for carrying a single person needs only to be 18-20 feet.

Even with these comparative advantages, however, helium balloons designed to carry a single person have seen only limited and obscure use in the past. In the early 1900s, people began using rubber balloons filled with helium gas for recreation. In this sport, men would hang precariously from nets strung over several helium balloons and race each other across large open areas as spectators placed bets on which pilot would be the winner. Perhaps because of the potential danger associated with a balloon puncture or a loss of grip, this sport never gained much popularity.

As recently as 1985, the movie “Leap of Faith” starring Steve Martin featured an untethered, one-man helium balloon. In the movie, the character played by Martin “flew” the balloon to rescue a small child from a dangerous balloon. What the movie does not show is the fact that an accident occurred during the filming. The balloon used in the production was not made from a rip-stop material. Rather, it consisted of a single layer of fabric and the attachment points for the harness used by the pilot were essentially glued to the underside of the balloon. As a result, the balloon tore as it hit the wall of the rock quarry where the girl in the film was to be rescued, and the stuntman piloting the balloon suffered a broken back. The production company destroyed the unsafe, poorly constructed balloon after the filming had concluded.

In 1995, U.S. Pat. No. 5,391,115 issued for an invention entitled “Low Gravity Jumping Apparatus.” This invention discloses a helium balloon for providing a buoyant upward force but it does not provide any features for making the balloon safe for recreational use. Instead, the invention focuses on the design of a special harness and frame combination that allows the rider to rotate his or her body in a horizontal or vertical axis. The use of such a device only increases the risk associated with the activity.

Moreover, use of helium balloons is typically subject to the conditions of the weather. High winds, rain and other conditions may prevent the use of a helium balloon, or may curtail the enjoyment of the experience for the riders. Further, the dependence upon wind for the movement of the helium balloon may limit its use, as appropriate landing areas may not be available due to the direction of the wind. Further, structures to allow use of balloons may be expensive.

Other drawbacks may also be present.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention avoids the disadvantages and drawbacks of the prior art.

The invention thus provides a system and process for a user to float and glide for entertainment in various venues. The advantages of the invention may include fitting existing structures to allow use of a balloon. Advantages may also be achieved by providing temporary structures to allow use of a balloon. An aspect of the invention may provides a system for allowing a user to float and glide for entertainment includes a portable structure enclosing a predetermined space and a device for allowing a user move in three dimensions within the enclosed space. The device includes an inflatable balloon, a plurality of lines secured to one another at one end and operatively connected to said balloon, a parachute harness and a fastener for securing said parachute harness to a free end of at least one of said plurality of lines. The balloon may include a layer of polyurethane-coated nylon and may have a deflation zipper that operates to deflate said balloon. The lines may be secured to one another at one end by at least one ring. The fastener may include a locking carabiner.

Further, the portable structure may include a retaining structure for retaining the balloon in the predetermined space and at least one support for supporting said retaining structure. The portable structure may include a netting. The portable structure also may be supported by at least one support balloon. The retaining structure may include a netting. The portable structure may further include at least one anchor for securing the support balloon.

Another aspect of the invention provides a system for allowing a user to float and glide for entertainment including a retaining structure enclosing a predetermined space and connected to a permanent structure having at least one side and a device for allowing a user to move in three dimensions within the enclosed space. The device includes an inflatable balloon, a plurality of lines secured to one another at one end and operatively connected to the balloon, a parachute harness, and a fastener for securing said harness to a free end of at least one of the plurality of lines. The balloon may include a layer of polyurethane-coated nylon and may have a deflation zipper that operates to deflate the balloon. The lines may be secured to one another at one end by at least one ring.

The permanent structure may be a stadium. The stadium may further include at least one seating section, wherein the retaining structure further includes a protective barrier located between the at least one seating section and the predetermined space. The protective barrier may include a netting. The stadium may further include a roof having an opening, wherein the retaining structure further include s a protective barrier located across the roof opening to prevent the balloon from moving through the roof opening. The protective barrier may include a netting.

Additional features, advantages and embodiments of the invention may be set forth or apparent from consideration of the following detailed description, drawings and claims. Moreover, it is to be understood that both the foregoing summary of the invention and the following detailed description are exemplary and intended to provide further explanation without limiting the scope of the invention as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The accompanying drawings, which are included to provide a further understanding of the invention, are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and together with the detailed description serve to explain the principles of the invention. No attempt is made to show structural details of the invention in more detail than may be necessary for a fundamental understanding of the invention and the various ways in which it may be practiced. In the drawings:

FIG. 1 illustrates is an view of a helium balloon according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a partial cut-away view of the balloon according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 3 is a side view of another embodiment of the balloon according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a top view of the balloon according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a bottom view of the balloon according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 is an illustration of a dome using a balloon according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 7 illustrates a head on view of a prop-bike according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 8 illustrates a side view of a prop-bike according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9 illustrates a partial view of a bottom fairing of a prop-bike according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 10 illustrates a gear configuration for a prop-bike according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 11 illustrates a conventional stadium configured for using a balloon according to an embodiment of the invention; and

FIGS. 12A and 12B illustrate top and side views, respectively, of a portable enclosure for using a balloon according to an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The embodiments of the invention and the various features and advantageous details thereof are explained more fully with reference to the non-limiting embodiments and examples that are described and/or illustrated in the accompanying drawings and detailed in the following description. It should be noted that the features illustrated in the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale, and features of one embodiment may be employed with other embodiments as the skilled artisan would recognize, even if not explicitly stated herein. Descriptions of well-known components and processing techniques may be omitted so as to not unnecessarily obscure the embodiments of the invention. The examples used herein are intended merely to facilitate an understanding of ways in which the invention may be practiced and to further enable those of skill in the art to practice the embodiments of the invention. Accordingly, the examples and embodiments herein should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention, which is defined solely by the appended claims and applicable law. Moreover, it is noted that like reference numerals represent similar parts throughout the several views of the drawings.

A system and apparatus process for carrying and propelling a single person aloft in a helium balloon within a confined interior. Various aspects and components of this system and process are described below. While the present invention is described in terms of a helium balloon (hereinafter also referred to as a “balloon”), a propeller driven device and an inflated dome, it is recognized that other apparatus that achieve these results may also be used.

According to an embodiment of the invention, a dome and prop-bike provide a recreational area for using a helium balloon. The dome provides an enclosure for using the helium balloon, thereby preventing the balloon from flying off. FIG. 6 illustrates a dome providing a recreational area for using a helium balloon according to an embodiment of the invention. A dome 100 provides an interior for gas filled balloons 102, such as helium filled balloons, to carry riders 104. As illustrated in FIG. 6, a plurality of balloon 102 with riders 104 may be used within dome 100. Balloons 102 and riders 104 may be equipped to allow contact with other balloons 102 and riders 104, such as padding, reinforced materials, and the like. Although an embodiment of the dome 100 provides the use of an air supported structure, such as by positive air pressure, other embodiments may also be used. The dome 100 provides an enclosure to allow users 104 of the helium balloon 102 to bounce off the walls and ceilings of the structure, as well as bounce their balloon off the balloons of other users. The materials used in dome 100 should enable the balloons 102 to bounce without damaging the balloons 102. By way of example, for balloons 102 made of nylon or similar type material, the inner walls and ceiling of the dome 100 may require padding and the like, with sharp points and edges covered to prevent the balloons from snagging and/or ripping on them. Stronger material used for the balloons 100 may require less padding on the interior of the dome. According to an embodiment of the invention, the interior of the dome is padded sufficiently to prevent damage and snagging of the balloon.

The dome may also be of sufficient size to enable one or more users to operate a balloon within the dome. By way of example, a dome may cover approximately 40,000 square feet or more, with a height of about 100 feet. Such a structure would enable a number of users to jump within the dome, bouncing off walls and each other's balloon. By way of this example, existing domes, such as those used for football, baseball and other sports, may be used. Other structure sizes may also be used.

FIG. 11 is a schematic diagram illustrating a system for providing an enclosure according to an embodiment of the invention. Manned balloons 1110, such as those described above, are provided in a stadium or other permanent structure 1120. According to an embodiment of the invention, stadium 1120 is a permanent structure that is used for various sporting events, such as football, soccer, baseball, or the like. As illustrated in FIG. 11, stadium 1120 has stands 1130, a floor 1180, a roof 1150 and an opening 1160 in the roof.

For the manned balloons 1110, such as parabounce balloons (as shown) or balloons having a bicycle-propeller attached (not shown and described in greater detail below), it may be necessary to provide a structure between the stands 1130 and the users of the manned balloons 1110 using the floor 1180 of the stadium 1120 to avoid injury to the person and/or damage to the balloon. To achieve this, a stand barrier 1140 may be located between the stands 1130 and the floor 1180. According to an embodiment of the invention, stand barrier 1140 may be in the form of a net.

As will be understood by one skilled in the art, the stand barrier 1140 must be of sufficient strength to prevent the manned balloons 1110 from coming into contact with the stands 1130, 1130A and 1130B. The stand barrier 1140 may be made of ropes, nylon strands, wires, strips of cloth, netting or other material. The spacing in the net need only be small enough to prevent the manned balloons 1110 from reaching the stands 1130, 1130A and 1130B. Thus, if the manned balloon has, for example, a diameter of twenty (20) feet, it may only be necessary for a rope netting to be ten (10) feet between parallel ropes.

According to the embodiment of the invention illustrated in FIG. 1, stands 1130 comprise lower stands 1130A and upper stands 11301B. In this embodiment, a stand barrier 1140 is attached to the base of the lower stands 1130A and to a portion of upper stands 1130B. For example, where upper stands 1130B is part of a deck overhanging lower stands 1130A, the stand barrier 1140 may be connected to the deck. The connection may be a hard connection, such as the stand barrier 1140 tied to a portion upper stands 1130B. Alternatively, the connection may be a moveable connection. For example, a pulley may be attached to the deck portion of the upper stands 1130. A rope is attached to the stand barrier 1140 and operably connected to the pulley to allow the stand barrier to be raised and lowered. Thus, according to an embodiment of the invention, a stadium 1120 may be used for standard events (football, baseball, etc.) at some times and may then be fitted to allow users to operate manned balloons 1110 at other times. Further, a stand barrier 1140 may also be placed between the deck of upper stands 11301B and roof 1150 in a similar manner.

As described above, in some embodiments, the stadium 1120 may have a roof 1150 with a roof opening 1160. As will be apparent to one skilled in the art, it may be necessary for a roof barrier 1170 to be placed across the roof opening 1160 to prevent manned balloons 1110 from escaping the confines of the stadium 1120. For example, if the manned balloon 1110 is a parabounce balloon as described above, a roof barrier 1170 may be necessary to ensure that if the person riding in the manned balloon jumps with enough force, or if the manned balloon is too light to descend properly the manned balloon does not leave the stadium 1120. According to an embodiment of the invention, roof barrier 1170 may be made of the same material and construction as stand barrier 1140. By way of example, if stand barrier 1140 is in the form of colored cloth strips having advertising located on the cloth strips, it may be desirable to have the roof barrier 1170 also made of colored cloth strips to match those in stand barrier 1140. Alternatively if netting is used as the stand barrier 1140 for example, it may be desirable to have the rod barrier 1170 made of netting as well. It is understood that if stadium 1120 does not have a roof opening 1160, it still may be desirable or necessary to use a roof barrier 1170 to prevent a balloon, such as a manned balloon 1110, from contacting the roof 1150.

In addition, roof barrier 1170 may be connected to the roof 1150 by a hard connection or by a moveable connection. For a hard connection, the roof barrier 1170, such as netting, may be attached directly, such as by tying, to portions of the 1150. For a moveable connection, pulleys with ropes may be used to stretch a roof barrier 1170 across the opening 1160 of roof 1150. Other methods will also be apparent to those skilled in the art. According to another embodiment of the invention, balloons such as parabounce balloons described herein, may be used to support one or more parts of roof barrier 1170. While roof 1150 is shown with an opening 1160, it is understood that some stadiums 1120 have a roof 1150 without an opening. Therefore, the roof barrier 1170 may not be necessary for such stadiums 1120. However, in some buildings, a roof will have a hard surface that requires some type of covering.

FIGS. 12A and 12B illustrate top and side views of a portable system for providing an enclosure 1210 according to an embodiment of the invention. Support balloons 1220 are shown located above the enclosure 1210 and each are connected to the enclosure 1210 via balloon attachment lines 1240. Support balloons 1220 hold the enclosure 1210 aloft, thereby providing temporary support.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 12A and 12B, enclosure 1210 comprises four horizontal main lines 1250 attached in a square configuration. At each corner of the square created by the horizontal main lines 1250, a vertical main line 1260 is attached at one end. The other end of each vertical main line 1260 is attached to an anchor device 1230. The anchor device may be a weight, a stake driven into the ground, a stationary object (e.g., tree, rock), a large movable object (e.g., secured to the bumper or to a trailer hitch of a car or truck), or any device that would prevent the support balloons 1220, and thus the enclosure 1210, from floating away.

In addition to horizontal main lines 1250 and vertical main lines 1260, a plurality of netting lines 1270 are provided to complete the enclosure 1210. As illustrated, netting lines 1270 are provided both horizontally and vertically between vertical main lines 1260. Further, netting lines 1270 are attached at each end to horizontal main lines 1250 to form a net on the top of enclosure 1210. The netting lines 1270 may be arranged so that a manned balloon 1280 cannot escape through either the top or the side of the enclosure 1210. For example, if the diameter of the manned balloons 1280 is twenty (20) feet across, the netting lines 1270 may be arranged so that parallel lines are no more than about ten (10) feet apart.

While the temporary enclosure 1210 has been described in terms of a netting, it is understood that other materials and configurations may be used without departing from the principles of the invention. By way of example, the enclosure 1210 may be made of nylon rope, cloth or other material that functions to enclose the manned balloons 1280.

According to another embodiment of the invention, a mechanical device may be used to propel users of a balloon. This device may be used to propel users of a balloon within a dome, as opposed to just propulsion from the user jumping. According to an embodiment of the invention, a bicycle type mechanism, such as the prop-bike, may be used to propel a user. According to an embodiment of the invention, a prop-bike 202 is illustrated in FIGS. 7-10. Prop-bike 202 is attached to a helium balloon 200 through lines 216 attached to a line mount structure, such as ring 214. A swivel suspension 218 attaches ring 214 to a support mount, such as bottom fairing 210 through attachment bar 219. Swivel suspension 218 allows the user to rotate the prop-bike 202 relative to ring 214 and balloon 200. Swivel suspension 218 may be any conventional device for rotating, such as a ball bearing joint, or the like.

One or more propellers 204 located with in a shroud 206 are used to propel the prop-bike 202. The user sits on a bicycle type seat 224, where the mechanism has a control column 208, such as a steering wheel or bicycle handles: A bottom fairing 210 is attached at the bottom. According to an embodiment of the invention, bottom fairing 210 may used to protect moving parts, as well as to provide a platform for landing the prop-bike 202 and enabling the rider to get on and off. Control column 208 is operatively connected to a ruder 220 and elevators 222.

Pedals 212 are attached to gear 226 which is operatively connected to one or more propellers 204. As the user pedals the mechanism, the propellers 204 turn, thereby moving the balloon 200 and the user. The user may then steer with the rudder 220 and elevators 222, directing the path of the balloon 200. Other mechanisms for propelling the balloon, such as compressed gas, fans, or other propulsion mechanisms may also be used. As will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art, it will be necessary to adjust the size of the balloon and the amount of the lift required to account for the weight of the prop bike or other propelling mechanism (e.g., compressed gas, electric fan, motorized fan, etc.) as well as the weight of the user. Further, it is understood that light weight materials, such as plastic, aluminum, or other light weight material.

In the embodiment of the prop bike, a seat 224 for a user is provided with pedals 212 in a recumbent position. As illustrated in FIG. 10, chain 232 is interacts with gear 226, which is connected to pedals 212. According to the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 10, chain 232 interacts to turn gear 228 which is attached to gear 230. Chain 236 interacts with gear 230 to turn gear 234. Gear 234 is connected to and rotates drive 238, which is connected to propeller 206 for moving the prop bike. According to an embodiment of the invention, a propeller tilt and turn control is provided to the user for to control the direction of the prop bike. The control enables the user to tilt the propeller up or down a predetermined amount (e.g. plus or minus ten degrees), as well as tilting the propeller left or right a predetermined amount (e.g. plus or minus ten degrees). This allows the user to control the direction of the flight, either up, down, right, left or some combination thereof. Based on the pedal to gear ratio on the propeller, it may necessary for the prop bike to be used only within a dome, or to be used outside with little or no wind.

According to an embodiment of the invention, the chain assembly and propeller control are surrounded by a protective casing, such as a light-weight plastic shell. As illustrated in FIG. 9, the protective casing, such as bottom fairing 210, serves to support gear 226 and pedal 212 in the front, where the user can operate the pedal 212. Seat 224 is further supported by bottom fairing 210, while gear 228 and gear 230 are supported at the rear of bottom fairing 210. According to an embodiment of the invention, a shock 225 is attached at one end to bottom fairing 210 and attached at the other end to landing pad 227. When the prop-bike is landed, shock 225 absorbs the ground impact when landing pad 227 contacts the ground or other landing surface. Other devices for landing, such as skid pads, or wheels may also be used.

As described above, the prop bike 202 is connected to the balloon 200 by a tether system. For purposes of balance, it may be desirable to use at least three tethers or lines 216 to attach the prop bike to the balloon. Other configurations for the prop bike may also be used.

According to an embodiment of the invention, one or more balloons with a user (or users) for each balloon, may be used within a dome 100 as described in FIG. 6. FIG. 1 illustrates device for a user and a balloon to be used within a dome 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. Device 10 comprises a balloon 12 with a plurality of test lines 14 secured to one another at one end and longitudinally disposed over the balloon 12. In an embodiment of the invention, there may be 16 continuous, 2000-lb test SpectraŽ lines, but the number used may vary with depending on the strength of the lines used. The test lines 14 are connected at the free end to a conventional parachute harness 16 by suitable fastening means 18, such as for example, locking carabiners.

According to an embodiment of the invention tether lines 20 may be used which are also secured to the fastening means 18 at one end. These tether lines will be of sufficient length to permit the balloon to float up to a desired gliding height, and yet keep the balloon moored to the ground. It is recognized that use of device 10 in a dome may be done without use of tether lines 20.

A release valve 22 at the top of the balloon permits rapid deflation of the balloon after use. The balloon also has a plurality of fill valves 24, preferably two, and bleed-off valves 26, preferably three. The bleed-off valves 26 permit a pilot to effect a controlled release of helium gas in the event the balloon floats away or uncontrollably. The pilot operates the bleed-off valves 26 using a tug line 28 operatively connected to the valves.

FIG. 1 shows the invention 10 in use, with a pilot 30 strapped in the harness and two “ground crew” members 32 holding on to the tether lines. To ascend in the balloon (also referred to as a parabounce balloon), the pilot pushes off the ground with his or her legs, thereby propelling himself or herself upward. The resulting force, coupled with the buoyancy of the balloon, is sufficient to overcome the effects of gravity on the balloon and the pilot. Both the ascension and descension are gradual, however.

As seen in FIG. 2, the balloon 12 is preferably constructed from two layers of rip-stop nylon 40 and 42. The individual panels are seamed together using heat. The balloon 12 is preferably about 20 feet in diameter and holds approximately 5,500 cubic feet of helium. According to an embodiment of the invention, the device, when deflated, weighs about 80 pounds. The entire rig for the invention may then be stowed away in a three-foot by three-foot sail bag.

FIGS. 3-5 illustrate another embodiment of the invention. Looking at FIG. 3 first, the invention 10 again comprises a balloon 12 with a plurality of test lines 14 longitudinally disposed over the balloon 12. The skin of the balloon 12 may be made from a polyurethane-coated nylon with overlapping seams 13. Again, there are may be 16 continuous, 2000-lb test SpectraŽ lines, but the number used may vary with depending on the strength of the lines used. Test lines 14 may be attached to load patches on the balloon, where the load patches may be attached by glue or other manner of attachment. By way of example, the test lines 14 are attached via load patches which are glues and/or heat-seamed over each test lines 14. In this example, there sixteen test lines 14 are used. However, it is understood that more or fewer test lines 14 may be used, such as eight test lines 14. By way of another example, half of the test lines 14 longitudinally disposed over one hemisphere of the balloon 12 are stitched together at their free ends around a steel ring 50. The other half of the test lines 14 are stitched together at their free ends around another steel ring 50, as seen in FIG. 5.

Alternatively, the interior of the balloon 12 is reinforced with a plurality of nylon battens 52 that latitudinally encircle the balloon 12. There are preferably three battens 52, as seen in FIG. 3. On the exterior of the balloon 12 and distributed along the latitudinal positions of the battens 52 are a plurality of guides 54 for keeping the test lines 14 positioned in even distribution around the balloon 12. The number of guides 54 will depend upon the number of test lines 14 and the number of battens 52; if there are 16 test lines 14 and three battens 52, as in the preferred embodiment, then there will be 48 guides 54. The test lines 14 are secured together at the top of the balloon 12 with two steel rings 56, as also seen in FIG. 4. The rings 56 are stacked one on top of the other. Half of the test lines 14 are secured to one ring 56 and the other half of the lines 14 to the other ring 56, in alternating order. In other words, the two test lines 14 to the immediate right and left of a third test line 14 will be secured to a different ring 56 from that for the third test line. The rings 56 are secured to the balloon 12 with nylon line or webbing (not shown).

The balloon 12 has a deflation zipper 58, as seen in FIG. 3, for complete deflation. There is a hose 60 for assisting with inflation and deflation of the balloon. The balloon has two intake ports 62, each with rubber stopper and cap, and two purge valves 64, each with a pull line, as seen in FIG. 5. There is also an emergency peel-off patch 66 covering a grommet (not shown). When the invention is in use, a pull line is secured to the grommet. The pilot can deflate the balloon quickly by pulling out the grommet. Alternatively, monsun values may be used in place of rubber stoppers and one peel-off zipper is used for deflation.

If the invention will be used by more than one pilot, then canvas bags 68 of varying weights may be attached to a metal ring or belt attached to the test lines 14, as seen in FIG. 3, to compensate for the difference in weight between pilots. The tether lines 20 are attached to the test lines 14 through the use of steel rings and locking carabiners (not shown). If a “ground crew” is used to hold on to the tether lines 20, the tether lines can be strapped to them using harnesses (not shown).

Various additional modifications of the invention described herein will occur to those skilled in the art. All such variations and deviations which basically rely on the teachings through which this invention has advanced the art are properly considered within the scope of this invention and equivalents thereof, as described herein and claimed in the appended claims.

Other embodiments, uses and advantages of the present invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from consideration of the specification and practice of the invention disclosed herein. The specification and examples should be considered exemplary only. The intended scope of the invention is only limited by the claims appended hereto.

While the invention has been particularly shown and described within the framework of a helium balloon it will be appreciated that variations and modifications can be effected by a person of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the scope of the invention. For example, one of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that other gas filled balloons may be used to effectuate the present invention. Further, any device which is lighter than the surrounding air may be used.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7297186 *May 6, 2004Nov 20, 2007The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The NavyTethered, inflatable holder for flowable material
US7991049 *May 11, 2004Aug 2, 2011Broadcom CorporationVideo and graphics system with video scaling
WO2012148306A1 *Dec 2, 2011Nov 1, 2012Luk Yanov Sergej Anatol EvichHeight-gathering survival means (variant embodiments)
Classifications
U.S. Classification472/134
International ClassificationB64B1/02, B64B1/50
Cooperative ClassificationA63G31/00, B64C31/04, B64B1/02, B64B1/50
European ClassificationB64B1/50, B64B1/02, B64C31/04, A63G31/00
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jul 29, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: ONE GIANT LEAP, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:MEADOWS, JOSEPH STEPHAN;REEL/FRAME:016828/0101
Effective date: 20050712