|Publication number||USRE43028 E1|
|Application number||US 10/189,698|
|Publication date||Dec 13, 2011|
|Filing date||Jul 3, 2002|
|Priority date||Sep 23, 1998|
|Publication number||10189698, 189698, US RE43028 E1, US RE43028E1, US-E1-RE43028, USRE43028 E1, USRE43028E1|
|Inventors||William J. Kitchen, Michael Palmer|
|Original Assignee||Skyventure, Llc|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (32), Non-Patent Citations (8), Referenced by (7), Classifications (14), Legal Events (9)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a CIP of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/159,369 filed Sep. 23, 1998 now abandoned.
The present invention relates to the field of vertical wind tunnels, more particularly, to non-return flow vertical wind tunnels used as amusement devices.
Wind tunnels are well known in the art. Wind tunnels are available in many types and styles depending upon the needs of the user. These include subsonic wind tunnels with and without return flow, transonic wind tunnels with and without return flow, vertical subsonic wind tunnels with and without return flow, supersonic and hypersonic wind tunnels with and without return flow, and compressible flow wind tunnels.
The majority of the wind tunnels are used for research and testing purposes. These include testing of conventional aircraft, helicopters, parachutes and other aerodynamic devices, wing surfaces, control surfaces, submarines, rockets and other launch vehicles, ground vehicles, buildings and other basic flow investigations.
The wind tunnels are generally owned by major defense oriented corporations, the Federal government, or educational institutions and universities. Although vertical wind tunnels are available for use by persons for various types of atmospheric freefall training, these wind tunnels are also generally controlled by the foregoing institutions for use only by authorized personnel. As a result, access to the wind tunnels is limited at best. These wind tunnels are not generally designed nor intended to be used by persons for the purpose of enjoyment or for learning to skydive. Consequently, none of these wind tunnels are used for general amusement purposes. None of these wind tunnels are available for use by essentially untrained people or by those with limited instruction. None of these wind tunnels are available to the public for use as an amusement ride. Further, the design of these prior art wind tunnels are not “user-friendly” for the purposes of use and enjoyment by users such as those who frequent amusement parks and the rides they offer. The prior art wind tunnels do not offer any means of enhancing the ride experience such as with a concurrent/interactive video presentation, nor do they offer a means of airflow control adopted to meet the needs of an operator providing thrill rides to the public.
Representative of the art is:
U.S. Pat. No. 2,486,287 to Jackson discloses an adjustable nozzle of a supersonic wind tunnel having fixed and moveable walls.
U.S. Pat. No. 2,560,634 to Colley discloses a Venturi tube having means for varying the throat area while the venturi is being used.
U.S. Pat. No. 2,788,020 to Davie discloses a linkage for effecting adjustment of a wind tunnel nozzle having moveable, flexible walls.
U.S. Pat. No. 2,799,161 to Greene et al. discloses trisonic wind tunnel having facilities for testing in subsonic, transonic, and supersonic speed ranges.
U.S. Pat. No. 2,933,922 to Davis discloses flexible nozzles for wind tunnels.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,308,748 to Jacocks discloses a wind tunnel having adjustable slats allowing close matching of the streamlines within the wind tunnel.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,487,410 to Sassak discloses an amusement apparatus comprising a spherical passenger holding body, and a vertical tube having a diameter sufficient to receive the body in a vertical path of motion.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,046,358 to Wulf et al. discloses a deformable plastic wall for use in a wind tunnel.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,417,615 to Beard discloses an air driven amusement ride which propels a passenger vehicle upward along a guide cable out of an acceleration tube by a blast of pressurized air within the tube under the vehicle.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,452,609 to Bouis discloses a wind tunnel having a plurality of wall surrounding a test section. The walls have a plurality of longitudinal slots, each channel created thereby having a flexible bottom.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,655,909 to Kitchen et al, discloses a skydiving trainer wind tunnel having a vertical air chamber with a video projection system on an interior wall.
University of Maryland, Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel Brochure.
Calspan Report No. WTO-300; 8-Foot Transonic Wind Tunnel; Calspan Corporation, Buffalo, N.Y.
Compressible Flow Wind Tunnel; Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company, Marietta, Ga.
AGARD Memorandum; Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development, Paris France, 1954.
Guide for Planning Investigations in the Ames 40- by 80-ft Wind Tunnel; NASA Ames Research Center; Moffett Field, Calif., 1984.
What is needed is a vertical wind tunnel amusement ride having a flight chamber on the inlet side of the fans for improved airflow control and stability. What is needed is a vertical wind tunnel amusement ride having an adjacent staging area. What is needed is a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having a plurality of fans. What is needed is a vertical wind tunnel amusement ride having a single pass non-return airflow. What is needed is a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having transparent windows looking into the flight chamber. What is needed is a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having transparent windows looking into the staging area. What is needed is a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having return air ducts with dampers to control the temperature of the airflow. The present invention meets these needs.
The primary aspect of the present invention is to provide a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having a flight chamber located on the inlet side of the fans for improved airflow control and stability.
Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having an adjacent staging area.
Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having a plurality of fans.
Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having transparent windows in the flight chamber.
Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having transparent windows in the staging area.
Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having a low profile to meet building constraints.
Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a vertical wind tunnel amusement device having a non-return airflow.
Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a vertical wind tunnel having a re-circulating airflow with dampers to control a temperature of the airflow.
Other aspects of this invention will appear from the following description and appended claims, reference being made to the accompanying drawings forming a part of this specification wherein like reference characters designate corresponding parts in the several views.
The invention comprises a single pass, non-return flow vertical wind tunnel amusement device having a flight chamber. It is within the flight chamber where the user experiences “freefall” within the vertical airflow column. Airflow is induced through the flight chamber by a plurality of fans located above, i.e. downstream of, the flight chamber. The fans are arranged radially about a major axis of the invention. The plurality of fans is driven by economics, from the standpoint that five industrial fans are a fraction of the cost, between one and two orders of magnitude, of a single fan large enough to support a user. Further, limiting the height of the structure using the radial diffuser encourages the use of several smaller fans versus a large single fan. A plurality of fans are also used so that in the event of a fan failure, the remaining fans can maintain the airflow through the flight chamber. The flow path through the invention begins at the inlet contraction. Ambient air is drawn into the inlet contraction starting with essentially zero velocity. The inlet contraction is aerodynamically designed to allow the incoming airflow to be accelerated to the optimum velocity with as little turbulence as possible. The airflow then passes through a floor mesh into the flight chamber. The floor mesh provides support for the users when the airflow through the flight chamber is not sufficient to support them. The flight chamber is approximately 12 feet in diameter. The airflow velocity in the flight chamber is approximately 120+ mph, which will fully support a user. The maximum airflow velocity in the flight chamber is approximately 175+ mph. Each wall of the flight chamber comprises windows constructed of transparent Plexiglas®, acrylic plastic, or similar high strength window material. The windows into the flight chamber are full length, thereby allowing an unrestricted view of the activities taking place within the flight chamber. Adjacent to the flight chamber is a staging area. The flight chamber has an entry opening and exit opening to the staging area through which a user may enter and exit the flight chamber. Users wait in the staging area for their turn in the flight chamber. In operation, the flight chamber may accommodate up to four users at a time, although the optimum number is two. In the preferred embodiment, a student will fly in the flight chamber with one instructor. The staging area has transparent windows so that an observer may view the flight of any person(s) within the flight chamber without entering the staging area. The remaining sides of the flight chamber comprise a window to the control room and windows for viewing the projection system. The control room is manned by a person operating the fans and projection system. The fans are controlled to achieve the optimum airflow velocity through the flight chamber. The projection system is used to project skydiving scenes for viewing by a user to enhance the flight experience. The upper section of the flight chamber comprises a perforated panel which is immediately above the staging area windows. This provides an alternate airflow path when users are entering and exiting the flight chamber. The airflow may pass through the entry and exit openings while a user is in the flight chamber. A portion of the airflow flows around a user, enters the staging area through the entry/exit openings and then re-enters the flight chamber at an elevation above the staging area. The perforated walls reduce the buoyancy tendencies which might result in a flyer going from the bottom to the top of the flight chamber immediately upon entry. This also results in added controllability and predictability of the supporting air column for a user. Next above the perforated section is a divergent diffuser. The divergent diffuser diverges at approximately 7 degrees from the major axis. The increasing cross-sectional area reduces the velocity of the airflow from the flight chamber to the fans. Next above the divergent diffuser are the fan inlets and the fans. The velocity of the airflow through the invention is controlled by either changing the pitch of the fans or by changing the rotational speed of the fans. The airflow passes through the fans and into the exit turning vanes. The fans are preferably axial flow fans, although any fan adapted for use in a wind tunnel is acceptable. The exit turning vanes turn the airflow path from substantially vertical to substantially horizontal. The airflow then enters and exits the delta shaped diffuser. The delta shaped diffusers are incorporated in a radial arrangement suited to the arrangement of the fans. The delta diffuser further diverges and slows the exhaust airflow from each fan. This results in an outlet airflow velocity of approximately 30 mph as compared to a velocity of 120+ mph within the flight chamber. The vertical wind tunnel amusement device also comprises a training area where users are instructed in the use of the wind tunnel and in the techniques of skydiving.
In an alternate embodiment, return air ducts are connected between the outlet of the fans and the inlet of the wind tunnel. Each return air duct has an outlet damper and an inlet damper. A portion of the airflow is blown out of the outlet damper. An equivalent portion of air is drawn into the inlet damper and then into the wind tunnel. This arrangement allows heated airflow air to be replaced with cooler ambient air, thereby allowing a user to adjust the temperature in the flight chamber for flyer comfort.
Before explaining the disclosed embodiment of the present invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of the particular arrangements shown, since the invention is capable of other embodiments. Also, the terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and not of limitation.
Reference is made to
In use, the user first enters a training area where he or she receives instruction in the proper method and technique for skydiving. Once the instruction is completed, the user “suits-up” in a skydiving jumpsuit. The user then proceeds to the observation area with an instructor where he or she is further instructed in the use of the vertical wind tunnel, particularly the flight chamber. The fans are then started at reduced speed or are slowed by the operator in the control room. Door 350 is opened and the user, instructor and any other users, enter the staging area 340, up to six total but more may enter depending upon the size of the staging area. Once all users or students are in the staging area door 350 is closed, and the fans are brought up to the proper operating speed by the control room operator. An instructor then enters the flight chamber. A user/student then enters the flight chamber through opening 320 with the assistance of the instructor. The user fly's flies in the flight chamber 110 with or without the instructor until a given amount of time passes. He or she then exits from the flight chamber through opening 330 to the staging area 340. This process may be repeated in order to meet the needs of the student or user. When the flight session is over, the control room operator throttles back the fans or shuts them off completely. The user then exits from the staging area 340 through door 350.
During operation an operator is in the control room 371. An operator controls the operation of the fans in concert with and in response to the instructions, signals or behavior of a user in the flight chamber 110. Control of the operation of the fans controls the airflow velocity within the flight chamber. Airflow velocity control may be accomplished by varying the rotational speed of the fan motors or by varying the pitch of the fan blades. The remaining sides of the flight chamber 110 comprise a rear screen projector by which scenes from actual skydives may be projected to enhance the illusion of freefall. Reference is made to U.S. Pat. No. 5,655,909, entitled Skydiving Trainer Wind tunnel, which is herein incorporated by reference. Projection equipment (not shown) is contained in projection room 380. Observation room 390 allows non-participating observers to view a user within the flight chamber 110. This is accomplished by viewing through windows 341 in the staging area and windows 311 in the sides of the flight chamber 110. The windows are all large compared to the size of the flight chamber in order to allow a relatively unrestricted view of the flight chamber. The windows comprise Plexiglas®, Lexan® or other high strength transparent material capable of withstanding the differential pressure across the window caused by the operation of the fans. In operation door 350 is dynamically held closed by a force of approximately 40 to 50 lbs./sqft created by the airflow through the flight chamber 110. It is essentially impossible for a user to open door 350 to the staging area 340 while the invention is in operation. This “fail-safe”, feature prevents a user from inadvertently entering the staging area while the vertical wind tunnel amusement device is in operation. The arrangement of the openings 320 and 330 minimally affects the airflow within the flight chamber 110. This allows a user to stand in the staging area without experiencing the unpleasant effects of the 120+ mph airflow within the flight chamber. When the user desires to fly within the flight chamber, he or she simply steps through the opening 320 or 330 into the airflow. He or she is immediately supported by the airflow. If adjustment is necessary to stabilize a user, an operator in control room 371 adjusts the operation of the fans (not shown) to increase or decrease the velocity of the airflow. It is the airflow velocity and resulting dynamic pressure on a user which results in a user being fully supported in the flight chamber. Once supported in the airflow, a user may perform all of the maneuvers which a skydiver could otherwise only perform during an actual freefall. The invention allows all of the sensations of skydiving to be experienced by a novice user without the obvious danger of actually jumping out of an aircraft thousands of feet in the air.
Each return air duct 1800 further comprises outlet damper 1820 and inlet damper 1830. Outlet damper 1820 and inlet damper 1830 are used in concert to adjust the temperature of the airflow. It is known in the art that a rise in the temperature of the airflow will occur by the use of recirculated air in the wind tunnel. To avoid this problem, outlet dampers 1820 and inlet dampers 1830 are used to exchange a portion of the airflow at a higher temperature, with ambient air at a lower temperature. Each is adjustable in order to allow a user to ‘fine-tune’ the temperature of the airflow. Generally, each pair of dampers is adjusted and balanced with the other so that the air mass blown from the return air duct 1800 through outlet damper 1820 is replaced by the same mass of air entering through the inlet damper 1830. This improves flyer comfort by lowering the overall temperature of the airflow. A temperature sensor, not shown, is used by an operator to detect the temperature of the airflow. The operator then adjusts the dampers in response to the outside temperature, which is detected by a temperature sensor, not shown. Flow straightener 206 is shown at the opening to inlet contraction 100.
Each return air duct 1800 has a cross-sectional area that gradually expands from the fans toward plenum 1810 with an angle γ from a centerline. This has the effect of gradually increasing the cross-sectional area of the return air duct. Angle γ, in the range of 1° to 5°, is chosen so that air turbulence and flow separation in the return air duct are minimized, thereby reducing total pressure loss, and thereby power requirements during operation.
Although the present invention has been described with reference to preferred embodiments, numerous modifications and variations can be made and still the result will come within the scope of the invention. No limitation with respect to the specific embodiments disclosed herein is intended or should be inferred.
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|1||AGARD Memorandum; Advisory Group for Aeronatuical Research and Development, Paris, France 1954, Revised Oct. 1971.|
|2||AGARD Memorandum; Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development, Paris, France 1954.|
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|4||Compressible Flow Wind Tunnel; Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Com pany, Marietta, Georgia, not dated.|
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|Citing Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US9194632||Jan 15, 2011||Nov 24, 2015||Ifly Holdings, Llc||Wind tunnel turning vane heat exchanger|
|US9327202||Apr 28, 2015||May 3, 2016||Airborne America, Inc.||Wind tunnel design with expanding corners|
|US9375646||Nov 11, 2015||Jun 28, 2016||Airborne America, Inc.||Wind tunnel design with expanding corners|
|US9551627 *||Sep 14, 2012||Jan 24, 2017||University Of Florida Research Foundation, Inc.||Dynamic wind velocity and pressure simulator|
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|US20130068045 *||Sep 14, 2012||Mar 21, 2013||University Of Florida Research Foundation, Inc.||Dynamic wind velocity and pressure simulator|
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|U.S. Classification||472/49, 73/147, 472/136, 434/34, 472/50|
|International Classification||A63G31/00, G09B9/08, B64D23/00|
|Cooperative Classification||A63G31/00, A63G2031/005, B64D23/00, A63G2031/002|
|European Classification||A63G31/00, B64D23/00|
|Jan 12, 2006||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: BK HOLDINGS, INC., FLORIDA
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:SKYVENTURE, INC;REEL/FRAME:017014/0339
Effective date: 20040618
Owner name: SKYVENTURE, LLC, FLORIDA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:BK HOLDINGS, INC;REEL/FRAME:017009/0385
Effective date: 20050701
|Dec 13, 2011||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 12
Year of fee payment: 12
|Apr 15, 2013||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., TEXAS
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:SKYVENTURE, LLC;REEL/FRAME:030219/0803
Effective date: 20130322
|Jan 15, 2014||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: IFLY HOLDINGS, LLC, TEXAS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SKYVENTURE, LLC;REEL/FRAME:031978/0033
Effective date: 20131115
|Mar 11, 2014||CC||Certificate of correction|
|Apr 10, 2014||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: GOLDMAN SACHS BDC, INC., AS ADMINISTRATIVE AGENT,
Free format text: SECURITY INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:IFLY HOLDINGS, LLC;REEL/FRAME:032645/0461
Effective date: 20140408
|Jul 7, 2015||IPR||Aia trial proceeding filed before the patent and appeal board: inter partes review|
Free format text: TRIAL NO: IPR2015-01272
Opponent name: INDOORE SKYDIVING GERMANY GMBH
Effective date: 20150528
|Feb 1, 2016||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, N.A., AS ADMINISTRATIVE AGENT
Free format text: AMENDED AND RESTATED PATENT SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:IFLY HOLDINGS LLC;REEL/FRAME:037679/0091
Effective date: 20160201
Owner name: IFLY HOLDINGS, LLC, TEXAS
Free format text: TERMINATION AND RELEASE OF SECURITY INTEREST IN PATENTS (RELEASES RF 032645-0461);ASSIGNOR:GOLDMAN SACHS BDC, INC., AS ADMINISTRATIVE AGENT;REEL/FRAME:037678/0778
Effective date: 20160201
|Mar 15, 2016||IPR||Aia trial proceeding filed before the patent and appeal board: inter partes review|
Free format text: TRIAL NO: IPR2016-00561
Opponent name: INDOOR SKYDIVING GERMANY GMBH
Effective date: 20160204