An inflatable wing is formed from a pair of tapered, conical inflatable tubes in bonded tangential contact with each other. The tubes are further connected together by means of top and bottom reinforcement boards having corresponding longitudinal edges lying in the same central diametral plane passing through the associated tube. The reinforcement boards are made of a stiff reinforcement material, such as Kevlar, collapsible in a direction parallel to the spanwise wing axis upon deflation of the tubes. The stiff reinforcement material cooperates with the inflated tubes to impart structural I-beam characteristics to the composite structure for transferring inflation pressure-induced tensile stress from the tubes to the reinforcement boards. A plurality of rigid hoops shaped to provide airfoil definition are spaced from each other along the spanwise axis and are connected to the top and bottom reinforcement boards. Tension lines are employed for stabilizing the hoops along the...
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1. An inflatable aerodynamic wing structure, comprising:
- (a) an airfoil having at least two air-tight inflatable tubular enclosure means made of a first flexible material and extending along a spanwise axis;
- (b) top and bottom reinforcement member means made of a second stiff fabric material and connecting said at least two air-tight inflatable tubular enclosure means together for transfer of inflation pressure-induced tensile stress from said enclosure means to said top and bottom reinforcement member means;
- (c) a plurality of rigid hoops shaped to provide airfoil definition and spaced from each other along the spanwise axis and extending generally perpendicular thereto, said air-tight inflatable tubular enclosure means extending through said airfoil definition hoops and fastened thereto through said top and bottom reinforcement member means, said rigid hoops collapsing into each other for stacked stowage upon deflation of said enclosure means; and
- (d) means for forming an airfoil outer surface, made of a third thin, flexible and collapsible material, about substantially said entire tubular enclosure means and said top and bottom reinforcement member means, such that the area of a cross-section of said tubular enclosure means is much smaller than the area of a cross-section of said airfoil outer surface.
2. The wing structure of claim 1, wherein said top and bottom reinforcement member means includes a pair of generally flat boards made of said second stiff fabric reinforcement material and collapsible in a direction parallel to the spanwise axis upon deflation of said enclosure means.
3. The wing structure of claim 2, wherein said top and bottom boards extend generally the entire length of said wing tangent to said tubular enclosure means.
4. The wing structure of claim 3, wherein said tubular enclosure means includes a pair of tubes bonded together in tangential contact with each other; and said top and bottom reinforcement boards each have longitudinal edges bonded tangentially to said tubes, respectively, with corresponding edges of said top and bottom boards lying within the same vertical diametral plane passing through each tube.
5. The wing structure of claim 4, wherein said hoops are fastened to said top and bottom boards.
6. The wing structure of claim 5, further including a plurality of collapsible tension lines for connecting adjacent trailing ends of said hoops to each other and for connecting adjacent leading ends of said hoops to each other.
7. The wing structure of claim 6, further including auxiliary tension line means for connecting leading and trailing ends of the hoop adjacent the inboardmost hoop to the latter for stabilizing said hoops along the trailing and leading edges of the wing, said auxiliary tension line means also connecting the wing tip to the outermost hoop adjacent thereto.
8. The wing structure of claim 1, wherein said second stiff fabric material is Kevlar.
9. The wing structure of claim 1, wherein said at least two air-tight inflatable tubular enclosure means include a pair of tapered conical tubes tapered in the direction of the wing tip to reduce overall weight.
10. The wing structure of claim 1, further including a reinforcement tape wound diagonally about said tubular enclosure means to increase torsional stiffness of the wing to prevent flutter.
11. The wing structure of claim 1, wherein said hoops are made of Kevlar-epoxy.
12. The wing structure of claim 1, wherein said top and bottom reinforcement member means is formed from a single length of stiff reinforcement material twice the length of the wing and collapsible in a direction perpendicular to the spanwise axis.