The pole is most effective when using a steady flow of air. Air speeds are controlled by the speed of the spin; the faster the speed, the faster the speed change. The more air flowing through the spinning pole, the better the control. If the spinning pole is too fast, the airflow tends to be turbulent and slow, creating the undesirable spin.
A spinning pole (right) compared to a stationary one (left). The diameter of the spinning pole, compared with the diameter of the stationary pole. Photo: University of South Florida
The spinning pole, used in the U.S. military since the 1940s, is a very efficient and reliable device. It will not only provide control the speed, but also the airflow in and out of the plane, which is important.
“The spinning wheel is not suitable for planes flying fast or very high in the atmosphere. There is a reason why it’s not used where the speed increases much from 15 miles an hour. The high-speed aircraft require some special equipment, such as parachutes,” said Paul.
In addition to aircraft, the spinning pole has been used for space missions. A small rotating platform, mounted in an orbiter or satellite, measures the aerodynamic forces of the Earth’s atmosphere and applies counterbalancing torque to control the orientation of the satellite. The rotors are built like a car. A large wheel is used to turn the platform and a brake is activated whenever the spinning pole starts to spin or a sudden increase in air pressure.
The spinning pole will not be available to commercial pilots within the next couple of years due to increased funding requirements, said Paul. However, he says they have already received offers to sell the product at NASA and other research institutions. The team is working to develop a new model for ground use, which will eventually be made available to the government.
Dr. David Smith, professor of aeronautical engineering at the University of Florida, says there won’t ever be a perfect spin device or propeller to power planes or airplanes.
“However, spinning wheels provide a low-cost alternative to airplanes as the propeller is not as powerful, and may only be used on airplanes for a few hundred miles at a time,” Smith said.
He said the spinning surface may eventually revolutionize air travel because it will give airlines the ability to take advantage of low-cost energy in a less expensive area. However there is no word yet on when the spinning pole will be available with
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