Friday, June 13, 2008

Not Your B-movie Flying Saucer

The skies could soon get a new addition: a plasma-fueled flying saucer. The mechanical and aerospace engineering professor who created the novel design calls its a "wingless electromagnetic air vehicle" (WEAV). The flat, circular spinning aircraft strongly resembles a flying saucer ( illustration of prototype on left).

WEAV has no moving parts, but power lies in its unique dynamics, the force generated by a current or magnetic field passing through a conducting fluid (known as magnetohydrodynamics).

Plasma (the conducting fluid) is generated by electrodes all over the surface of the aircraft that ionize the surrounding air. The generated plasma will coat the exterior of wave, producing stable lift and momentum. WEAV's design enables it to ascend into the air vertically.

It isn't all sunny days and clear coasting. Plasma driven aircrafts have always failed to fly on earth. The average plasma saucer has a much better chance in space, where there is less gravity and drag. More "umph" is needed for flight in Earth's atmosphere.

If WEAV beats the odds and takes off easily, other problems are presented once up in the air. For instance, the plasma that propels it will also interfere with electromagnetic waves needed to communicate with the vehicle.

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