Skyray Human Glider Flight
Tired of dawdling along at one hundred and twenty miles an hour, a typical terminal velocity for human-shaped skydivers? Can you go faster? and farther?
Terminal velocity is the point where the force of air resistance pushing up on the skydiver is equal to gravity pulling down; the skydiver no longer accelerates, but falls at a nice constant speed no matter what you try. And of course, there's that whole "going straight down" problem.
For those who would like to go a little faster (not to mention farther) there's the Skyray, an attachable wing system that lets humans go beyond skydiving to "skyflying." In recent test flights, Skyray-equipped skyflyers have been able to attain speeds over 200 miles per hour. This is the same speed range as the fastest bird, the peregrine falcon, which stoops for prey at 200 miles per hour (not the spine-tailed swift, a comparative slowpoke at only 100 miles per hour, as reported elsewhere). Sir Hugh Beaver of Guinness Breweries spent a fortune to determine this fact, and launched the Guiness Book of World Records in the process.
Three long years of development in cooperation with the University of Applied Science (Munich) have created a two-piece device. The first section is a harness with rigid back section; the harness remains with the skyflyer after the second section, the wing itself, is released when the user is ready to parachute the rest of the way to the ground. The wing has its own parachute and is recovered separately. This configuration was designed for safety (by all means, safety first) and is patent-pending.
The best distance is reached with a glide ratio of two to three and a resultant velocity of about 220 kilometers per hour. Recently, a skyflyer flew across the English Channel in this manner, becoming the first non-powered flyer to do so. Carbon fiber and aramid fiber were used in construction for strength and lightness; the whole assembly weighs only nine pounds.
Science fiction fans of course remember personal powered fliers like the copter harness from Robert Heinlein's 1954 novel The Star Beast as well as the jump harness from the same author's 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land (see this link for more information about powered personal flight).
Reference articles and sources:
Airborne Humans (Skyray Airborne Humans)
Skyray at Freesky GmbH
Skyray in Flight (Skyflyer point of view) (takes a long while to load)
The physics of skydiving
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