Richard Smith's blog

To Drone or Not

Unmanned aerial vehicles are all the rage at the moment and for obvious reasons - they don't risk humans in hostile environments and they don't get tired or need bathroom breaks. So it's a little surprising to see Firebird, a prototype surveillance airplane from Northrop Grumman, that can operate as a pilotless drone or operate as a piloted airplane.

The Jetpack You're Looking For

A jetpack from Martin Aircraft has taken flight and reached an impressive 5000 ft. Technically it's a twin rotor ducted fan, so it isn't really a jet but you get the idea. However, this is the jetpack you're looking for.

Rocket for One

Copenhagen Suborbitals is a Danish team of rocketeers who are planning to launch a one person suborbital rocket called Tycho Brahe. The project has progressed to the demonstration stage with a dummy taking the place of the single passenger. It's a cozy fit with the rocket diameter not much large than the chest measurement of the lucky (brave) passenger, who will have to stand upright in the nose cone.

Fake Real Cutaway Models

I just had to follow up on my recent fake real wireframe post with a similar theme on cutaway models. As an engineer I've always found it fascinating to see how things work, and so when I come across cutaway schematics of planes, cars, engines, etc. happy am I. Better still if I find an actual physical cutaway. So for your enjoyment, but also for mine, check out the physical cutaway collection at Oobject.

Fake Cutaway MiniFake Cutaway Mini

Wind Tunnels Are Not Perfect

Much has been made of the CFD-only strategy recently abandoned by the Virgin Racing Formula 1 team as an admission that CFD is responsible for the team's poor performance. Whether this is in fact the case is open for debate. I believe VR's poor performance is due to a general lack of funding across many disciplines not just aerodynamics, but that's another story. Anyway, as a counter to those who think wind tunnel testing is essentially flawless, consider the recent problems Ferrari have experienced with their wind tunnel.

Ferrari F150 F150th Italia Launch: Wind tunnel woes were to follow

New Strategy = CFD + Wind Tunnel

The Virgin Racing (VR) Formula 1 team are parting ways with their CFD guru Nick Wirth after a poor start to the 2011 F1 season and a dismal first season in 2010. Most of the heat for VR's poor performance (wrongly in my opinion) has been laid at the feet of its CFD-only strategy advocated by Wirth. I argued in a recent blog post that the root cause of VR's problems are more likely a general lack of funding, rather than its CFD strategy.

VR Looking for a Wind Tunnel Like Red Bull's?

Fake Real Wireframe Models

What happens when you take a virtual model, in this case a wireframe car model, into the real world? Besides blowing people's minds you get a surreal look that is sure to draw attention to your cause - often advertising. But who cares when it looks this good?

Fake Wireframe Subaru ImprezaFake Wireframe Subaru Impreza: Benedict Radcliffe's "Modern Japanese Classic"

Mercedes GP F1 Bares All

The only chance you'll usually get to see the secrets of a Formula 1 car is in the aftermath of a racing incident (otherwise known as a crash) just before the obligatory veil of secrecy in the form of a tarp cover is hurriedly thrown over the exposed secrets. Even then it is usually up for debate and difficult to discern what purpose the mangled carbon fiber might have performed prior to the incident. So we are indeed privileged that Mercedes GP recently commissioned an exploded view of one of their cars revealing many of the inner workings of their prized design.

Is CFD Flawed?

There is a high profile debate going on in the motor racing media and motor racing discussion forums that Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is flawed. The proof cited is the poor performance of Virgin Racing (VR) Formula 1 racecars in the 2010 F1 championship and repeated so far in this year's championship. Why is CFD deemed responsible for this sorry state of affairs? Because VR have proclaimed that the aerodynamic design of its cars forgoes wind tunnel testing and only uses CFD. What if the CFD-only strategy is merely a symptom rather than the cause of the problems at VR?

Barefoot Running: Springs, Dampers, and Pressure

I'm a little off topic with this post - more structural mechanics than fluid mechanics. Normal service will resume shortly, but in the mean time, I have to admit it - I'm a recovering barefoot runner. Recovering in the sense that no matter what I've tried up to now, whenever I run fast or long in barefoot shoes (oxymoron I know, bare with me) I end up with calf muscles that are so sore I can't run for days afterwards. Well I thought it was way past time to mine my engineering knowledge for some insight, and this is what I came up with.

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