Virtual Engineering is Here

Another day, another personal concept vehicle announcement - this time the ICON A5 from ICON Aircraft. Notice a pattern here? We've seen a surge in personal concept vehicle announcements recently - remember personal air vehicles, flying cars, personal helicopters, personal jetpacks and even personal submarines? Is it a coincidence or are there underlying forces making such vehicles inevitable?

Personal Helicopter Available Now

The GEN H-4 is a device that fulfills the promise of a personal jetpack, although it's technically a helicopter. In fact the GEN H-4 is officially recognized as the world's smallest piloted helicopter and it's available for purchase now.

Bioinspired Engineering

Imagine 3.8 billion years of slow but steady research and development (otherwise known as evolution), covering everything we need to survive and thrive here on Earth, freely available for everyone. You just need to know where and (more importantly) how to look for it, because the evidence of this massive R+D effort is everywhere. The study and exploitation of naturally evolved solutions for engineering systems is variously known as bionics, biomimetics, biomimicry, biognosis, bionical creativity engineering, bioinspired engineering, and maybe others. While there’s no single agreed name, there is consensus on the fact that nature is a great source for engineering inspiration.

Bombardier BeetleBombardier Beetle

Engineering in Sports: Javelin Throwing

Due to the massive distances men (Uwe Hohn in particular) were throwing javelins in 1984 (over 100m), there was a danger that a javelin would clear the throwing area. To reduce the javelin's flight time it was redesigned to put its center of gravity in front of its center of pressure, so its nose pitched downwards in flight. This is an unusual example of a sport's governing body using engineering to justify a rule change, in contrast to the more usual rule change in response to an engineering innovation by a competitor.

Engineering in Sports: Equipment Driven

In some sports, such as motor racing and yachting, the equipment is the dominant factor in deciding a winner. Such sports have embraced engineering, especially mechanical and electronics engineering. In the case of Formula 1 (F1) the engineering skills of the leading teams rival those of the best aerospace companies.

2001 BAR Honda Formula 1 Car2001 BAR Honda Formula 1 Car

Engineering in Sports: Cycling 1 Hour World Record

The current debate as to whether a specially engineered Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit provides an unfair advantage to its wearer is analogous to the debate concerning the 1 hour cycling world record back in 1993. Starting in 1993, cycling faced an arms race of sorts with the prospect of continuous aerodynamic innovation significantly improving the 1 hour world record. This caused people inside and outside cycling to question whether human performance really mattered.

Graeme Obree Riding Old FaithfulGraeme Obree Riding Old FaithfulLicensed under the GNU Free Documentation License

Engineering in Sports: LZR Racer Swimsuit

Engineering plays an important role in most sports. Whether it's a seemingly simple sport, such as running (take a look at the latest running shoes to see advanced engineering in action), or an obviously engineering-dominated sport, such as Formula 1 motor racing, it is difficult to find a sport untouched by engineering innovation. Over the next few weeks I'll explore to what extent engineering influences sports and how sports influence engineering.

Speedo LZR RacerSpeedo LZR Racer SwimsuitLicense: CC BY 2.0, Kazuhisa OTSUBO


X-plane is the legendary designation of an experimental US aircraft, such as the North American X-15. An X-plane is typically designed to explore the boundaries of technology in pursuit of higher speed, altitude and maneuverability.

North American X-15North American X-15Image courtesy of NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Photo Collection

Formula Hybrid v2.0

The second Formula Hybrid International Competition (May 5-7, 2008) just wrapped up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Originally conceived and again hosted by Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, the event attracted 15 teams, up from the 9 teams who entered in 2007.

Electric Airplanes

Electricity was an early player in the race to power aircraft, and achieved initial success in 1884 powering a dirigible. Electric powered vehicles fell out of favor with the introduction of the internal combustion engine and the turbojet engine. With recent concerns about emissions from burning fossil fuels, electric power is back, and not only for cars but for airplanes too.

Pipistrel Taurus ElectroPipistrel Taurus ElectroImage courtesy of Pipistrel

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