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Torpedo Airship Controlled By Wireless Is The Latest Invention

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From May 22, 1910

TORPEDO AIRSHIP CONTROLLED BY WIRELESS IS THE LATEST INVENTION

TORPEDO AIRSHIP CONTROLLED BY WIRELESS IS THE LATEST INVENTION: Thomas R. Phillips, Who Made It, Claims to Control a Dirigible Balloon Loaded with Bombs Without Leaving His Office. (PDF)

Today the military uses Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles to remotely bomb foreign targets. This must be the UCAV’s great grandfather.

“I can,” says Mr. Phillips, “sit in an armchair in London and make my airship drop a bunch of flowers into a friend’s garden in Manchester or Paris or Berlin.”

But it is not for the dropping of flowers that he intends his invention. It is for the dropping of dynamite bombs.

[At the London Hippodrome, Phillips demonstrated with] a twenty-foot model of a Zeppelin dirigible. In itself the thing looked harmless enough… It looked like a toy balloon at the mercy of any gust of wind — purposeless, slow, and unwieldy.

And then suddenly — Cr-r-rack! Mr. Raymond Phillips had touched a lever, and the airship sprang into life. Nothing had touched it — nothing, that is, that could be seen by the eye of any human being — and yet at that touch and at the sound of the compelling “Cr-r-rack!” the airship model awoke and became a purposeful thing.

“Crack, crack!” again and again. Running his fingers from one key to another he stopped it dead, turned it about, made it rise and fall, made it turn figures of eight in the air, and finally stopped it again, motionless in the air, forty feet above the orchestra stalls.

“Now,” said he, “just imagine that row of seats is a row of houses, and that instead of a model, with paper toys in its hold, I am controlling a full-sized airship carrying a cargo of dynamite bombs. Watch!”

He pressed another key. There was a faint click from the framework of the airship, and the bottom of the box that hung amidships fell like a trapdoor, releasing not bombs, but a flight of paper birds that fluttered gracefully down on the seats beneath.

The whole article is very interesting. But for the life of me I cannot figure out what any of it has to do with that woman in the middle photo who has antennae attached to her back. It’s hard to see, but I think the caption says “A Dress Lighted by Wireless.” I have no idea.

Written by David

May 21st, 2010 at 9:03 am

Posted in Politics,Science,Technology

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Walter Wellman On The Future Of Aerial Navigation

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From February 5, 1911

WALTER WELLMAN ON THE FUTURE OF AERIAL NAVIGATION

WALTER WELLMAN ON THE FUTURE OF AERIAL NAVIGATION: From Facts Gained in His Own Experiences He Points Out What Is Needed to Conquer the Air. (PDF)

Walter Wellman was an explorer who made several unsuccessful attempts to reach the North Pole by airship (including an attempt covered here back in July). In this article, he considers the future of commercial air travel.

My faith is strong that having demonstrated the practicability of air travel man will go on till he has developed flight into a state of perfection and usefulness not even indicated by the apparatus of to-day.

Whether or not full commercial utilization of aerial navigation is coming, soon or late, is a question which no one can now adequately and confidently answer. It may come; it may not. My own impression, rather than conviction, is that in the next half century we shall have limited rather than universal commercial application of the art. But within those limitations will be found much that is highly beneficial to humanity…

Commercial aerial navigation, like any other navigation, means operation for a profit in competition with railways and steamships. involved in operation for a profit are certain requirements well understood, but which it will be well to state. First, there must be a high degree of safety of operation, and reduction to a small minimum of the risk of accident to the ship itself and its passengers and cargo. Without this high degree of safety ships and their cargoes cannot be insured at practicable premiums, owners cannot afford to carry their own insurance, (since the inevitable losses must be made up in some way,) passengers will not offer themselves for voyages, and goods will not be tendered for transportation without insurance.

Next, ships of an aerial transportation line, like steamships and railways trains, must be fairly sure of setting out on a given schedule, and of accomplishing the voyage in a reasonably close approximation to the time advertised beforehand. It is clear that great uncertainty of departure and of time of arrival would constitute a handicap against the enterprise in competition with more stable modes of transportation.

These objections, sure to hold in the long run, might not apply sharply to an aerial line as long as the novelty remained. For the unusual experience of a trip in the air passengers might offer themselves and be wiling to pay much higher rates of fare than they would have to pay upon competing lines.

Oddly, Wellman does not include thoughts of air travel by plane, even though that was clearly where the industry was heading. The first planes which carry passengers were already in development, but he focuses primarily on the problems of commercial balloon flight.

Written by David

February 4th, 2011 at 9:00 am

“Crossing The Atlantic Feasible” Says Prof. Rotch Of Harvard

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From October 23, 1910

CROSSING THE ATLANTIC FEASIBLE SAYS PROF. ROTCH OF HARVARD

“CROSSING THE ATLANTIC FEASIBLE” SAYS PROF. ROTCH OF HARVARD: He Has Charted the Air Lanes Above the Ocean and Future Balloon Voyagers Will Have Their Wind Currents Marked Out For Them. (PDF)

It seems that every week brings another story about air travel, and this one brings good news for those aeronauts planning to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an airship: a Harvard Professor has just completed a study of wind currents that could dramatically cut your travel time.

“It is evident that the currents in the various levels of the atmosphere are of vastly more importance to the aeronaut than are the ocean currents or surface winds to the sailor, since the winds above the earth’s surface blow much faster tan the surface winds, and aerial machines are considerably more bulky than aquatic vehicles of the same carrying capacity.

“Moreover, a balloon or flying machine, wholly immersed in one medium, cannot tack, as a ship floating in the water can advance partly into the wind. Consequently a balloon without motive power can only drift with the current, and a dirigible balloon or flying machine must possess a proper speed superior to that of the current in which it floats in order to make headway against it. Hence the necessity in the case of the balloon without power, and the advisability of the airship or heavier-than-air machine to seek a favorable current in the aerial ocean.”

Written by David

October 22nd, 2010 at 9:30 am

When Future Historian Comes To 1910

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From August 7, 1910

WHEN FUTURE HISTORIAN COMES TO 1910

WHEN FUTURE HISTORIAN COMES TO 1910: Will He Look Us Up with Interest, or Pass Us by with a Grunt (PDF)

Back in 1910 the New York Times Sunday Magazine had a regular weekly column in which two characters known as the Office Radical and the Office Philosopher debate two sides of an issue. I’ve read a few of their debates while doing research for this blog, but I haven’t published any of their columns here so far. But this one was too good to pass up.

In this week’s column, they debate whether or not anything interesting has happened in 1910 that would be worth future historians looking at, especially as compared to all the interesting stuff their own historians have to look back on.

The Office Radical is sure that “some future historian will be ransacking the newspaper files and official records of 1910 the same way our present-day historians are ransacking those of, say, 1859 or 1770.”

The Office Philosopher says, “I’ll bet you 10 to 6 he doesn’t look at them for anything but Peary and the airships.”

I read this as I sat in the microforms room of the New York Public Library, doing research for this blog. I’d been researching the other 1910 articles I’ve posted over the last couple months, on topics that do indeed include Robert Peary and airships. And when I saw this discussion my eyes got wide and I thought, “They’re talking about me!”

I felt like Bastian in The NeverEnding Story when he realizes that the book he’s reading is talking specifically about him. Maybe this means I should write a post in which I wonder if future historians will ever look back at blogs of today with the same fascination I have in looking at newspapers of 1910.

So, obviously, I side with the Radical on this one.

Written by David

August 6th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Freak Patents That Have Come In With The Aeroplane

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From July 31, 1910

FREAK PATENTS THAT HAVE COME IN WITH THE AEROPLANE

FREAK PATENTS THAT HAVE COME IN WITH THE AEROPLANE: Would-Be Inventors Keep the Department at Washington Busy With Schemes That Sound Flighty. (PDF)

The illustrations and descriptions of crazy flying contraptions that people applied for patents on (sometimes successfully) are fantastic. I managed to find one of the actual patents for a machine mentioned in the article that’s powered by birds. I think the technical drawings in the patent are even better than the illustrations shown here. Check it out. It’s powered by eagles!

Here’s how the article describes that invention:

From gay Paree comes Edouard Wulff, with a patented scheme for flying by means of “eagles, vultures, or condors.” True to the instincts of his native city, he fits out his birds with “corsets,” the specifications of which as to trimmings, binding, etc., are carefully set out.

By a strange oversight for one bred in the city of fashions, he fails to state what is the latest mode of wearing the feathers on his motors. With wise foresight he has provided for two aeronauts, one on top among the birds and the other below to steer the craft. This is sensible; a man busy prodding up a dozen uncouth and bewildered condors wouldn’t have much time for steering.

Not all of the inventions are outrageous in hindsight. The article takes a mocking tone at a proposed airship so big it has several floors and resembles a hotel, but of course we have multilevel jumbo jets today, some with luxury approaching that of hotels, so it wasn’t so far fetched.

Most of the invention descriptions in the article are too vague for me to find the original patents (if they truly even reached the application stage), but you can find a lot of this kind of thing using Google’s patent search engine. Here is a link to search “flying machine” or “airship” with results displayed visually in chronological order.

Written by David

July 30th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Problems Of First Transatlantic Balloon Trip

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From July 10, 1910

PROBLEMS OF FIRST TRANSATLANTIC BALLOON TRIP

PROBLEMS OF FIRST TRANSATLANTIC BALLOON TRIP: Peculiar Conditions Face the Aeronauts Who Will Attempt to Cross the Ocean in the Dirigible America Under the Auspices of “The New York Times,” the Chicago Record-Herald, and the London Daily Telegraph. (PDF)

By 1910, Walter Wellman had made three unsuccessful attempts to fly an airship to the North Pole when he set his sites instead on crossing the Atlantic. This article describes the ambitious trip and explains how Wellman and his crew will overcome the obstacles they will surely face.

Spoiler alert! They didn’t make it. But they did manage to fly 1,000 miles before needing a rescue. That’s significant because if Wellman had managed to fly 1,000 miles on his earlier expeditions to the North Pole, he would have reached it.

Wellman lived another 24 years, but after this trip he never flew again.

Written by David

July 9th, 2010 at 10:15 am