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Our Prototypes column introduces new vehicle concepts and presents visuals from designers who illustrate the ideas. Some of them will be extensions of existing concepts, others will be new, some will be production ready, and others really far-fetched.
The Ikaros is a personal glider that would be manufactured by robotic filament winding. Its cost would be comparable with an average car, making it affordable for anyone, and Ikaros pilots would be able to experience, among other things, free fall and zero G.
Origin of the idea
This idea was brought to me by Valentin Stavrev. A few years ago, a paraglide pilot asked Stavrev to design and build a balloon able to ascend to a record altitude. While thinking about this project, he was inspired by the Hörten gliders; more precisely by the elegant simplicity of Ho X and the Horten Alita.
The idea of a wing suit-like glider that would be dropped from the edge of space is not a new one; for a decade, sport enthusiasts have dreamt of such a creation. With current technologies, a project like the Ikaros has a real chance of taking-off, and Stavrev is interested in sharing his idea with you and pushing it further.
How it works
First, the pilot would ascend by using a stratospheric balloon. Then, at the right altitude, he would release the Ikaros from the balloon and start free falling with it. During the free fall, the pilot would experience zero G, and at the right speed, he would tilt the nose upward and fly in parabolas.
With the Ikaros, it would be possible to carry out fancy aerobatic maneuvers at the edge of space. The Ikaros is a wing-type aircraft, and the pilot would be comfortably installed inside it. The glider’s profile would be aerodynamic, stable, structurally sound, and it would not cost a lot to manufacture. With a zero angle of attack, drag would be minimal and the glide ratio would be higher than average.
The pilot would lie flat with chest down and back up (prone position). This would allow for a low fuselage profile and that would help the pilot bear the acceleration force more easily. A double-wall cockpit would be designed as an extra safety that would also avoid the use of a heavy, bulky pressure suit. In future versions, the central section could be made out of a single piece of transparent composite material to allow the pilot to immerse himself completely in the experience. Finally, a drogue parachute for high altitude and a ballistic chute for low altitude emergency descent would be located in the craft’s storage bay.
The Ikaros project opens up a new window of opportunity for extreme sporting and flying enthusiasts who have been waiting more than 10 years for this kind of aircraft to be built to push the limits of skydiving and gliding. New technologies proposed by Stavrev that aren’t described here could help train pilots and make them learn and develop new ways of flying as the Ikaros is a mix between free falling and diving.
Scientists could also use it to carry microgravity experiments because the Ikaros would be capable of reaching zero G multiple times during each of its flight paths.
The industrial designer
First I would like to thanks Stavrev for approaching me with this bold idea and Adolfo Esquivel, who created the graphic renderings of the Ikaros. Esquivel graduated with an Industrial Design degree from Colombia and completed his postgraduate education in Events Design at UQAM (Montreal). He also created the images of the Libelule ATV/SUB and of the Motowalk people mover.