This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Ser. No. 60/692,703 filed on Jun. 21, 2005, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.
The present application relates to amusement devices for transporting people and, more particularly, to amusement devices for transporting people with aerodynamic equipment
Amusement devices typically are used to entertain children and adults at various indoor and outdoor venues, such as carnivals, amusement parks and the like. Over the years, various amusement devices have been developed to simulate high speed chases, the feeling of weightlessness and the like, such as roller coasters, Ferris wheels and swings. Such devices often employ speed, rotation and rapid movement to create a thrill or adrenaline rush. However, the prior art has not provided the thrill-seeker with a vortex airflow-based ride capable of simulating a whirlwind or tornado experience.
Accordingly, there is a need for an amusement device that operates in a vortex airflow.
In one aspect, the disclosed amusement device includes a support structure, a carriage suspended from the support structure and a vortex generator adapted to generate a vortex airflow such that the carriage interacts with the vortex airflow.
In another aspect, the disclosed amusement device includes a support structure, a carriage connected to the support structure at a connection point by at least one suspension element and a vortex generator including a vortex outlet generally aligned with the connection point.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Other aspects of the disclosed amusement device will become apparent from the following description, the accompanying drawings and the appended claims.
FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of one aspect of the disclosed amusement device with vortex airflow;
FIG. 2 is a front elevational view, partially in section, of the amusement device of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a top plan view of a vortex generator of the amusement device of FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a detailed view of an airfoil of the vortex generator of FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is a front sectional view, taken at line 5-5, of a portion of the vortex generator of FIG. 3;
FIG. 6 is a front perspective view of one aspect of a carriage of the amusement device of FIG. 1;
FIG. 7 is a front perspective view of a second aspect of the carriage of FIG. 6;
FIG. 8 is a front perspective view of a third aspect of the carriage of FIG. 6;
FIG. 9 is a front perspective view of a fourth aspect of the carriage of FIG. 6; and
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION
FIG. 10 is a front perspective view of a fifth aspect of the carriage of FIG. 6.
As shown in FIG. 1, one aspect of the disclosed amusement device with vortex airflow, generally designated 10, may include a vortex generator 12, a carriage 14 and a support structure 16. As described in greater detail below, the carriage 14 may include seating or standing area for passengers and may be suspended from the structure 16 by way of suspension elements 38. The suspension elements 38 may be, may include or may be formed from bungee cords, ropes, cables, chains or the like.
The structure 16 may include a brace arch 18 positioned generally perpendicular to and joined to a main arch 20 at an arch intersection 22. The brace arch 18 and the main arch 20 may be constructed upon a properly reinforced surface 26 by, for example, using high strength steel framing, wood framing, concrete or other conventional building materials and methods. The surface 26 may include a vortex outlet 24.
At this point, those skilled in the art will appreciate that various alternative aspects of structure 16 may be employed to suspend the carriage 14 relative to the vortex generator 12. In one aspect, the structure 16 may be replaced with a conventional construction crane adapted to suspend the carriage 14 over the vortex outlet 24 of the vortex generator 12. In another aspect, the carriage 14 may be connected to a vertically oriented arm or “swing” that is suspended from a horizontally oriented axle extending between a pair of towers.
The vortex generator 12 may be adapted to create a controllable and tornado-like vortex airflow, such as vortex airflows 56, 58 shown in FIG. 5. As used herein “vortex” and “vortex airflow” broadly refer to any flow having at least a slight whirling or circular motion.
The vortex airflow 56, 58 may emanate from the vortex generator 12 by way of the vortex outlet 24. In one aspect, the vortex outlet 24 may be positioned centrally on the surface 26 and/or directly under the arch intersection 22 such that when the carriage 14 is positioned over the vortex outlet 24, the carriage 14 may experience many of the effects of being in the center of a strong whirlwind or tornado.
The structure 16 may include a hoist system 28 for moving the carriage 14 between point A near the base of the main arch 20 and point B near the arch intersection 22. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the brace arch 18 may stabilize the main arch 20, which provides the structural mounting for a track (hidden in main arch 20) of the hoist 28. An electrically actuated, traversing winch-cable (not shown) in the main arch 20 may move a trolley 32 upon track 30 between points A and B. The trolley 32 may also include an electrically actuated hoisting winch-cable 34 to raise and lower the carriage 14 in the vertical direction.
The suspension elements 38 may be securely joined to a swivel 36 at one end and the carriage 14 at the other end, thereby allowing free rotation of the suspension elements 38 and carriage 14 when the carriage 14 is in the vortex airflow 56, 58. The swivel 36 may be positioned directly over the vortex outlet 24. Alternatively, the swivel 36 and/or the suspension elements 38 may be movable relative to the structure 16.
In an alternative aspect, the amusement device 10 may also include two or more carriages (not shown). A second carriage may be attached to a second trolley that is operatively engaged with a second traversing winch-cable and a second hoisting winch-cable. Having two or more carriages on the amusement device 10 may maximize the duty cycle (minimize idle time) by, for example, allowing one carriage 14 to be boarding passengers, one carriage 14 to be unloading passengers, while the third carriage 14 is “flying” in the vortex airflow. The actuation of the traversing winch-cables of the carriages may be synchronized, while the actuation of the hoisting winch-cables may be operated independently.
The carriage 14 may be characterized as a mass suspended as a three-dimensional pendulum from the main arch 20. The period of a pendulum directly relates to the size of the suspended mass and the length of the pendulum. Therefore, the height and span of main arch 20 substantially affects the motion of the carriage 14 while suspended in the vortex airflow. The hoist winch-cable 34 may allow adjustment of the length of the suspension elements 38, while selection of the carriage design and number of human passengers allows variations in mass. Furthermore, the collective spring rate of suspension elements 38 while at rest (i.e., in the absence of the vortex airflow) greatly affects the motions of carriage 14 while suspended in the vortex airflow.
As shown in FIGS. 3-5, the vortex generator 12 may include a filtered inlet 40, a centrifugal compressor 42, a diffuser 44, a plenum 46, an airfoil array 48 and a nozzle 50. A housing 52 may define the nautilus-shaped plenum 46. The airfoil array 48 may include a plurality of airfoils 54. The airfoils 54 may include a variable pitch camber, as shown in FIG. 4, thereby allowing a user to alter the vortex airflow exiting the vortex outlet 24. The generator 12 may be positioned beneath the surface 26 and the nozzle 50 may be aligned with the vortex outlet 24.
At this point those skilled in the art will appreciate that various types of blowers, fans and the like may be used with the vortex generator 12, such as axial blowers, centrifugal blowers and the like. Furthermore, any known means of creating a vortex airflow may be used as the vortex generator 12.
As indicated by arrows in FIG. 3, the compressor 42 may induces a high velocity airflow through the filtered inlet 40. The airflow may continue through the diffuser 44, plenum 46 and airfoil array 48. Aerodynamic lifting forces, which are well understood in the art, may induce a two-dimensional spiral airflow in the nozzle 50. The shape of the nozzle 50 produces high pressure gradients in the nozzle 50 and results in the high-velocity vortex airflow out of the vortex outlet 24.
In one aspect, the vortex airflow out of vortex outlet 24 may have a conical shape with an average vortex diameter at a given distance above vortex outlet 24. This vortex diameter may be controlled by numerous methods, including setting the pitch angle (i.e., the angle of attack) of each airfoil 54 in the airfoil array 48. When each airfoil 54 is set in a predominantly tangential orientation T (see FIG. 4), a more divergent vortex airflow 56 (see FIG. 5) may form above the vortex outlet 24. When each airfoil 54 is set to a predominantly radial orientation R (see FIG. 4), a less divergent vortex airflow 58 may form above the vortex outlet 24. The ability to control the divergence of the vortex airflow during operation of the amusement device 10 may provide strongly pleasing and unexpected effects for the passengers on the carriage 14.
The carriage 14 may have various structures and configurations. For example, the carriage may be “open,” wherein the passengers are unshielded or only partially shielded from buffeting by the vortex flow, or closed, wherein the passengers are completely shielded from buffeting by the vortex flow. In another aspect, the carriage 14 may be powered, wherein the carriage is equipped with an auxiliary motive source, such as a mounted fan of sufficient capacity to alter its interaction with the vortex flow, or un-powered, wherein the carriage 14 lacks an auxiliary motive source. In another aspect, the carriage may be ruddered, wherein the carriage 14 is equipped with an aerodynamic surface or surfaces which may be actuated to produce aerodynamic forces of sufficient capacity to alter its interaction with the vortex flow, or un-ruddered, wherein the carriage 14 lacks such surfaces. In another aspect, the carriage may be axled, wherein the carriage 14 includes additional degrees of rotational freedom, or un-axled, wherein the carriage 14 lacks such equipment. In another aspect, the amusement device 10 may include an array of carriages 14 linked together by, for example, separator bars, universal joints, compressive spring and/or damping elements and the like. In another aspect, the carriage 14 may include one or more tiers of passengers. As shown in FIG. 6, the carriage 14 may have a circular array of seats 62 with restraints 66 mounted on a frame 68 that may attach to the suspension elements 38.
In a first alternative aspect, as shown in FIG. 7, a carriage 70 may include a circular array of seats 72 mounted on a first rim 73, which may be pivotally mounted in a second rim 76. Second rim 76 may be pivotally mounted to a third rim 74, which may be attached to a frame 74 that may be suspended by suspension elements 38 at connectors 74.
In a second alternative aspect, as shown in FIG. 8, a carriage 80 may include a first circular array of seats 87, a second circular array of seats 86, and a third circular array of seats 82, all mounted within a frame 88. Suspension elements 38 may attach to connectors 84 on the frame 88.
In a third alternative aspect, as shown in FIG. 9, a carriage 90 may include aerodynamic rudders 96. Passengers may be positioned within compartments 98 to shield the passengers from the vortex airflow. Carriage 90 may be attached to suspension elements 38 by connectors 94.
In a fourth alternative aspect, as shown in FIG. 10, a carriage 100 may include four rims 102, each containing a circular array of seats 102, and connected together by a linking frame 106, which may be suspended by suspension elements 38 attached to connectors 104.
In another aspect, the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 may optionally include one or more of the following: (1) equipment for the comfortable conveyance of passengers in a seated, a standing or a prone position, (2) equipment for preventing injury to passengers, (3) sufficient overall carriage weight to maintain a desired amount of dynamic stability when exposed to the aerodynamic forces of the vortex airflow, (4) a center of gravity located so as to obviate flipping when exposed to such turbulent forces, (5) an aerodynamic shape for producing interesting, entertaining and variable motions of the carriage, and (6) structural integrity that is more than sufficient to withstand the forces imposed on the carriage 14.
In another aspect, a passenger may be suspended in the vortex airflow by a parachuting harness, such as the type typically used when skydiving. In another aspect, a number of passengers suspended in such harnesses may be linked together by mechanical elements and safely conveyed into the vortex airflow to experience simulated flying.
The motions of the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 while exposed to the vortex airflow may be compared to a conventional aircraft suspended from a three-dimensional spring. An aircraft caught in a tornado, for example, may be sucked down into the center of the tornado and/or thrown outwardly. Similarly, the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 may be pulled into the center of the vortex airflow and/or thrown outwardly, while being restrained by suspension elements 38. For the embodiments in which suspension elements 38 are elastic “bungee cords,” suspension elements 38 provide a restoring force to prevent carriage 14 from being completely pulled into or thrown outwardly from the vortex airflow. The geometrical arrangement of suspension elements 38, as attached to carriage 14, together with their selected elasticity, acts to limit the pitch, roll, and yaw motions of carriage 14 to within desirable levels.
The carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 may also be subjected to various conditions during operation of the device 10. For example, the vortex airflow may be turned on and off intermittently, the carriage 14 may be held in a rest position before the vortex airflow is turned on, or the carriage may be moved along a pre-selected trajectory as the vortex airflow is initiated. Possible pre-selected trajectories may include a “drop” (by actuation of the hoist winch-cable), a “direct approach” (by actuation of traverse winches), a “swing,” a “spin,” and a “launch.”
A “drop” may be accomplished as follows: from the loading position, the hoist winch may draw the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 to a maximum height. The traverse winch may center the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 in the vortex air flow, whereupon the hoist winch releases the carriage for a pre-determined time, resulting in a free fall of the carriage approximately into the center of the vortex air flow. The aerodynamic forces present as well as the restoring force of the suspension elements 38 may arrest the free fall.
A “swing” may be accomplished as follows: from the loading position, the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 may be drawn by the hoist winch to a pre-selected height and restrained from horizontal motion (e.g., via a mooring cable) during the action of the traverse winch. Then the horizontal restraint may be released and the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 is allowed to swing like a pendulum in the vortex airflow.
A “spin” may be accomplished by imparting a rotation to the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 prior to moving the carriage into the vortex airflow.
A “launch” may be accomplished as follows: the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 may be restrained at or near the loading position during the actuation of the traverse winches, positioning trolley 32 above the vortex air flow, and also pre-tensioning the suspension elements 38 by a set amount. When the restraining force is released, the elastic action of suspension elements 38 may launch the carriage 14, 70, 80, 90, 100 into the vortex airflow.
The device 10 may also be adapted to produce various special effects that are surprising, pleasing to the eye and/or of commercial value as promotional “attention getters.” Additionally, generator 12 of the amusement device 10 may be adapted to propel substantial quantities of water and/or water vapor to substantial heights above the vortex outlet 24, thereby creating a widely distributed and unique “fountain” to cool and entertain observers. The generator 12 may also be adapted to propel substantial quantities of other materials to substantial heights above vortex outlet 24, such as, for example, colored smoke, confetti, fireworks, spot lights, laser lights, strobe lights and the like.
Although the disclosed amusement device with vortex airflow is shown and described with respect to certain aspect and embodiments, modifications will occur to those skilled in the art upon reading and understanding the specification. The disclosed amusement device with vortex airflow includes all such modifications and is limited only by the scope of the claims.