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Project OpenSky Takes Off 148

Jesrad writes "As was reported two years ago on Slashdot, japanese artists, students and engineers under the lead of Kazuhiko Hachiya have taken upon themselves to build a real-size, fully functional Mehve (japanese website), the small jet-powered glider flying wing ridden by anime heroin Nausicaa. They have made a lot of progress, and are now test-flying the full scale, yet unpowered model by tow-launching it along with its thrilled pilot. They're having a lot of fun, too, judging from the movies of the testing sessions."
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Project OpenSky Takes Off

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  • Hm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zptao ( 979069 )
    Isn't this sort of thing illegal here in the states?
    • Re:Hm... (Score:3, Informative)

      You would have to get FAA clearance to fly it if it does not fall under the classification of an ultralight aircraft [].
    • Re:Hm... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by megaditto ( 982598 )
      No, not really, all is legal. It just has to be slow (100 mph I believe) and weigh less than 200 lb (100 kg).

      Unpowered verstions of paragliding and hand gliding are very popular and have been around for decades. Re: [] and []
      And the only reason the story made the front page is because it had 'anime'

      Check your state law, however, as some states have certain restrictions on flying over populated areas, cities, etc.
      Also, you might get shot down if you try to fly one
      • Re:Hm... (Score:3, Informative)

        by kfg ( 145172 ) *
        It just has to be slow (100 mph I believe). . .

        That would kilometers/hour. 55 knots. 63 mph.

        . . .and weigh less than 200 lb (100 kg).

        155 lbs. for unpowered craft; 255 lbs. empty (maximum fuel load of 5 gal.) for powered craft.

      • That would be hang-gliding, thank you. Very few humans have hands big enough to glide with...

        Powered hang-gliders and paragliders (aka paramotors) are also gaining in popularity these days - they attach a small engine and propellor to the pilot's harness (usually either around the pilot's feet for a hang-glider or to the pilot's back for a paraglider). Note that these are different from microlights, which attach a wing to a trike-type fuselage/engine/seating arrangement - powered hang-gliders and paraglid
    • Perhaps, but then only if your wearing underwear.
    • Re:Hm... who cares (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tanek ( 876501 )
      Isn't this sort of thing illegal here in the states?
      U.S. jurisdiction does not (yet) spill over into Japan, so this is sort of irrelevant.
      • U.S. jurisdiction does not (yet) spill over into Japan, so this is sort of irrelevant.
        Give them a chance! The current administation only just got started on Sweden.
        • Yeah, good luck with that. A few days later and this is what you get...

          PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
          64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=40 time=138 ms

    • Re:Hm... (Score:2, Funny)

      by TaGirl_Keri ( 627106 )
      In the States everything is illegal. Excepting that which is compulsory of course
    • Isn't this sort of thing illegal here in the states?
      You can ride a hangglider, paraglider, or ultra light aircraft (basically, anything small/light enough), or go skydiving without any license whatsoever. If this thing gets popullar, though, there are going to be deaths. Flying isn't the same as riding a rollercoaster.
    • Actually US restrictions on Homebuilt/Experimental aircraft are about the most liberal in the world. The odds are it is more likely to be legal in the US than most other countries. Check out for more information.
      This post reminds me of the posts that showed up when some restrictions on High Power model rocket engines talked about on Slashdot. You had a bunch of idiots talking about how much better things where in the EU. Then it turned out that the motors that where going to be restricted in the US
  • by DoctorMabuse ( 456736 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @12:50AM (#15553606) Homepage
    Is anime heroin better than black tar heroin or china white heroin? I'm going to have to go to Tokyo and ask a heroine.
  • Glider? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Not to be needlessly pedantic, but...well, what the be needlessly pedantic, if it's going to be jet powered, won't it cease being a glider?

    I mean, right now it's a glider, but as soon as it's jet powered it'll by definition cease being a glider, right? So what they've really got is a personal glider that they're hoping to develop in to a personal jet aircraft.
    • Re:Glider? (Score:3, Informative)

      by bombman ( 87339 )
      Well - sort of - in the animated movie, the jet is used only occationally (liftoff etc)
      and the wing is often used as a glider.

    • to be needlessly pedantic, if it's going to be jet powered, won't it cease being a glider?
      The space shuttle is a rocket powered glider - it doesn't descend under power.
    • If the jets are used to gain lift until you're to altitude and then turned off to glide, it's much the same thing as the towed gliders that need to be pulled up with a plane- you're just producing something with enough thrust and light enough to carry with you on the glider- if they're running it all the time, it becomes a jet propelled microlight, and anybody with enough know-how can do that one anyhow.
  • usage -10 (Score:4, Informative)

    by leed_25 ( 156309 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @12:51AM (#15553611) Homepage
    In think that you may have meant 'heroine' instead of 'heroin'.

  • Call me.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Visceral Monkey ( 583103 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @12:53AM (#15553621)
    when they get the purple tentacles down so I can start my pr0n career.
  • by joneshenry ( 9497 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @12:55AM (#15553633)
    But would Ohmu's be forced to register with the government ...
  • Mehve? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mish ( 50810 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @12:58AM (#15553639)
    ...have taken upon themselves to build a real-size, fully functional Mehve (japanese website)
    Did anyone else read this and find their brain filing "Mehve" away as the Japanese word for "website"? For a minute I found myself wondering what was so special about putting together a Japanese website.
    • Re:Mehve? (Score:2, Funny)

      by Al_Lapalme ( 698542 )
      I instinctively assumed the Japanese hadn't succeeded in putting together a 'fully functional' website; until now!
    • I thought this also.

      that is all.
    • I thought the same thing....and then I wondered why it took them 2 years to put it together.
    • But this is a fully functional website. That's quite an achievement. Even Google, with their perpetual beta programs, can't claim that.
    • I stumbled there too ;) Until I realized that it was their anglojapanese way of spelling "moewe" (one of their gliders is named moewe) which is, of course, the "europeanly" correct way of spelling "Möwe" (german, being seagull in english and kamome in japanese) if you don't have german Umlaute.
    • I had such trouble with the description, I thought maybe they were building a life size mockup of a website, with a person flying around in the freaking plane for navigation.
      I didn't even find myself considering that an outlandish possibility given past stunts that have appeared here (real life pac man, das blinkenlights, light saber idiocy, goatse, etc)

      It would be an art installation, with a rectangular frame that depicts the website and the guy is in some cable and pulley driven airplane doing stuff on t
  • small jet-powered glider

    jet: jet-propelled vehicle, especially a jet-propelled aircraft.

    glider: A light engineless aircraft designed to glide

    That is quite an invention.
    • IIRC from the movie it didn't use the engine all the time.
    • There are lots of glider pilots who use small compressed air or gasoline engines to take off and then switch to glide mode once airborne.
    • there is no contradiction there, if that's what you are implying.

      Consider that the Space Shuffle is actually a glider over most of the re-entry (called glide-approach).

      A cruise missile [] is a jet-propelled glider... as opposed to a Russian Satan ss-18 [], which is a jet-propelled ballista, though such things may use fins and such for stabilization.

      In other words, anything that uses wings for flying (and not solely for manuvering e.g. a fighter during afterburn []) is a glider.
      • No, a glider is an unpowered aircraft. It's easy to turn a powered aircraft into a glider though -- just turn off the engine.

        I believe cruise missiles run their engines constantly so they're not gliders (and with those little wings they'd make pretty bad gliders anyway). SS-18's are ROCKET propelled ballistic missiles.

        A fighter running on afterburners almost always uses it's wings for flying. A few fighters are capable of actually flying on their engines but don't do it very often.
        • The F-15 was the first to be able to do this (as exhibited by its sustained vertical climbing ability) but it gulps fuel when it does so.
          • Besides the fuel consumption it's a dubious maneuver. It CAN climb on it's engines, but it's sort of a sitting duck while doing it for any prolonged period of time.
            • It's not a combat maneuver, just a demonstration of power, such as a climb to 12,000m from a standing start in about 55 seconds, although in a somewhat lightened aircraft. However, for many years, it could out-climb any other jet-powered craft in the skies, and it still can outdo most of them. Not bad for a 30-year-old design.
              • Oh, definitely. The original context of the discussion was whether fighters fly on their engines or their wings. While some are capable of it, they'd never do so in normal operation so saying fighters fly on their engines (only using their wings for maneuvering) is incorrect.
    • From Ye Olde Wikipedia []:

      A "glider" is an unpowered aircraft. However, the term is also used to refer to motorgliders, which are aircraft that switch off their engines in flight.


      The term "pure glider" (or equivalently, but less commonly "pure sailplane") may be used to distinguish an unpowered glider from a motorglider, without implying any differential in gliding or soaring performance.

      Of course, if you can find a better way to describe what a mehve is while being similarly succinct, be my guest, or are

  • Okay (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    but are they wearing pants?
  • by ashitaka ( 27544 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:09AM (#15553675) Homepage
    Anyone who's seen the opening sequence from "Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa []" (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind ) can understand the type of flight experience they are trying to produce here.

    The freedom with which Nausicaa sails around the skies on a flying machine light enough to carry yet strong enough to carry out some hairy aerobatics has figured in many a daydream. Hayao Miyazaki takes our daydreams and puts them on the big screen.

    Of course the reality of FAA regulations and principles of aerodynamics tend to get in the way of truly realizing the dreams but I give kudos to these guys for trying.
    • by joneshenry ( 9497 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:52AM (#15553785)
      My dream machine (although it turned out to not be a machine) as a kid would have been an EVA from Neon Genesis Evangelion. I would not have had a qualm about even killing another kid if given an order to do so if obeying such orders was the price of being an EVA pilot. The power to level cities, and if in EVA Unit 01, power without limit, would be in my opinion the most common modern dream in the post video game younger generation, not peacefully flying on a jet-powered glider.

      Nausicaa was a scientist who performed careful experiments that led her to her ultimate conclusions about the role of the deadly fungus and forest in the ecology of the post-apocalyptic world. Genre fiction since then has generally preferred to reject science as the mode of enlightenment, preferring anything else from heredity to magic.

      I guess this point I am more a cynic about what young people really want if freed from the thin vaneer of civilization, similar to the philosophy of Lord of the Flies.

    • Probably someone else has already mentioned this but if you can keep the flyer's weight under 254 pounds and its speed under 65 miles an hour, it's an ultralight and the FAA doesn't get to say much about it other than that you can't fly it in controlled airspace. And if you can land off-airport and don't have big registration numbers (which ultralights aren't required to have) it's not like anyone can catch you, in any case.
  • Nobody knows the trouble I see, nobody knows the sorrow.

    Disruptive technology is a tree watered by the blood of the brave. Otto Lelienthal is somewhere watching this.
  • editors of what?? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by capoccia ( 312092 )
    heroinEEEEEEEE!!!!!! there's an E!!.

    else it's under the jurisdiction of the ATF.

    on second thought, maybe the editors purposefully insert egregiouss errors to troll readers into commenting, thus increasing ad revenue.
  • Impressive work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thagg ( 9904 ) <> on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:55AM (#15553794) Journal
    I had seen their previous RC models -- which really didn't look too much like the glider from the movie -- and thought "OK, that's pretty cool".

    This is lightyears beyond cool.

    They are fighting a lot of aerodynamic issues to make a human-carrying glider that now looks remarkably like the one in the movie. The challenge in flying wings is to fight the tendency of most wings to pitch down. In addition to this natural tendency, this wing has two things going against it.

    1) The "jet" causes drag below the CG
    2) The person raises the CG so high that there is a tendency to be unstable

    Add to this the fact that the design allows very little sweepback (a typical way to get pitch stability in flying wings (see B2 and Northrop)) then you are really in a bind.

    They must have a fabulously high positive pitching-moment airfoil. It is possible to make reasonably efficient airfoils with some positive pitch moment, but unless they've invented something truly revolutionary -- the demands on this airfoil for stability might mean that the glide ratio would not be very good.

    Still -- unbelivably impressive. Way to go!

    Thad Beier
    • With a fast enough onboard computer, robust software and suitable servos, one could have an aircraft that constantly monitors and corrects for the instabilities inherent in such an aircraft.

      As is the case with the F-117 "Stealth" aircraft.
    • You seem knowledgable on aerodynamics, so maybe you can answer this. Would it help if the center part of the wing (where the pilot is located) was lowered? You would also have to lower that duct thing on the front, but that seems like it would lower the center of gravity. That may also screw up the whole likeness to the anime though.
      • Re:Impressive work (Score:3, Informative)

        by rcw-home ( 122017 )
        Increased dihedral [] really doesn't affect pitch stability, only roll stability. Dangling the weight like a pendulum below the aircraft isn't very effective either, you'd end up fighting phugoid [] oscillations. Normally, the key for pitch stability is to have your center of gravity in front of your center of (wing lift) pressure. Such a configuration would cause the plane to nose dive like a lawn dart if it had no tail or canard. An unswept flying wing avoids this, essentially, by building the tail into the bac
    • Surely the obvious answer is to build in a real jet? The extra mass of metal from the turbine etc would drag the CG down again.
    • Perhaps they could trade stability for weight and install a flywheel acting as a gyroscope to increase stability. Would that be practical, or would a flywheel need to be too heavy before it contributed significantly to stability?
    • Since I've been "building" out my own version of the Mevhe using the X-Plane software suite, I can offer some more insight on the challenges of building this kind of flying wing:

      On such an aircraft, the pilot makes up ~80% of the drag and ~70% of the weight: this means that you get to choose between keeping the pilot very close to the aerodynamic center, and modifying the wing's trimmed angle for pitch control while retaining decent stability, or you keep the pilot away from it and try to purposefully use t
  • "Anime heroin," indeed. I may have a heroine addiction, but anime's not exactly a drug.

    Mind you, my DVD shelf is testament to my occasional desire for a "Miyazaki fix." (And a "girls with guns fix." And a "post-apocalyptic adventure fix." And... well, you get the idea.)
  • by inflex ( 123318 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @02:31AM (#15553862) Homepage Journal
    I give these people full credit for persuing their idea this far. However they're going to have a very difficult time with a design like this as it is inherently unstable. While it may fly fine when straight and level, perhaps doing gentle moves, it'll be very happy to snap back with some very ugly characteristics when pushed outside of its stability envelope.

    A full time computer working on the stability will help a lot, however at some points no amount of computer intervention will re-establish stable flight (ie, tumbling).

    Then again, similar things were said about the helicopter :D

    Looking forward to seeing what they end up with... especially for the turbine motor.
  • A swiss pilot (Yves Rossy) has done it... 2 jet engines and a small deltaving. His homepage (in french) is here.
  • I used to fly paragliders pretty seriously, and there is NO WAY on this planet you would get me up on one of those things until a few people have died flying them.

    Under the FAI [] definitions [] paragliders [] and hang-gliders [] are both in the same category of foot-launced unpowered aircraft, they both have loosely similar flight-characteristsics, tend to share the same airspace and consequently in many countries they (now) share a regulatory body.

    Thus it was I came to be on an instructors' course some years ago

  • Build a fully functional EVA! YAY!!! (Yes I'm in love with Rei Ayanami, so what? You know you are, too) :D
  • They're having a lot of fun, too,

    What, were we supposed to believe this was "serious work" otherwise?

  • He's a real aviation buff; I think he'd get a kick out of it.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @02:47PM (#15555544) Homepage

    It's impressive that they're doing this. Moewe has rather low wing area for the slow-speed maneuvering it does in Nausicaa, though. It's certainly possible to make a lively little aerobatic monoplane (the Sukhoi S-26 [] is one of the best modern ones), but those little wings imply a high stall speed. If you want hang-glider type stall speeds, you need more wing area or less weight. The classic solution for slow flight is the biplane. Take a look at this old Sperry Messenger [], which has about the same wingspan as Moewe. The Messenger was a very maneuverable little plane. Sperry himself once landed one in front of the U.S. Capitol.

    Moewe's tailless design creates a pitch stability problem from hell, but that's what flight-control computers are for. It's interesting to see what changes they made from the R/C model. The R/C model looks more like Moewe, with straight wings and a huge dihedral angle. The bigger towed model has a bent wing. They're trying for something that wants to fly straight and level.

    There's much new interest in light aircraft today. The FAA has created a new category of "light sport planes", heavier than ultralights but lighter than general aviation aircraft, with less restrictive licensing. Take a look at this StingSport [], which isn't much bigger than Moewe, even though it's a two-seater.

    I expect the Open Sky crowd will build something that looks more or less like Moewe and flies reasonably well. And they'll do it long before Moller gets off the ground. []

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.