I have sometimes wondered about buying one of the little drone things with a camera in it. It could be fun to take some aerial photos around here and I’m far enough away from anyone else that even when I inevitably crash it, it won’t bother anyone. A couple of things put me off.
My son used to be really into radio controlled helicopters. You know you need insurance for those? Not for the model, but for the damage it can do, which can be spectacular and potentially fatal. Insurance doesn’t cover the model, it covers the costs of getting a shattered rotor blade out of someone’s car door or chest.
Crashes always ended up with a three-figure bill. He’s a homeowner and father now, such expenses are no longer a good thing to have on your home budget and he doesn’t have a lot of spare time anyway.
The cost of crashing a little cheap drone is probably a lot less, but how many crashes before I get the hang of it? It could soon add up…
I once had a go at a radio controlled plane at one of my son’s club’s open days. Fine when it’s going away from you but you have to reverse your hand movements when it’s coming towards you and that’s not easy at all. You have to watch the plane, not the controller. I did learn one important thing. If you crash in farmland, try to crash in a field of sheep, not cows. Sheep will run to the far side of the field from the crash. Cows will come over to investigate the new thing and when they’re done, there’s not likely to be much left to salvage.
The little drones I’ve looked at won’t do much damage if they crash into something. They probably won’t even break a window and if they hit someone, it’ll be a few scratches at worst. There is another problem though.
Unlike the model plane which only goes in one direction, these things don’t have a clearly defined ‘front’ when viewed from the ground. You can make it hover, great, but which way is it going to go when you next press ‘forward’? Unlike even a helicopter there’s no way to tell until you move that lever.
I have radio controlled trains. Much more sensible. Speed control forward and back and they are on rails so they aren’t going to surprise me by spontaneously deciding to go in an unexpected direction. It doesn’t matter if they are moving away from me or towards me, the lever only controls speed.
This does have relevance to the title, which is something mostly studied by people whose wardrobe looks like this –
I’m being a little unfair. I cannot be certain that no UFO sighting is of an alien craft. I could argue ‘well why have they never made contact?’ but a little thought tells me a likely reason. Imagine you arrived here after crossing interstellar distances, with all great intentions to make contact with the monkey people on this new world. Ten minutes of any major news channel and you’re going to engage reverse gear and floor it, right?
There was a time when ‘cigar shaped UFOs’ were all the rage. That was back when zeppelin test flights were floating over rural areas. No internet, few phones, limited news of any kind. Nobody knew what they were. They were ‘unidentified flying objects’ to ground observers, but the people in them knew exactly what they were.
In the UK, we had a spate of sightings of mysterious black triangle ships that never showed up on the nearby airport radar. Naturally, anyone reporting one was dismissed as a crank. Then the new military stealth planes were revealed – black, triangular planes that didn’t show up on radar. Just like that. There must have been test flights, right? As it was secret those test flights would have been at night.
How do you keep a new military advance secret? Well, you make it obvious and deny it exists. Let the Forteanists claim it as a UFO sighting. Few will take it seriously and those that do will be those who think it’s an alien craft. It’s wonderfully deflected into tinfoil hat territory even though the military know those people really saw something.
Towards the end of the second world war, the Nazis were working on some interesting flying designs. Let’s gloss over Dornier’s clearly drug-fuelled flying insanities. They had the rocket propelled Me 163, whose major drawback was its propensity to spontaneously explode. In jets, apart from the well known Me 262 there was the Horten 229, which didn’t get into service before the end of the war. Lucky for us, really. It had the same Junckers Jumo 004 engines as the Me 262 but it ran rings around the earlier plane.
The Nazis also worked on disc-shaped aircraft although there seems scant evidence to suggest they actually built one, much less flew it.
What would be the point of a flying disc? Aerodynamically it would be horribly unstable unless some serious gyros were installed. It would have no aerilons, no tail, no easy means to control its flight.
The alleged German designs were just disc shapes with a cockpit in the middle and a definite front and back, with jet engines at the back. The disc shape seems iirrelevant in this case.
However, a sharp military mind could have seen potential.
Remember that toy drone, with its equally spaced lifting propellors? Make it a disc and replace those propellors with louvred jet engines such as those on a Hawker Harrier. All of them under the disc, no engine at the ‘back’.
The Hawker Harrier is a plane. It has a very clearly defined front and back, When it’s hovering, you can hazard a good guess at which direction it’s going to go in when it fires up the main engine. A hovering disc, however, gives no such clue. Like the little toy drone, which way will it go if you press ‘forward’?
Imagine a fighter aircraft that can make turns the way a house fly does. Ninety degree turns in the air. A disc with a central cockpit able to rotate, and louvred jets that rotate with it. You don’t turn the thing, you just change its direction of travel. If you paint a dot on the ‘front’ as you see it now, when it makes a 90 degree turn to the left, that dot is now on the right side. There is no ‘front’ nor ‘back’, the ‘front’ is whichever way the cockpit is facing now.
The g forces could be horrifying, of course, but if it could be made to work, how can a modern jet fighter chase something that can turn like a fly? An observer seeing it hovering could have absolutely no clue as to which direction it’s going to move in next. Don’t you think the military would be interested in something like that?
Don’t you think they’d be experimenting?
Perhaps that’s what the Roswell crash was about. Not little green men but an early attempt to get one of these things going. Maybe that’s what really happens at Area 51. Sure, the air force have not so far unveiled any kind of flying disc but the aerodynamics must be horrible and controlling something using only jets must be difficult. It’s not an easy project but if it could be made to work it would be well worth the effort.
I think the rim of the saucer would have to spin, to give it a frisbee-like aerodynamic. That just makes it harder to control the jets and harder to change direction, since the whole damn thing is now a gyroscope. Are these problems insurmountable? I have no idea but I bet they’d take a hell of a lot of trials to figure out.
I won’t be at all surprised if, one day, the military reveal a new, saucer-shaped fighter plane.
I also won’t be too surprised when nobody asks how they managed to spend decades testing it without anyone finding out.