Phase 3 is when the hard work pays off and the dream becomes a reality. Phase 3 focuses on manufacturing and flight testing the first full-scale manned WingBoard. Phase 3 will see the first flights with a rider -- or test pilot -- strapped to the board.
The current limiting factor on our development timeline is funding. We currently have a small funding stream which limits our testing capabilities and extends our timeline. We recently completed fabrication of the first full-scale WingBoard and conducted wind tunnel testing. We hope to conduct our first flights behind aircraft in late 2016 or early 2017. If you would like to join the WingBoard development and help to shorten the timeline, please contact us!
The full scale prototype was fabricated similar to homebuilt aircraft such as the Long-EZ and Cozy. The structure was initially cut from blue structural foam. This was then covered by various layers of fiberglass and carbon fiber to produce the skin of the wing. In several locations, plywood ribs were incorporated. These ribs help distribute the loads from the wing joiner tubes into the skin of the wing.
The prototype is designed very similar to the Phase 2 prototype, consisting of five subassemblies: the center section, left and right wings, and the left and right vertical tails. Each of the sections is joined by carbon fiber tubes, with the main spar consisting of a 2.5" carbon fiber tube. The landing gear are also removable. The entire WingBoard is capable of packing into two boxes 5' x 3' x 1' and 4' x 2' x 1.5' respectively.
Flight control is currently provided by high-end commercial and RC aircraft servos. The servo bays have been designed to also incorporate military grade UAV servos for future development and evaluation. An autopilot used for wing leveling and data acquisition is housed in the electronics bay in the center section.
Wind tunnel testing was conducted on the full scale prototype June 27-28, 2016, as part of the Human Flight Week at the ACE Climatic Wind Tunnel in Oshawa, Ontario. Discovery Channel's Daily Planet was on site to film the testing. The majority of the testing was conducted by wingsuit proximity flier Brandon Mikesell. Flight speeds from 55-75mph were evaluated.
Testing was set up so that the rider and WingBoard would experience the same forces as if they were being towed by an aircraft. The tow line, instead of being attached to an aircraft, was attached approximately 45 feet inside the wind tunnel contraction. The same Y-shaped tow line harness as used on the 40% scale model were incorporated for the testing. Additional safety lines can be seen in the video. In flight, these lines are slack and do not affect the system. The safety ropes are designed to catch the rider only in the event of a fall. They were not exercised during testing.
Flight testing revealed that the system was extremely stable and easy to fly. Full flight capabilities were achieved within 15 minutes of starting testing and very closely matched predictions. Takeoff speed was within 5 mph of predicted and drag forces were within 10 lbs. The rider noted that the system behaved exactly as predicted and match the results seen with the 40% scale rider and simulations.
The wind tunnel testing was completed by evaluating a novice's ability to fly the WingBoard. A member of the test team with no skydiving experience (but who is familiar with wakeboarding) conducted several flights. Under Brandon's direction, he was able to successfully and smoothly fly the WingBoard within 15 minutes of setting foot on the board. He noted the easy transition from wakeboarding to WingBoarding due to a large number of similarities. This reinforced the initial goal that the WingBoard takes wakeboarding to three dimensions and opens the market to a wide range of potential riders.
The bulk of Phase 3 will focus on flight testing and rider training. The goal of flight testing will be to prove the capabilities and rider requirements for the WingBoard. In addition, a training program for training new WingBoard riders will be developed.
Flight testing will progress in four levels:
At the conclusion of Phase 3 testing, the WingBoard will begin touring on the airshow circuit as well as beginning sales to individuals with a passion for exploring the leading edge of aviation. We are currently looking into the regulations and requirements to set up facilities where a rider can rent a WingBoard for a flight for not much more than the cost of a typical skydive.