Phase 2 Flight Testing
Our goal is to introduce the WingBoard as the next aerial adventure sport, just as wingsuit flying has risen in popularity over the last decade. We ultimately hope to see the WingBoard at airshows around the world. It has the potential to bring the thrill and adventure of wingsuit flying and the jetman to a level the crowd can enjoy.
Phase 1 proved the aerodynamics and control of the WingBoard using small-scale models. We are planning two more phases to take the WingBoard to full production:
Phase 2 focused on the detailed system design, finalization of procedures/flight characteristics, and data acquisition of forces on the rider. The final design of the Phase 2 prototype incorporated many of the features of the Phase 3 manned prototype, significantly minimizing the development time and risk.
Phase 2 consisted of four development stages:
Rider fabrication made up the majority of the development time and cost of Phase 2, representing about 1/3rd of the cost and half of the development time. The rider is fully articulated with high end robotic servos and controllers. The use of advanced robotic servos provides not only the required torque, but also feedback and data on the level of torque required. The torque required for each servo can then be converted to the force on each joint, proving that a rider is capable of controlling the board.
A typical human analog of this caliber costs between $10K and $25K and is too heavy for true scale modeling. To meet the needs of this project, a custom 3-D printed model was created using fewer degrees of freedom as the rider is not required to walk, but instead strapped to the board. The arms are also simplified to model only the required degrees of freedom to model ability to hold and manipulate the control bar.
A scale parachute was also required for the rider. A 60" IRIS Ultra parachute from FruityChutes.com was used for the primary chute. A smaller spring loaded drogue chute is used to deploy the main chute. A custom parachute pack modeled after full scale skydiving rigs was created to contain the entire system as well as the servo operated release mechanism.
WingBoard fabrication represented approximately 1/6th of the funding and development time. The board is built of a foam core with wood sheeting and finished with a fiberglass surface. Extensive use of custom 3-D printed detailed parts allowed for creation of many of the fine details and mechanisms. The most challenging part of the board fabrication was the safety and release mechanisms. A second 48" IRIS Ultra parachute is housed within the WingBoard and deployed by the binding as the rider separates from the board.
Flight testing represented the final 1/4th of the development time and funding. Initial testing was completed using a tow test rig. This allowed for fine tuning of the rigging and control before flying at 70+mph 300+ feet in the air. A 20 ft winch-activated boom arm is used to raise and lower the tow point. A short tow line allows the board to be raised high enough that in the event of a problem, the board can be stopped mid-air without hitting the ground. Once the final details were resolved, primarily in the tow line configuration and the rider joints, the prototype was ready for flight testing.
A large-scale tow plane of approximately the same scale as the WingBoard was required in order to accurately test all procedures and phases of flight. We used a 38% Scale Bill Hempel Decathlon as the tow plane. This provided the perfect scale match to the WingBoard to help prove flight dynamics and safety features.
The WingBoard completed three flight tests and successfully demonstrated full maneuverability as well as all of the safety features. We continued to expand the flight envelope, including basic aerobatics. Testing revealed that some changes would be required to the binding design and these changes are being incorporated as we continue testing. Additional tests were also conducted using several wing shapes to fine tune the design before moving to the full-scale prototype.
In addition to test flights, the WingBoard also started to make public demonstrations. Our first public demonstration was documented by CNN: Wingboarding - the next extreme sport in the sky
Phase 2 was completed with wind tunnel testing at the Wichita State University Walter Beech Wind Tunnel. Testing involved and updated 40% scale model incorporating changes noted during the previous flight testing. The wind tunnel model was an exact replica of the soon-to-be-built full-scale prototype.
Testing included a full aerodynamic workup including the following test points:
The WingBoard was tested at representative Reynolds numbers, angles of attack ranging from -10 deg to +24 deg, and side-slip angles up to 30 degrees. The data collected was used to improve the simulations used for performance prediction leading up to the first full-scale prototype.
Phase 2 Prototype Fully Assembled
Phase 2 Tow Testing
Bill Hempel 38% Decathlon served as the tow plane
Fully Articulated 31" Tall WingBoard Rider with Parachute Pack