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Da Vinci Designed Parachute Tested (It Worked!)

By jwsh in News
Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 12:41:11 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

An old DaVinci Designed parachute was successfully tested the other day. The design was essentially a canvas pyramid with wooden supports. 'Experts' (clearly not very expert) said it wouldn't work, but it did. The person did, however, use a conventional parachute to escape being crushed by the parachute on landing.


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Da Vinci Designed Parachute Tested (It Worked!) | 11 comments (10 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Cool. But... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
by error 404 on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 11:37:19 AM EST

it seems to me that it "works" only for particular values of "works".

The meaning of "works", for a parachute, I think, should include "able to land without being crushed by the 'chute".

Still, as a lifelong Da Vinci fan, I think this is very, very cool.
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

Re: Cool. But... (none / 0) (#3)
by Commienst on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 12:29:32 PM EST

You did not read the article it weighed 180 pounds because they used materials available in Leonard DaVinci's time to prove it could have worked back then. If they use modern materials like carbon fiber instead of wood you would not have to worry about being crushed by the chute's weight on landing.

[ Parent ]
Re: Cool. But... (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by error 404 on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 04:06:15 PM EST

I did read the article. Me? Skip a Da Vinci article? I don't think so!

The design ends up being 180 pounds. Modern materials and techniques = another design. I wonder how much of the weight was the canvas? Because using the right wood - bamboo or a very straight-grained wood, split instead of cut, and just barely thick enough to survive the flight (don't worry about breaking on landing) could be very light.

But I also think that there is a very good chance of landing either entirely inside or entirely outside the 'chute, given low wind and a flat landing area. It just becomes an extra hazard that I wouldn't want to deal with, if I were the test pilot.

The part I found interesting is that, apparently, Leonardo calculated the size of the 'chute accurately.
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

Re: Cool. But... (none / 0) (#4)
by mparcens on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 12:38:59 PM EST

Yeah, before it could be called a sucess, I guess landing is definitely a requirement. But, the parachute was said to be a pyramid, right? Couldn't the person have landed exactly inside the pyramid, with the chute coming down around him on the ground?

Sure, it requires that the chute doesn't break, but the height of that pyramid would surely allow for a person to be standing, and have the chute come down around him when it lands.

your cookies aren't that secure

[ Parent ]
great... (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by hattig on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 12:43:43 PM EST

Not only did he invent the parachute, and it worked, but he also invented the instant house-on-landing.

No more time tediously setting up tents and whatnot before a battle. Drop your army in a field, and then you will have an instant camp set up. If the people can land in a reasonable formation (leaving roads etc between the pyramids, and avoiding pyramids of pyramids).

Even for the casual parachutist, if they ever landed somewhere they couldn't be rescued from, they would have instant shelter from the elements.


[ Parent ]

Helicopter (none / 0) (#6)
by 3than on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 01:51:11 PM EST

Hmm. Does anyone know if his helicopter design was ever tested? This stuff makes you wonder about Da Vinci the engineer, doesn't it?
I have always wondered about archaic technologies-I wonder exactly how good the technological record from the classical period is. The greater feats of engineering(pyramids, stonehenge, coliseums)are still impressive by todays standards...I wonder what else we don't know about. Personal gliding devices on the Greek Isles, inspiration for the Dedalus tale? It's an area ripe for speculation if not research.

Re: Helicopter (none / 0) (#7)
by waynem77 on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 03:35:26 PM EST

I don't know, but I doubt that it would work for two reasons.

  • There's no way a person (or people) could spin the rotor fast enough to generate the necessary lift. Humans just don't have the required muscle-to-mass ratio. (Now, hook up a motor to it, and maybe you've got something.
  • DaVinci, living before Newton as he did, failed to incorporate any kind of spin-stabilization into his helicopter. Even if you could manage to get the thing off the ground, the compartment would immediately start whirling around in the opposite direction as the rotor, such that angular momentum was conserved.

Then again, IANA aeronautical engineer.

[ Parent ]

Thanks! (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by ramses0 on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 05:05:23 PM EST

This story made me smile, thanks for pointing it out :^)=

[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

Why risk a human life? (none / 0) (#10)
by mr on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 09:25:00 PM EST

The military used dummies attached in parachutes for test jumps. (the roswell alien crash was JUST test dummies, right?)

Glad to see an idea using 'low tech' materials from the past works. And, I do wonder what DaVinci would have done with todays material and technologies.

Did it work? (none / 0) (#11)
by hubie on Fri Jun 30, 2000 at 09:11:42 AM EST

An earlier post made an interesting comment in that we don't really know if the design worked because it wasn't used in landing. Floating down doesn't tell you anything unless you land softly enough not to be killed or injured. Holding on to the four corners of a bedsheet would provide enough drag to allow you to float down in an upright position, however you'd smack into the ground awful hard.

Like the old joke, "that fall out the window didn't hurt me at all---it was the landing that got me."

Da Vinci Designed Parachute Tested (It Worked!) | 11 comments (10 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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