Professor Designs Plasma Driven UFO
of Florida mechanical and aerospace engineering
associate professor Subrata Roy has
recently applied for a patent
to build a circular aircraft that can hover in the
air like a helicopter without any moving parts or
The saucer will hover and propel itself using electrodes that cover its surface to ionize the surrounding air into plasma. Gases (such as air, which has an equal number of positive and negative charges) become plasma when energy (such as heat or electricity) causes some of the gas's atoms to lose their negatively charged electrons, creating atoms with a positive charge, or positive ions, surrounded by the newly detached electrons.
Using an onboard source of
energy (such as a battery, ultra-capacitor
or a solar panel) the electrodes will send an
electrical current into the plasma, causing the
plasma to push against the neutral (noncharged) air
surrounding the craft, theoretically generating
enough force for lift off and movement in different
directions (depending on where on the craft's
surface you direct the electrical current)
At six inches (15.2 centimetres) in diameter, the device, which Roy calls a "wingless electromagnetic air vehicle" (WEAV), will truly be a flying saucer. Theoretically, Roy says, the flying saucer can be as large as anyone wants to build it, because the design gives the aircraft balance and stability. In other words, this type of aircraft could someday be built large enough to ferry around people. But, Roy says, "we need to walk before we can run, so we're starting small."
The biggest hurdle to building a WEAV large enough to carry passengers would be making the craft light, yet powerful enough to lift its cargo and energy source. Roy is not sure what kind of energy source he will use yet. He anticipates that the craft's body will be made from a material that is an insulator such as ceramic, which is light and a good conductor of electricity. "In theory you probably should be able to scale it up," says Anthony Colozza, a researcher who is stationed at NASA's Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland and helped Roy draw up the original plans for powering the saucer. The choice of a power source that is powerful, yet lightweight is "probably going to be the thing that makes or breaks it."
began designing the WEAV in 2006. The following
year, he and Colozza wrote a paper for the
now-defunct NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts
(NIAC) about the use of electro-hydrodynamics, or
ionized particles, as an alternative to liquid fuel
for powering space vehicles. When NASA shut down
NIAC in August 2007, Roy decided to continue his
work at U.F.
If he's successful, Roy hopes to develop a more stable aircraft and a new form of fuel—air. Other craft that interact with the atmosphere have a problem: moving parts, whether jet engines, propellers or rotors. "My interest started when I saw inherent problems in helicopters and airplanes," Roy says. If these parts stop moving, the aircraft falls from the sky. The flying saucer, on the other hand, has no moving parts.
In theory, the WEAV would be more stable than an aircraft—airplanes and helicopters, for example—that rely on aerodynamics to provide lift.
Using a plasma field, "you
could produce lift in any direction, you could
change direction quickly and that power could be
turned on or off almost instantly," Colozza says. If
the pilot wanted such an aircraft to move to the
right, he or she would increase power to electrodes
on the left side of the craft and vice versa for
moving to the left. Electrodes on the bottom of the
craft would power its lift, whereas those on top
would bring the craft back down to Earth.
Roy has been working with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, since 2001 to study how plasma could be used to control the flow of air—pushing air in different directions - and thereby the vehicle's movements. "If plasma (flow) is turned on the right way, I can blow air any direction I want to blow air," says Doug Blake, deputy director of the Air Force Research Lab's Air Vehicles Directorate, of the craft's ability to push air away from itself.
"If I have a jet coming out of the bottom of this, I can create a helicopter with no moving parts. Things that you would use a helicopter for, you could use this for."