Development has reached advanced 'Proof Of Concept' stage, where all core elements of Hot Air Ballooning are being constructed and tested altogether, to include: Burners and hot-air simulation (inside the envelope), Pressure scoops (skirts), operational Parachute valve and valve lines, Envelope aerodynamics and physics and more.
In short, temperature difference between the air inside the envelope and the ambient air surrounding it will determine the lift of the Hot Air Balloon. So the pilot uses the burner/s to heat up the air inside the envelope and the result is "lift". When the air cools-down inside the envelope, lifting force is decreased and the Hot Air Balloon will gradually begin to sink. For more precise control over the cooling of the envelope, a Parachute Valve is located on top of the envelope, and the pilot can pull a line that opens the valve, allowing hot air to get outside through the upper portion of the envelope, to allow a more rapid cooling of the air inside the envelope. Therefore, the pilot has the burner to heat the envelope, and the parachute valve to cool it down. By managing these, he can climb or descent to the desired altitude. Without fuel, the air inside the envelope will gradually cool down, and the Balloon will not be able to stay up in the air...so fuel management is crucial.
The Hot Air Balloon pilot must prepare his flight with a lot of considerations. Specific weather conditions are required to allow a safe flight. High-level meteorologic knowledge is required, as well as accurate, real-time meteorological data.
Hot Air Balloons utilize wind and its direction to be carried on in the atmosphere (to be drifted). Wind direction and speed changes with altitude, and navigating a Hot Air Balloon throughout the required altitude layers is very challenging. The pilot must pick the right altitude that offers the best wind direction and speed for the planned flight.
Development/evaluation of the projects covers full-scale 4-5 people Hot Air Balloon simulation down to single-seat 'Hopper', and Powered 'Hopper' simulation. These are single seat Hot Air Balloons without any basket, and the pilot is hung underneath the Balloon.
The 'Hopper' and the Powered 'Hopper' are taking the lead in development and testing, and the experience here in the 'Labs, so far, is no less than STRIKING. Navigating and landing a Hot Air Balloon in X-Plane sets a high level of airmanship and it is very rewarding. This 'striking' experience lead to the decision to proceed and develop full-scale Hot Air Balloon projects with ultimate VR experience, ***and with high level of educational/scientific value***.
Stay tuned for more News on this fascinating project/s!
In the screen shot, a VSKYLABS Powered 'Hopper' prototype (with the pusher motor shut-down) is seen during test flight somewhere over California.