Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tesla's 'UFO'

Among the many apocryphal tinkerings of famed inventor Nikola Tesla, the most contentious might be his flying machine, which some sources claim was an ion-propelled vehicle that would fly without use of wings, ailerons, propellers, or an onboard fuel source. This craft would be light, fast, and likely not of any familiar design. Tesla believed this craft would fly by powering itself from electrical stations on the ground but without ever having to directly connect to them, remotely recharge, as it were. Some believe the shape of the craft would have been either cylindrical or saucer-like.

While Tesla's ruminations on the concept might not be in total dispute, the notion that he got very far with the concept is highly debatable. While there do seem to be unaccounted for patents in the vast trove of documents relating to Tesla's revolutionary work, there is little to suggest from attendant documents and the general work of his at the time that he was even looking in that direction in any serious sense.

One spurious report has it that work on such a device was begun in the late 1920s, being financed by the likes of J. P. Morgan and seeing fruition in 1938. Furthermore, wild speculation attributes WW2 foo fighter and later flying saucer sightings--nay, the entire UFO phenomenon--to this invention or some similar iteration.

If we look at Tesla's patents from the late 1920s, we see he was working on an interesting flying machine. However, a quick read reveals that his revolutionary device would have less in common with the Jetsons than with such vertical take-off vehicles such as the Osprey and Harrier employed by the USAF.

U.S. Patent 1,655,113 - Method of Aerial Transportation - 1928 January 3 - VTOL aeroplane; Describes a method of achieved vertical take-off, transition to and from horizontal flight, and vertical landing, with a tilting rotor. Including transportation which consists in developing by the propelling device a vertical thrust in excess of the normal, causing thereby the machine to rise in an approximately vertical direction, tilting it and simultaneously increasing the power of the motor and thereby the propeller thrust, then gradually reducing the propeller thrust as forward speed is gained and the plane takes up the load, thus maintaining the lifting force sensibly constant during flight, tilting the machine back to its original position and at the same time increasing the power if the motor and thrust of the propeller and effecting a landing under the restraining action of the same.

This patent summary clearly illustrates a vehicle using largely conventional thrust in an unconventional way. This is revolutionary to be sure, but far from any ion-propulsion technology.

But much like DaVinci and other master inventors who seemed far ahead of their times, a quasi-mystical cult has arisen in the wake of Tesla's passing, filling the gaps with all sorts of spurious tales of fantastic inventions, including death rays, thought photography, force fields, and more. So, why not add UFOs to the list as well?


Gatekeeper said...

Got any info on his death rays?

Cullan Hudson said...

There's not much of substance. Many of these apocryphal inventions are fairly nebulous in provenance. I'll look a bit deeper though.