Author Topic: A brief history of Aero Electrical applications  (Read 1530 times)

Offline Small brown dog

  • Dwelling too long on the practicalities of such things can drive you mad.
  • Woof!
A brief history of Aero Electrical applications
« on: August 22, 2019, 11:47:58 PM »
Of the 31 million plus seconds that made up the year of 1903, three would have a significant impact on the world. On 14th December the first sustained powered flight took place in the same amount of time it is said that advertisers have to catch your attention. 3 days later the first of two further flights saw the flight time quadruple and a distance of 120ft was achieved. 66 years later 238,855 mile journeys to the moon were being made although these took a little longer.

Ten years earlier, multiple 3 second periods represented the average lifespan of a type of vacuum tube inventor William Moorhead was using during his experiments with high voltages. In 1893 Moorhead was observing a strange phenomenon of which he later named Electro levitation. He was certain he had discovered the means to create an anti-gravity device.

These two events are separated by 10 years and would remain separate to each other for a further 10 before a long and frustrating period of trial and error began. However, the influence of electrical lifting devices did impact hugely on heavier than air flight before it was a viable concept for the aeroplane. In fact it would go on to drive an almost fanatical arms race over the coming years.

After expanding upon his earlier experiments Moorhead realised that the power requirements for doing work beyond simple parlour tricks was going to be monumental. He was a practical man with limited funds and resources and realised that he was going to need help. He also realised that he would not be alone in his discovery and could possibly be already late to the party. So in early 1894 Moorhead contacted Nicola Tesla at Tesla Laboratories requesting an interview with Tesla with regards to certain experimental high voltage phenomena.

Tesla had become aware of the phenomenon during his early resonance coil experiments. It was something he very much wanted to investigate further but he was just a single man with so many projects taking up his time already. It did not help that a small fire at his laboratory had caused the loss of some important early research material that documented and recorded his theories with regards to the  phenomena. Tesla was delighted to find that there was someone who had very obviously not only stumbled upon the phenomenon but had formed an understanding of it very close his own. He was impressed with Moorhead and subsequent correspondence and meetings led to Tesla offering Moorhead a position to fully investigate the potential of Electro levitation. So began what would turn out to be a short but positive association between two men that was to have a profound effect upon the coming new century.

Of all Tesla’s many projects and ventures, two dominated his thoughts at the turn of the twentieth century. Firstly there was the now proven and continued development of Electro levitation, or EMFEM as Tesla preferred, overseen quite capably by Moorhead. The second was the generation of free energy for all people of all nations. The latter was not popular with the power giants of the day and even his friend George Westinghouse had his reservations. A series of unpleasant confrontations, secret meetings, financial and supply restrictions all indicated that Tesla was treading a dangerous path. Moorhead and Westinghouse pleaded with him to cease his almost obsessional push for his free energy ideas and then one day Tesla was shot dead.

His death was devastating to the science community and a total outrage but regardless of protest the overwhelming evidence showed him to have been simply the victim of a botched robbery. There were many of course that refused to believe  this  story and conspiracy theories abound even to this day. Moorhead was devastated and left the USA sometime after for his native Northern Ireland where he had two years earlier set up the research and testing facilities for what would become known as the flying fish experiments.

In early 1904 Moorhead demonstrated the technology to the new first Lord of the Admiralty. Admiral Fisher was already conversant with the technology having been in correspondence with Moorhead since learning of the success of the flying fish experiments and he was very enthusiastic. He had plans to press the technology into service but did have some reservations about usage which he outlined in a long and detailed specification which, if could be met, would open the door to government funding for a new generation of battleship design.

Moorhead asked for a suitable vessel to be put at his disposal so as a scale experimental test program could prove that the specification could be met. Fisher arranged for a Pearl Class cruiser ear marked for the Royal Australian Navy to be commandeered for special duties. She was secretly sent back to her builders, Armstrong Whitworth, Eslwick Tyne & Wear, for special refit and kept under 24 hour armed guard. In October and under the cover of darkness the Cruiser now renamed HMS Seabird set sail for Scapa Flow. Upon arrival final equipment testing and her maiden flight was made in complete secrecy and a short time later she was ready for demonstration.

On a clear but cold day Admiral Fisher and assorted naval and civilian spectators witnessed the Seabird raise herself to a height of 100ft and begin to move out under full control towards the Atlantic still climbing. She turned and came back beginning a demonstration display that was described as the marvel of the age by some that attended. 2575 tons of Royal Navy warship flew at speed, manoeuvred and even fired its forward guns.

These trials are now legendary and so successful that Fisher pressed forward with his plans to have the next generation of capital warships flight capable. Two years later HMAS Dreadnought undertook her first sky launch and ushered in a new era.

By the time Dreadnought had sparked an arms race of the like that had never been seen before, most countries were aware of Electro levitation either through observation or their own experiments. licensed manufacture of Tesla and earlier Westinghouse very high voltage and conditioning equipment had been undertaken in Europe since the beginning of the century. Design and innovation within the new industry accelerated at breath-taking speed.

By the end of the Great War the technology was universally known as electro levitation and was beginning to be seen more widely in everyday life. During the war tethered factory lifting units had been developed for the armament industries. Huge self-mobile transportation vehicles were becoming more common place and it was anticipated that smaller self-contained units for use in commercial and even public transport may soon be just around the corner. However, in the aircraft industry there had been little in the way of progress. The technology was just too damn big and heavy!

Towards the end of the First World War some research into electrical lift generators for fighting aeroplanes had been researched at Farnborough. Some late war rotary engines coupled to a high output generator could produce enough power to help lift a light airframe but the centrifugal force was troublesome from a stability stand point. Some 40% of opposite additional lift generation was required to counteract the effect of the whirling mass of engine and propeller. Extra flying surfaces were added and the test airframes became quite complex and heavier until it was pointed out that nothing was being achieved other than to reinvent the aeroplane to accommodate the new technology. When successful these so-called hybrid machines gave a performance only slightly better than the types in service at the beginning of the conflict and they were large and difficult to control.

Light and powerful inline engines began to make a difference from late 1918 onwards and it was only then that any realistic attempt on electrical lift generation could be made. However, this was not the electrical lift generation that would become common place. In 1918 Handley Page had incorporated a small unfocused field generator and T-Coils in order to take advantage of a degree of weight compensation. This was a successful approach but initially the compensation gave little more than was enough to overcome the additional weight of the generator and T-coils. As engines became more powerful and the hardware made smaller and lighter, performance grew rapidly.

By the end of the decade multi inline engined aircraft were showing potential. They were large and initially unwieldy but performance potential promised to outstrip that of the aerial Naval Destroyers and there were concerns about the possibility of a future threat to Naval air dominance. However, at the close of the First World War the likelihood of such a thing seemed very remote indeed and regardless of the post war successes the early so-called electric aircraft were using the technology only as a mean to compensate for weight.

During the war, at the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough, a civilian electrical levitation engineer by the name of Samuel Benson Dogge was working on a theory that field generation could do more than act on mass. He had previously been employed at a Bristol based naval lift generator company and had witnessed many times the testing of the large naval aerial lifting rings. His attention was caught many times by the way dust motes and other airborne particles behaved around the ring. At the outbreak of war he was approached by the government to take part in a think tank of possible next generation aero-electrical aircraft applications.

He worked upon several high priority projects during the war but in his spare time did much theorising upon the electrical manipulation of air pressure. In 1917 he built a scale experimental test rig that successfully generated a weak but never the less real electrical manipulated air pressure field. However, upon submission of a report to his superiors he was told that the establishment would not undertake time and resources for a project that was likely to have a very lengthy development time. It was additionally thought that advances in current Electro Levitation, itself a young technology, would make his findings unnecessary.

He was seriously taken aback by the lack of interest although he did understand the need for short development time projects. He continued his experiments in his spare time but his test rig was still only yielding weak results. It was not very reliable either and so he rebuilt the machine as time permitted over the next 12 months by which time the war was over. He had made some good progress but he realised that the government was even less likely to undertake something so new especially now cost cutting and layoffs were being applied ruthlessly throughout industry. It had been an expensive war in so many ways.

Dogge had not given too much thought to what he was going to do post war as, for the time being, his position was secure but he felt strongly that the way forward for the aeroplane was lift by electromagnetic air pressure manipulation field. He then learned that nothing of the work he had submitted had been kept let alone a patent on the theory applied for which struck him as very odd indeed. It was like he had never even submitted the paper or been interviewed but that did mean the work remained all his own. He had his development work patented and wrote to William Moorhead at Tesla Ireland and in due course Dogge was in Moorheads office.

There was something of the deja vu in this meeting for Moorhead who was impressed with Dogge and felt as if he were a man he had been waiting to meet. It was like the passing of the baton just like in 1894 when Tesla recognised the potential in Moorhead and set him up so as he could proceed with his work as an autonomous division of Tesla Industries.

With financial backing The Aero Electrical Company Ltd was formed in 1919 with offices and testing facilities based in what was previously a bakery with some additional outbuildings. In 1921 the first Aero Electric Ltd field coil spool was generating enough lift to keep a small aeroplane aloft. Furthermore the basic configuration had been laid down which would remain unchanged until the second generation of so-called electric engines were developed during the mid 1930’s.

Aero Electric went on to develop many of the aero-electrical applications we take for granted today including Ion thrust propulsion and would remain at the forefront of aero-electrical technology until its merger with Hawker Sidderley in the mid 1960’s.
Its not that its not real but it could be that its not true.

Offline Old Wombat

  • "We'll see when I've finished whether I'm showing off or simply embarrassing myself."
  • "Define 'interesting'?"
Re: A brief history of Aero Electrical applications
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2019, 01:28:05 AM »
That's good! :D :smiley:
"This is the Captain. We have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and, ah, explode."

Offline elmayerle

  • Its about time there was an Avatar shown here...
  • Über Engineer...at least that is what he tells us.
Re: A brief history of Aero Electrical applications
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2019, 08:36:36 AM »
Very good history, be most interesting to see where it goes from here.

Offline Small brown dog

  • Dwelling too long on the practicalities of such things can drive you mad.
  • Woof!
Re: A brief history of Aero Electrical applications
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2019, 05:00:08 PM »
This all started because I wanted to do something original as most aviation 3D has almost been done to death by some very talented people that leave me in the dust . Its all an experiment in changing or adding one vital bit of tech on an otherwise normal timeline and the thing just sort of took on a life of its own.

The story came about because I started getting questions asked about my lack of wing surfaces and rabid wiki warriors were keen to point out just how silly it was and it would never fly ..... no shit sherlock! On the positive side though there are many that get quite into it and so I try to make the tech as plausible as the images (which don't always work) this is way I make up adverts and pretend there are preserved Duxford and Shuttleworth examples and stuff like that.

Hell, it keeps me off the streets :)


Its not that its not real but it could be that its not true.

Offline Old Wombat

  • "We'll see when I've finished whether I'm showing off or simply embarrassing myself."
  • "Define 'interesting'?"
Re: A brief history of Aero Electrical applications
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2019, 12:20:23 AM »
So, basically, you're just like the rest of us here. ;)
"This is the Captain. We have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and, ah, explode."

Offline Small brown dog

  • Dwelling too long on the practicalities of such things can drive you mad.
  • Woof!
Re: A brief history of Aero Electrical applications
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2019, 05:18:05 PM »
So, basically, you're just like the rest of us here. ;)

Yes indeed - I felt so alone before.
The people out there are so... normal!
Its not that its not real but it could be that its not true.

Offline elmayerle

  • Its about time there was an Avatar shown here...
  • Über Engineer...at least that is what he tells us.
Re: A brief history of Aero Electrical applications
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2019, 12:59:26 AM »
Why be "normal"? It's way more fun not to be.

Offline Small brown dog

  • Dwelling too long on the practicalities of such things can drive you mad.
  • Woof!
Re: A brief history of Aero Electrical applications
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2019, 02:44:57 AM »
Why be "normal"? It's way more fun not to be.


Absolutely :)
Its not that its not real but it could be that its not true.

Offline elmayerle

  • Its about time there was an Avatar shown here...
  • Über Engineer...at least that is what he tells us.
Re: A brief history of Aero Electrical applications
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2019, 12:58:16 AM »
*GRIN* Besides, who wants to live in a small town in Illinois (a suburb of Bloomington if you're looking for it) or a teacher's college (former called "normal schools")?