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Crazy Question

Guest Ben W

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Hello, I am working on a project and wondered if there's a way that we can power the rising of a balloon/airship from the energy of someone running on a treadmill.

In theory if someone was running on the ground generating power on a treadmill, could that power travel up a tethered cable to a airship/balloon and power its propellers?

If not, i'd love love to explore how we could make it happen. How do we generate energy from a treadmill and use this to make an airship/balloon fly!?




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  • 9 months later...

HI Ben,

Sorry it took so long to answer this question.  The issue is Force.  A balloon or even a blimp has a huge surface area.  Aera X pressure = Force.  So if you have a large area the force needed to move it against any pressure is huge.  Here is an example.

If you have a kite and it is a normal size kite.  3 feet tall and 2 feet wide and the wind is blowing 10 - 12 MPH you can fly that kite with about 3 or 4 pounds of pulling force on the string to hold the kite in place against the wind.  Now make that kite 10 times larger.  Lets say 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide.  You just made the force on the string 10 times more too!  So now you need to hold 30 pounds of force on the string to hold that kite in place.  So lets then apply that same idea to a balloon.  A typical balloon is about 75 feet tall and about 50 feet wide.  That is 25 times larger than your small kite.  so in a gentle wind (10-12 mph) that balloon will need 75 to 100 pounds of force applied to hold it in place.

So,  Using a treadmill to create the energy to power a balloon or an airship is unlikely.  You would need to create more energy than is possible.  Never mind the loss in energy from converting it from mechanical energy to electrical energy and then back to mechanical energy because each time you make a transfer you loose some efficiency.  

Over the years I have had situations where I have actually drug a car when a wind gust hit the balloon and we had the balloon tied with a rope to a car to hold the balloon in place.  A balloon can generate huge amounts of force in very little wind.

Here is a video that will show some of the RAW power of a balloon.  Then you can evaluate if someone on a Treadmill could produce this much power.



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44 year LTA pilot, BFA member since 1977, BFA Level DA-8, Ed Yost Master Pilot. 6500 flights, 5650 Flight Hours

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