The most important terminology I learned in my first aerodynamic class decades ago was “angle of attack”. Since the Wright brothers first flew a heavier than air machine into the air, the most important knowledge about airplanes is that they acquire the vertical lift from their horizontal speed because of the angle of attack of the wings, which established the foundation of aeronautics. Accordingly, in order to increase the lift-to-drag ratio, not only the so-called aspect ratio (i.e. the average length of the chords over the span) of the wings and rotary blades needs to be big enough, but also the fuselage should be take a slim shape, like the body of the dragonfly or other flying creatures, to reduce the drag-to-lift ratio and to be aerodynamically more stable. Although later on the appearance of helicopters, supersonic airplanes, and the STOVL (short take-off and vertical landing) technology made the design concept more complicated, the idea that aircraft should have a long and narrow fuselage with a head and a tail has been stereotyped.
Interestingly and ironically, this stereotyped image was ruined by the image of an urban-legendary flying craft, the Flying Saucer. Unfortunately, two apparently conflicting reasons of the same root have caused the benefit of the scientifically meaningful shape of the flat and round saucer for air flight being utterly ignored. The first reason is that the existence of Flying Saucers were officially denied by people of various authoritative backgrounds around the world right after the reports of Flying Saucers sightings first emerged in last century, which has not only caused many reporters and their families discriminated by people around them, but also expelled the official academic resource away from the possible study of the scientific principles behind the Flying Saucers.
The second reason is that most people who do believe the existence of Flying Saucers have been awed by their legendary performances that are deemed impossible for humans, and thus obsessed with the idea of alien visitors in those Flying Saucers. Accordingly, the flat and round shape of the legendary flying machines has become part of the supposed extraterrestrial property and lost from the radar of scientific investigations by those people.
Even if all Flying Saucer reports are pure baloney, philosophically speaking, with so many reports around the world, at least we should take a serious look into the possible rationale of making use of the saucer shape for flying in our atmosphere, although it might sound counterintuitive based on our stereotyped knowledge, let alone that the existence of Flying Saucers in our skies is utterly realistic according to the scientific principle stated in the Thermodynamics Second Law, and the possibility of extraterrestrial pilots sitting in some of the Flying Saucers is also quite legitimate.
As a matter of fact, the flat and symmetric (i.e. round or triangle, etc) saucer shape has its special advantage over any currently known flying vehicles for intercontinental flight, which would make a comfortable passenger flight by means of fast orbital movement across the famous Kármán line (meaning conceptually outside of the dense atmosphere) become possible. This is because the saucer shape makes the comfortable vertical ascending and descending in a controllable manner become possible. Although this will sacrifice the advantage of the less than 1 value of the thrust-to-weight ratio created by the speed for lift benefit because of the angle of attack, it could technically reduce a 10 hours flight to less than an hour, and practically (by taking into the consideration of the limit of human physical tolerance for vertical acceleration) limit that number to a couple of hours. This could not only substantially save intercontinental travel time, but also could potentially save energy (and thus the cost) for civil intercontinental aviation.
The current jet airliners and the Flying Saucers for civil intercontinental aviation would mainly differ by their cruising altitudes, with the former at the lower region of the Stratosphere (below 13000 meters) and the latter above the Mesosphere (above 80000 meters). However, the major aerodynamic challenges for aircraft flying in the atmosphere all occur below the lower region of the Stratosphere. Once the craft climbs above the lower region of the Stratosphere, the dynamic force (and thus the troubles) from the atmosphere would greatly abate due to the drastic decrease of air pressure (as a matter of fact, even the load caused by gravity would decrease a bit as the altitude increases), and thus the flight itself would become easier as long as it continues to be sustained by enough lift.
For aircraft powered by conventional air-dependent propulsion (e.g. jet engines, rotors), a big challenge for the high altitude flight is that it needs many folds of engine power at high altitude comparing to what is needed when taking off from the ground. But the idiosyncratic shape of Flying Saucers makes them decisively more competent to handle this challenge than any existing aircraft, not only because of the convenience for them to utilize rockets when necessary but also because of their potential to carry more conventional air-dependent engines than needed when taking off from the ground. Of course, once crossing the Kármán line, rockets or any other non air-dependent engines would become the only propulsion means.
Another two major challenges that are related to the drastic reduction of air density is the lack of oxygen and the lack of protection from sun and cosmic rays above the Stratosphere. But owing to the success of our space exploration programs over the past decades, we might easily borrow the relevant technologies from the manufacturers of space shuttles for carrying humans to locations far beyond the range for intercontinental Flying Saucers. Of course, the typical size of Flying Saucers for civil intercontinental aviation would be much larger than the existing space shuttles in order to meet the public need for intercontinental flights. However, in terms of radiation protection and oxygen supply, the main challenge posed by a bigger size with more passengers would be an added weight of insulation and supply materials plus the relevant equipment, which would only count for a small portion of the increased weight resulting from the increase of the overall size. As a matter of fact, since the Flying Saucer would pass the ozone layer at a slow speed (comparing to the existing launchers of orbiters or space shuttles), we could collect some portion of the needed oxygen from that layer, and we might even adjust the ascending speed so that we would stay in that layer a little longer to collect enough oxygen for our need, and then make up the average speed somewhere else.
Therefore, the main future technological challenge of improving the performance of Flying Saucers in civil intercontinental aviation industry is to increase the thrust-to-weight ratio of the propulsion engines. The growing application of the electric engines with batteries as the energy source has greatly raised the expectation of thrust-to-weight ratio, and the possible replacement of metallic body of the engine by synthetic materials would undoubtedly be another major step to increase the thrust-to-weight ratio in the future, in addition to the increase of the power of the engines.
Although it’s already too late for anyone to patent Flying Saucer related general ideas no matter for manufacturing the vehicles or for using the vehicles for civil intercontinental aviation, after relevant articles are posted by the author, it could still be expected that a patenting competition for technological details involved in building Flying Saucers would soon start in the near future.
For more discussions on the feasibility and approaches of building Flying Saucers for civil intercontinental flights, please continue to read at: https://murongqingcao.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/flying-saucer-intercontinental-flight/.