Perhaps the acronym UFO would be more usefully applied to "unusual flying objects" these days, since there seem to be so many of them around. A few weeks ago, Raw Story reported on a 45-foot paper airplane. Today's craft may be no more practical, but it appears far more effective at getting about under its own power.
The SmartInversion device was designed by engineers at the German firm Festo, and the note which accompanies their video of it in operation explains, "SmartInversion is a helium-filled flying object that moves through the air by turning inside-out. This constant, rhythmically pulsating movement is known as inversion and gives the flight model its name."
New Scientist explains in greater detail that "the flying object itself is made up of six identical prisms filled with helium, held together by a carbon-fibre framework. Three motors drive the motion coordinated by a tiny onboard computer, pre-programmed to replicate the inversion sequence. Using a smartphone, a person on the ground can guide the object around a room,"
"The firm still hasn't come up with a specific use for inversion-driven propulsion," the magazine adds. "The mechanics of automated systems are typically based on rotational or linear motion to drive, for example, motors or grippers, but inversion is seldom used in designs. The company has now launched a competition challenging students in Germany to suggest a functional idea that could be implemented in an industrial environment. "
This video was uploaded to YouTube by FestoHQ on April 19, 2012.