Title:
Amusement air pool and riding devices therefor
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention relates to the field of recreational, entertainment or amusement sports. More particularly, the invention relates to an air pool and riding device that enables participants and/or passengers to fly freely in the riding device and experience unprecedented flying amusement. Advantageously, the air pool and riding devices therefor may be efficaciously utilized by most individuals of the general public without any type of training. The air pool and riding devices not only provide for free-flying and bumping experiences but desirably also provide motion control, by allowing three-dimensional acceleration of the device, through the individual ride participant's control.



Inventors:
Chengzhen, Jin (US)
Shapero, Daniel M. (US)
Application Number:
10/430888
Publication Date:
04/22/2004
Filing Date:
05/06/2003
Assignee:
CHENGZHEN JIN
SHAPERO DANIEL M.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63G31/00; A63B9/00; (IPC1-7): A63J3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, KIEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Chengzhen Jin (6 Colorado, Irvine, CA, 92606, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An air pool amusement system which allows participants to pilot and fly riding devices, comprising: a main tunnel having an internal passage through which air flows at a prescribed velocity profile to form an internal air pool, said passage having an upstream end, a downstream end and a plurality of flying zones therebetween, said upstream end having a first inner diameter and said downstream end having a second inner diameter, said passage between said upstream end and said downstream end having a third inner diameter greater than said first inner diameter and less than said second inner diameter; and a plurality of riding devices levitatingly suspended in said zones of said passage, each of said riding devices having a controller operable by a ride participant to pilot said riding devices, each of said riding devices having an outer shell including perforations to allow an air flow therethrough, said riding devices being movable within said passage and between said zones by controlling and directing the air flow therethrough.

2. The amusement system of claim 1, wherein said system further comprises a safety zone above said downstream end to contain said riding devices in said passage.

3. The amusement system of claim 1, wherein said system further comprises a safety zone below said upstream end to contain said riding devices in said passage.

4. The amusement system of claim 1, wherein said system further comprises an air supply unit upstream of said passage for providing air flow through said passage.

5. The amusement system of claim 4, wherein said air supply unit comprises at least one compressor.

6. The amusement system of claim 1, wherein said system further comprises an air quality control unit upstream of said passage for controlling the quality of air supplied to said passage.

7. The amusement system of claim 1, wherein said system further comprises a distributor upstream of said passage for directing and orienting air flow through said passage.

8. An air pool amusement system, comprising: an arena through which air flows at a predetermined velocity; a portal to facilitate entry of participants into said arena and/or exit of participants from said arena; and a plurality of ride crafts adapted to seat said participants therein and being suspended and movable within said arena.

9. The amusement system of claim 8, wherein said arena has at least two free flying zones.

10. The amusement system of claim 8, wherein said arena has a varying inner diameter.

11. The amusement system of claim 8, wherein at least a portion of said arena comprises a transparent material.

12. The amusement system of claim 8, wherein said portal comprises one or more entrance and exit doors.

13. The amusement system of claim 8, wherein said amusement system further comprises a conveyor to facilitate loading or unloading of the participants.

14. The amusement system of claim 8, wherein said amusement system further comprises a ground control system to control and monitor the operation of the amusement system.

15. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises a rider monitor to monitor said ride crafts.

16. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises an air flow monitor to monitor system air flow.

17. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises a wireless receiver to receive wireless commands or data from said ride crafts.

18. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises an operator control panel to control or adjust system operational conditions.

19. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises a power supply unit to supply electrical power to said amusement system.

20. The amusement system of claim 19, wherein said ground control system comprises a backup power supply unit.

21. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises a computer system to process requests and execute commands.

22. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises a wireless transmitter to send commands or data to said rider crafts.

23. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises one or more air flow devices to control air flow or quality.

24. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises an air flow device controller to control air flow devices including at least one of an air supply unit, an air quality control unit and an air distributor unit.

25. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises a ground device controller to control ground motion devices including at least one of a conveyor, an entrance gate and an exit gate.

26. The amusement system of claim 14, wherein said ground control system comprises audio and video controller to control audio and video devices including at least one of a speaker and a display screen.

27. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises a ride ID map to map each ride crafts unique ID to a corresponding one of said ride craft's and/or participant's name.

28. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises data storage to store simulation data and flight data.

29. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises one or more microprocessors to process requested commands and send them to system controls.

30. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises an audio and video control to send audio and video commands to an audio and video controller.

31. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises an air flow control to send airflow commands to an air flow controller.

32. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises a ground control to send ground motion commands to a ground device controller.

33. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises a wireless control to send wireless commands to a wireless transmitter.

34. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises a system safety override control to automatically override commands based on system safety data stored on a data storage.

35. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises. a software application to process requested commands.

36. The amusement system of claim 21, wherein said computer system comprises a hardware system to perform command and data processing.

37. The amusement system of claim 18, wherein said operator control panel comprises an air flow control to control or adjust air flow conditions by a ground operator.

38. The amusement system of claim 18, wherein said operator control panel comprises a ground control to operate ground motion devices by a ground operator.

39. The amusement system of claim 18, wherein said operator control panel comprises a rider control to control or override said ride crafts by a ground operator.

40. The amusement system of claim 18, wherein said operator control panel comprises an auto control to automatically keep the system running at predetermined conditions.

41. The amusement system of claim 18, wherein said operator control panel comprises a radio frequency (RF) receiver to receive commands from a remote controller of a ground operator.

42. A riding device for an air pool amusement system, comprising: an outer shell having a plurality of holes arranged in a predetermined manner to allow air flow therethrough; a portal to facilitate entry of ride participants into said riding device and/or exit of ride participants from said riding device; one or more seats within said outer shell configured to securely accommodate at least one ride participant; a motion controller operable by said ride participant to allow piloting and movement of said riding device within an air pool; a motion stabilizer within said outer shell for controlling the stability of said riding device; and a motion control system operatively coupled to said motion controller for controlling and directing the air flow through the riding device and enabling motion within said air pool as selected by the ride participant.

43. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said outer shell comprises a substantially aerodynamic shape.

44. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said seat comprises a safety mechanism to secure the ride participant.

45. The riding device of claim 44, wherein said safety mechanism comprises a helmet.

46. The riding device of claim 45, wherein said helmet is built in to said safety mechanism.

47. The riding device of claim 44, wherein said safety mechanism further comprises a seat belt.

48. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion stabilizer comprises a plurality of vertically extending blades.

49. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion control system comprises a wireless receiver to receive commands and data from a ground control system and other riding devices.

50. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion control system comprises one or more motion sensors to detect the movement or acceleration of said riding device during flight.

51. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion controller comprises a manual pilot mode to allow said participant to control the flight of said riding device.

52. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion controller comprises an auto pilot mode to automatically fly said riding device based on external data or commands or pre-installed data from a data storage.

53. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion control system comprises an external data receiver to receive simulation and flight data from an external system through a wireless connection or a wired connection.

54. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion control system comprises a power supply to supply power to said riding device.

55. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion control system comprises a computer system to process requests and execute commands.

56. The riding device of claim 55, wherein said computer system comprises a unique identifier of the riding device.

57. The riding device of claim 55, wherein said computer system comprises data storage to store simulation data and flight data.

58. The riding device of claim 55, wherein said computer system comprises one or more microprocessors to process requested commands and send them to system controls.

59. The riding device of claim 55, wherein said computer system comprises an audio and video control to send audio and video commands to an audio and video controller.

60. The riding device of claim 55, wherein said computer system comprises a motion control to send motion commands to a motion controller.

61. The riding device of claim 55, wherein said computer system comprises a wireless control to send wireless commands to a wireless transmitter.

62. The riding device of claim 55, wherein said computer system comprises a system safety override control to automatically override commands based on system safety data stored on a data storage.

63. The riding device of claim 55, wherein said computer system comprises a software application to receive and process requested commands.

64. The riding device of claim 55, wherein said computer system comprises a hardware system to perform commands and data processing tasks.

65. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion control system comprises a wireless transmitter to transmit commands or data to a ground control system and other riding devices.

66. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion control system comprises a mechanical device controller to control mechanical devices of said riding device including at least one of air control valves and air flow nozzles to enable motion of the riding device.

67. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion control system comprises an audio and video controller to control audio and video devices of said riding device including at least one of speakers and display screens.

68. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said motion control system comprises audio and video devices to broadcast and display instructional, command or simulation data.

69. The riding device of claim 42, wherein said riding device further comprises a cushion on said outer shell to allow for bumping between riding devices.

70. A communication system for an air pool amusement system that allows command, control and data communications between a ground operator, a ground control system, riding devices having a motion control system and ride participants riding said riding devices in said air pool amusement system, comprising: means for implementing a safety override from said ground control system to control said riding devices; and means for providing virtual reality simulation through data and motion control communication between said ground control system and said motion control system.

71. The communication system of claim 70, wherein said communication system comprises said ground control system and said motion control system.

72. The communication system of claim 71, wherein said ground control system and said motion control system comprise wireless communication devices including at least one of wireless transmitters, wireless receivers and wireless controls.

73. A method of providing an air pool amusement system which allows participants to pilot and fly riding devices, comprising: supplying an internal air flow into a passage to form an air pool with a prescribed velocity profile within said passage; levitating a plurality of riding devices in said air pool within said passage with each of said riding devices configured to seat a ride participant and being movable within said passage; and selectively allowing said air flow to flow through said riding devices to enable said riding devices to be pilotable and to move within said passage for providing amusement to said participants.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/403,375, filed Aug. 14, 2002, entitled U-FLY AMUSEMENT AIR POOL AND RIDING DEVICE, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] The invention relates to the field of recreational, entertainment or amusement sports. More particularly, the invention relates to an air pool or arena and riding devices therefor that enable multiple participants and/or passengers to fly freely in the riding devices within the air pool and experience unprecedented flying amusement.

[0004] 2. Description of the Related Art

[0005] Most conventional skydiving simulators or wind tunnels are not targeted for the general public. Undesirably, the ones that are used for amusement purposes typically require some degree of training and may not be suitable for many individuals. Moreover these are generally limited to a single individual flight and at most permit only about two people to fly in the tunnel at the same time.

[0006] One risk in allowing multiple users to skydive at the same time is that individuals may collide with one another. Hence, disadvantageously, with multiple skydiving participants, individual riders may disrupt others and lose control themselves or cause others to lose control within the tunnel. This can compromise the safety of the participants.

[0007] Most conventional riding devices used in amusement, entertainment or recreational parks, such as roller coaster carts and the like, provide predefined movement and acceleration. This is controlled by the system requirements and the operator controlling the system and undesirably does not allow participants to control their ride. Moreover, these riding devices are in some form or the other mechanically connected to a base or ground surface, for example, by a track or cable. Disadvantageously, this does not permit the participants to ride “freely” in the devices.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The invention relates to the field of recreational, entertainment or amusement sports. More particularly, the invention relates to an air pool or arena and riding devices therefor that enable multiple participants and/or passengers to fly freely in the riding devices within the air pool and experience unprecedented flying amusement.

[0009] Advantageously, the air pool and riding devices therefor of embodiments of the invention may be efficaciously utilized by most individuals of the general public without any type of training or special gear or dress as is necessitated by conventional skydiving simulators. In addition, a large capacity or crowd of individuals may ride at the same time or simultaneously within the air pool. Since the individual ride participants are well protected inside the riding devices, they can safely indulge in collisions or bumping between the devices and this adds to the amusement experience for the riders and utility of the overall system.

[0010] The air pool and riding devices of embodiments of the invention not only provide for free-flying and bumping experiences but desirably also provide motion control, by allowing three-dimensional acceleration of the device, through the individual riders own control. The unique “freely” flying riding devices provide a novel addition to any existing amusement, entertainment or recreational parks. This offers a desirable and valuable enhancement to existing parks by providing an unprecedented amusement and entertainment experience for the attendees. In some embodiments, the amusement system is portable and comprises a modular structure which allows it to be easily installed at and moved between various sites. In some embodiments, the amusement system is integrated with or comprises a computer system and an audio/video and data communication system to simulate virtual reality experiences.

[0011] In accordance with one embodiment, an air pool amusement system is provided which allows participants to pilot and fly riding devices. The amusement system generally comprises a main tunnel and a plurality of riding devices. The main tunnel has an internal passage through which air flows at a prescribed velocity profile to form an internal air pool. The passage has an upstream end, a downstream end and a plurality of flying zones therebetween. The upstream end has a first inner diameter and the downstream end has a second inner diameter. The passage between the upstream end and the downstream end has a third inner diameter greater than the first inner diameter and less than the second inner diameter. The riding devices are levitatingly suspended in the zones of the passage. Each of the riding devices has a controller operable by a ride participant to pilot the riding devices. Each of the riding devices has an outer shell including perforations to allow an air flow therethrough. The riding devices are movable within the passage and between the zones by controlling and directing the air flow therethrough.

[0012] In accordance with another embodiment, an air pool amusement system is provided. The amusement system generally comprises an arena, a portal and a plurality of ride crafts. Air flows through the arena at a predetermined velocity. The portal facilitates entry of participants into the arena and/or exit of participants from the arena. The ride crafts are adapted to seat the participants therein and are suspended and movable within the arena.

[0013] In accordance with yet another embodiment, an air pool amusement system is provided and generally comprises an arena through which air flows at a predetermined velocity and a plurality of ride crafts adapted to seat participants therein and being suspended and movable within the arena.

[0014] In some embodiments, the air pool amusement system comprises a ground control system. The ground control system monitors and controls the air pool amusement system, so that the system operates under desired operational conditions or environment. The ground control system has monitors to monitor main tunnel airflow conditions such as flow rate, velocity profile, air temperature, humidity, pressure, and the like. The ground control system has monitors to monitor all the riding devices, also referred to herein as ride crafts and riders, in the air pool amusement system through wireless communication between the riding devices and the ground control system. The ground control system has control panels and a remote controller operable by an operator to keep the air pool amusement system at desired conditions. The ground control system has an automatic controller to maintain the air pool amusement system at desired conditions automatically.

[0015] In accordance with one embodiment, a riding device is provided for an air pool amusement system. The riding device generally comprises an outer shell, a portal, at least one seat, a motion controller, a motion stabilizer and a motion control system. The outer shell has a plurality of holes arranged in a predetermined manner to allow air flow therethrough. The portal facilitates entry of ride participants into the riding device and/or exit of ride participants from the riding device. The one or more seats are within the outer shell and are configured to securely accommodate at least one ride participant. The motion controller is operable by the ride participant to allow piloting and movement of the riding device within an air pool. The motion stabilizer is within the outer shell and controls the stability of the riding device. The motion control system is operatively coupled to the motion controller for controlling and directing the air flow through the riding device and enabling motion within the air pool as selected by the ride participant. In some embodiments, the seat has a safety mechanism including, but not limited to, a safety helmet or hat and a seat belt. In some embodiments, the portal comprises at least one entrance and/or exit door.

[0016] In accordance with one embodiment, a communication system for an air pool amusement system is provided. The communication system allows command, control and data communications between a ground operator, a ground control system, riding devices having a motion control system and ride participants riding the riding devices in the air pool amusement system. The communication system comprises means for implementing a safety override from the ground control system to control the riding devices. The communication system further comprises means for providing virtual reality simulation through data and motion control communication between the ground control system and the motion control system.

[0017] One embodiment relates to a method of providing an air pool amusement system which allows participants to pilot, and fly riding devices. The method generally comprises supplying an internal air flow into a passage to form an air pool with a prescribed velocity profile within the passage. A plurality of riding devices are levitated in the air pool within the passage with each of the riding devices being configured to seat a ride participant and being movable within the passage. The air flow is selectively allowed to flow through the riding devices to enable the riding devices to be pilotable and to move within the passage for providing amusement to the participants.

[0018] Some embodiments provide a fluidization amusement air pool having one or multiple playing areas where each playing area can have different flow speeds to support a particular riding unit. The fluidization amusement air pool has an air feeding unit to supply enough air flow to fluidize the riding devices along the way. The fluidization amusement air pool further has an air control unit to control flow rate and other parameters, such as, temperature, pressure and humidity.

[0019] Some embodiments provide an air distributor through which air is provided to the air pool. The distributor is designed to create a uniform flow across the air pool or it may designed with to provide a specific air flow profile or pattern to enhance the amusement.

[0020] Some embodiments provide a fluidization amusement air pool having an entrance and an exit to load and unload participants and/or passengers.

[0021] In some embodiments, the riding device for participants utilizes substantially vertical air flow as a source of energy and allows solid objects such as the riding device to fly freely on or within the air pool.

[0022] Some aspects provide an amusement air pool device, apparatus or system having multiple playing areas. In some embodiments, the speed of air flow gradually decreases along each playing area. The air pool has an air control unit at the bottom of the device to control air flow and other air properties, such as, air temperature, air pressure, and air humidity. The air pool device has an air distributor in between an air control unit and the first play area which controls flow rate distribution to the air pool. In some embodiments, the amusement air pool device has one or more entrances and one or more exits for user. In some embodiments, the air pool device has transparent windows in each flying area.

[0023] Some aspects provide one or more riding devices for the amusement air pool device. The riding devices utilize generally vertical air flow as an energy source. The riding unit or device is configured to create/take enough air resistance (drag force) to fly freely or float or be suspended (i.e., be “fluidized”) in a given playing area, yet be able to provide directional moving capabilities including up/down, rotation, translation in 360 degrees. The moving capabilities are provided by changing the momentum of vertical air flow in a desired or suitable way to cause the riding device to move accordingly.

[0024] In some embodiments, there are two main control units inside the riding device. One to control the altitude (vertical positioning) and the other to control horizontal movements or motion.

[0025] In accordance with some embodiments, an amusement device is provided and comprises a single pass, non-return flow amusement air pool having multiple playing areas with riding devices. It is within these play areas where the user fly freely within the environment of the air pool and its riders. Air runs through the playing areas as provided by an air feeding unit, an air control unit and an air distributor unit.

[0026] In accordance with one embodiment, a ground control system is provided for an air pool amusement system. The ground control system generally comprises an air flow monitor, a rider (or riding device or ride craft) monitor, a wireless transmitter and receiver, an operator control panel, a computer system, audio/video controller devices, air flow controller devices and ground motion controller devices. The air flow monitor has meters and display panels to display air flow parameters such as flow rate, temperature, humidity and pressure, among others. The rider monitor has input devices to receive rider data from the wireless receiver and display panels to display desired information for each rider on the system. The operator control panel has control devices such as push buttons, gauges and tuners, among others, to set desirable conditions. The computer system has hardware, software, microprocessors, data storage, rider maps, audio/video controls, airflow controls, ground motion controls and wireless controls. The audio/video controller has input devices to receive audio/video data from the computer system, then the audio/video devices such as speakers, sound system and big screen display, among others, are used to broadcast the audio/video data. The air flow controller has input devices to receive commands from the computer system, and execute the commands to operate the air flow devices such as an air feeding unit, an air control unit and an air distributor unit to control the air flow conditions. The ground motion controller has input devices to receive commands from the computer system and execute the commands to operate ground motion devices such as entrance/exit gates, conveyors, escalators, and the like.

[0027] For purposes of summarizing the invention, certain aspects, advantages and novel features of the invention have been described herein above. Of course, it is to be understood that not necessarily all such advantages may be achieved in accordance with any particular embodiment of the invention. Thus, the invention may be embodied or carried out in a manner that achieves or optimizes one advantage or group of advantages as taught or suggested herein without necessarily achieving other advantages as may be taught or suggested herein.

[0028] All of these embodiments are intended to be within the scope of the invention herein disclosed. These and other embodiments of the invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments having reference to the attached figures, the invention not being limited to any particular preferred embodiment(s) disclosed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0029] Having thus summarized the general nature of the invention and some of its features and advantages, certain preferred embodiments and modifications thereof will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the detailed description herein having reference to the figures that follow, of which:

[0030] FIG. 1 is a simplified view of an amusement air pool system and riding devices flying therein having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0031] FIG. 2 is a simplified side view (or cross-section view) of the free flying arena of the amusement air pool system of FIG. 1 having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0032] FIG. 3 is a simplified top view of the free flying arena of FIG. 2.

[0033] FIG. 4 is a simplified bottom view of the free flying arena of FIG. 2.

[0034] FIG. 5 is a simplified perspective view of the top safety zone of FIG. 1 having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0035] FIG. 6 is a simplified cross-section view of the bottom safety zone of FIG. 1 having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0036] FIG. 7 is a simplified schematic view of the air feeding unit of FIG. 1 having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0037] FIG. 8 is a simplified schematic view of the air quality control unit of FIG. 1 having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0038] FIG. 9 is a simplified cross-section view of the air distributor unit of FIG. 1 having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0039] FIG. 10 is a simplified front partial cut-off view of a riding device having features and disadvantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0040] FIG. 11 is a simplified top view of the riding device of FIG. 10.

[0041] FIG. 12 illustrates a ride participant loading scheme having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0042] FIG. 13 illustrates a ride participant loading scheme having features and advantages in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

[0043] FIG. 14 illustrates a ride participant loading scheme having features and advantages in accordance with yet another embodiment of the invention.

[0044] FIG. 15 illustrates a ride participant unloading scheme having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0045] FIG. 16 illustrates a ride participant unloading scheme having features and advantages in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

[0046] FIG. 17 illustrates a ride participant unloading scheme having features and advantages in accordance with yet another embodiment of the invention.

[0047] FIG. 18 is a simplified view of a portal or entrance door of the riding device of FIG. 10 having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0048] FIG. 19 is a simplified view of a portal or exit door of the riding device of FIG. 10 having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0049] FIG. 20 illustrates wireless communications between riding devices (and/or ride participants) and a ground control system of the amusement air pool system having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0050] FIG. 21 illustrates a motion control system in block diagram format of a riding device having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0051] FIG. 22 illustrates a ground control system in block diagram format of the amusement air pool system having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

[0052] FIG. 23 is a simplified view of a display screen and sound system of the amusement air pool system having features and advantages in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0053] FIG. 1 is a simplified view of an amusement air pool system or arena 10. A plurality of riding flight devices or crafts 210 are shown being piloted by passengers and flying “freely” in the arena 10.

[0054] In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1, the amusement air pool system 10 generally comprises a main chamber or tunnel 12 including a free flying arena 14 and a top safety zone 16 at its downstream end and a bottom safety zone 18 at its upstream end. The amusement air pool system 10 further comprises an air feeding unit or system 20, an air control unit or system 22 and an air feeding unit or system 24. Though air is the preferred medium or suitable gases or combinations thereof may be efficaciously utilized, as needed or desired.

[0055] FIGS. 2-4 show different views of the free flying arena, chamber or tunnel 14 of the amusement air pool system 10. The arena 14 has an upstream end 26 and a downstream 28.

[0056] In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 2-4, the arena 14 has a passage 25 with a generally circular inner cross-section (see, for example, FIGS. 3 and 4) with the smallest diameter at about the upstream or inlet end 26 and the largest diameter at about the outlet end 28. The arena diameter is about constant near the upstream end 26 and gradually flares or increases in the direction of the downstream end 28.

[0057] In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 2-4, the arena 14 has a substantially round inner cross-section to reduce possible secondary flows which might be created around any corners. In other embodiments, other suitable shapes substantially without sharp corners, for example, oval, ellipsoidal and the like, may also be efficaciously utilized, as needed or desired. In modified embodiments, further suitable shapes may be efficaciously utilized, as needed or desired. For example, polygonal inner cross-sections such as hexagonal, and the like.

[0058] Referring in particular to FIG. 2, as the skilled artisan will appreciate that for a given input flow rate Q through the passage 25, the local velocity V is generally given by the expression: 1V=QAembedded image

[0059] where, A is the inner cross-sectional area. Thus, the highest local velocity Vmax in the passage 25 will be at or near the inlet end 26 and decrease along the passage 25 in the direction generally indicated by arrow 30 in FIG. 2 to the lowest local velocity Vmin at or near the outlet end 28.

[0060] Still referring in particular to FIG. 2, the tunnel arena 14 or the passage 25 can be divided into a plurality of zones or regions. In FIG. 2, four playing zones or areas Z1, Z2, Z3 and Z4 are illustrated though fewer or more zones may efficaciously be designated, as needed or desired. For a given input flow rate Q, the average velocity or velocity range in each of the zones Z1, Z2, Z3 and Z4 is designated as V1, V2, V3 and V4 respectively, where:

V1>V2>V3>V4

[0061] Assuming V4 is set so that an object with a mass m4 (density ρ4)is suspended or floats within the zone Z4. (For simplicity, these objects are assumed to be spherical and have the same dimensions.) Then, objects having successively greater mass m3, m2 and m1, that is, successively greater density ρ3, ρ2 and ρ1, will be suspended in zones Z3, Z2 and Z1 respectively, where:

m1>m2>m3>m4

ρ1234

[0062] Thus, by selection of the velocities and the configuration of the channel, a plurality of objects may be levitatingly dispersed or suspended at different positions or heights within the arena 14. As discussed further below, the objects, or in this case the riding devices 210 (see, for example, FIG. 1), are also specially configured and equipped so that the devices 210 may be controlled by the rider to move within the arena 14.

[0063] The basic fluid mechanics involved in suspending objects in a flow can be conceptualized in different ways. In one aspect, the objects can be said to be fluidized within the channel, that is, the upward drag force on each object is balanced by its downward weight. In another aspect, the local fluidization velocity can be thought of as the terminal velocity of the object, that is, the weight is balanced by the buoyant force.

[0064] Optionally, a zone isolation unit (not shown) can be provided between one or more pairs of adjacent playing zones, for example, between zones Z1 and Z2. The isolation unit prevents any riding units 210 from moving across from one playing zone into the other playing area. It may also serve as a loading/unloading section for the playing area located above the isolation unit. The isolation zone is typically configured in the shape of the adjacent arena inner cross-section and comprises a suitable net-like sheet or device which allows the flow of air therethrough and is sufficiently strong to safely support the riders and the riding devices. The isolation unit is an optional device, for embodiments in which separation between the playing zones is desired.

[0065] The free flying arena 14 (FIGS. 1-4) can be fabricated from a wide variety of suitably durable materials. In one embodiment, the arena 14 comprises a substantially transparent material such as a composite plastic or thermoplastic so that spectators may view the riding devices 210 within the air pool or passage 25 and vice versa. Substantially the entirety of the arena 14 may be transparent or selected sections only may be transparent, for example, in the form of see-through windows or panels. In modified embodiments, the arena 114 may efficaciously be fabricated from other plastics, metals, alloys, ceramics, combinations thereof, and the like, as needed or desired.

[0066] In some embodiments, the arena 14 (FIGS. 1-4) and the other associated components of the amusement system 10 and the riding crafts 210 comprise a modular structure. That is, the various portions can be easily assembled and disassembled which desirably allows the system 10 and the riding crafts 210 to be portable or easily transportable and installable at various sites, as needed or desired. Advantageously, this permits the system 10 and the riding crafts 210 to be moved between amusement parks, fairs and the like. Also, it allows for an easy installation and set-up for a permanent construction, if desired or needed.

[0067] The arena 14 (FIGS. 1-4) can be configured and dimensioned in a number of suitable manners. The arena 14 is preferably configured and dimensioned in accordance with the number of riding crafts 210 that it can comfortably accommodate.

[0068] In one embodiment the arena upstream end 26 (see, for example, FIGS. 1, 2 and 4) is dimensioned to provide about 3.7 m2 (40 square feet or ft2) for each riding unit 210. Of course, a larger or smaller area per riding unit may also be utilized, as needed or desired.

[0069] Thus, in general, for ten riding units 210, the arena upstream end 26 has an inner cross-sectional area of about 37 m2 (400 ft2) and an inner diameter of about 7 m (23 ft). For one hundred riding units 210, the arena upstream end 26 has an inner cross-sectional area of about 370 m2 (4,000 ft2) and an inner diameter of about 22 m (71 ft). For one thousand riding units 210, the arena upstream end 26 has an inner cross-sectional area of about 3,700 m2 (40,000 ft2) and an inner diameter of about 69 m (226 ft). Of course, for fewer, intermediate or more riding units 210, the inner area and diameter of the arena upstream end 26 can be readily selected by the above formula or other suitable means, as needed or desired.

[0070] In one embodiment, the arena downstream end 28 (see, for example, FIGS. 1, 2 and 4) has an inner diameter about twice (200%) that of the arena upstream end 26. Thus, in general, for ten riding units 210, the arena downstream end 28 has an inner diameter of about 14 m (46 ft) and an inner cross-sectional area of about 148 m2 (1,600 ft2). For one thousand riding units 210, the arena downstream end 28 has an inner diameter of about 44 m (142 ft) and an inner cross-sectional area of about 1,480 m2 (16,000 ft2). For one thousand riding units 210, the arena downstream end 28 has an inner diameter of about 138 m (452 ft) and an inner cross-sectional area of about 14,800 m2 (160,000 ft2).

[0071] In another embodiment, the arena downstream end 28 (FIGS. 1, 2 and 4) has an inner diameter in the range from about 150% to about 300% of the inner diameter of the arena upstream end 26. In yet another embodiment, the arena downstream end 28 has an inner diameter in the range from about 120% to about 400% of the inner diameter of the arena upstream end 26. In modified embodiments, the downstream end inner diameter may be selected in other suitable manners, as needed or desired.

[0072] The arena 14 (FIGS. 1-4) has a height that is sufficient to accommodate a selected number of flying crafts 210. The arena 14 preferably has a height of about 12 meters to about 15 meters (40 feet to 50 feet). In another embodiment, the arena 14 has a height in the range from about 8 meters to about 30 meters (25 feet to 100 feet). In yet another embodiment, the arena 14 has a height in the range from about 6 meters to about 60 meters (20 feet to 200 feet). In modified embodiments, the arena height may be selected in other suitable manners, as needed or desired.

[0073] The air flow speed in the arena or air pool 14 (FIGS. 1-4) is dependent on the arena size and the configuration of the riding devices 210. It is estimated that during operation the air flow speed in the arena 14 is in the range from about 60 km/hour (40 miles/hour) to about 300 km/hour (180 miles per/hour) though it may be less or more, as needed or desired.

[0074] The top safety zone 16 (FIGS. 1 and 5) is downstream of the arena 14 and is in mechanical and fluid communication with the arena 14. The top safety zone 16 is connected to the downstream end 28 of the arena 14.

[0075] Referring in particular to FIGS. 1 and 5, the top safety zone 16 generally comprises a low air velocity section 32 and a cover 34. The low velocity section 32 may be integral with the arena 14 or removably attached to the arena 14, as needed or desired. The inner diameter of the low velocity section 32 is about the same as or slightly larger than the inner diameter of the arena downstream end 28.

[0076] The cover 34 (FIG. 5) is on top of the low velocity section 32 and comprises a large net frame or the like. The section 32 of the top safety zone 16 desirably entertains a low flow velocity so as to prevent any riding devices 210 from flying out of the arena or pool 14. The net-like cover 34 further ensures that no riding devices 210 are ejected from the top of the arena or pool 14.

[0077] The bottom safety zone 18 (FIGS. 1 and 6) is upstream of the arena 14 and is in mechanical and fluid communication with the arena 14. The bottom safety zone 18 is connected to the upstream end 26 of the arena 14.

[0078] In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 6, the bottom safety zone 18 comprises a plurality of layers 36 of cushioned material or cushioning devices with holes or passages 38 therethrough to allow the flow of air. The layers 36 may be integral or attached to one another using fasteners such as cords, bolts and the like. The bottom safety zone 18 is preferably removeably attached to the arena 14 though on modified embodiments it may be integral with the arena 14, as needed or desired. The diameter of the bottom safety zone 18 is about the same as or slightly larger than the diameter of the arena upstream end 26.

[0079] One main function of the bottom safety zone 18 (FIGS. 1 and 6) is to provide pleasant landing experience for the participants. Advantageously, the bottom safety zone 18 absorbs impact forces. Also as discussed further below, in some embodiments, the bottom safety zone 18 may also be utilized as a platform for loading and unloading of the ride participants.

[0080] The air feeding or supply unit or system 20 (FIGS. 1 and 7) is upstream of the arena 14 and provides the desired stable air flow to the arena 14. The air feeding unit 20 is preferably located proximate to the arena 14 at a suitable location, for example, in an over ground or underground installation.

[0081] The air feeding system 20 (FIGS. 1 and 7) generally comprises a plurality of air compressors or pumps 40 arranged in parallel and outlet tunnels, pipes or lines 42. The outlet lines 42 connect in a desired fashion or lead to manifolds 44 with additional feedlines or channels 46 so that the air flow entering the arena 14 is distributed in a uniform or predetermined configuration.

[0082] The number of compressors 40 (FIG. 7) utilized is generally determined by the compressor specifications, the desired flow rate, the capacity of the arena 14 and the configuration of the riding devices 210. The compressors 40 are powered by and their speed is controlled by one more suitable motors, as needed or desired. Inlet and outlet silencers and the like may be efficaciously used, as needed or desired.

[0083] Referring in particular to FIG. 7, various valves 48, such as flow control valves and the like, can be used to control the air flow. The valves 48 may be provided at any number of suitable locations, for example, at the outlet lines 42, the manifolds 44, manifold channels 46 and other suitable upstream or downstream locations. The valves 48 can also be operated to fine tune the air flow to a desired profile.

[0084] Still referring in particular to FIG. 7, various sensors such as flow meters or sensors 50 and pressure sensors 52 can be located at suitable locations within the air supply unit 20. The sensors 50 and 52 may be provided at the outlet lines 42, the manifolds 44, the manifold channels 46 and other suitable upstream or downstream locations.

[0085] A ground control system as discussed further below, can be utilized to monitor and control various operational aspects of the air supply unit 20 (FIGS. 1 and 7). These may include the operation of the compressors 40 and the valves 48, and monitoring of the measurements from sensors 50 and 52. The ground control system sends commands to the various components to adjust or fine tune the various operational parameters, as needed or desired.

[0086] In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1, the air quality control unit or system 22 is located downstream of the air feeding unit 20 and upstream of the arena 14. The air control unit 22 provides air to the arena 14 that is comfortable, pleasant and clean for the riders in the arena 14 by controlling such parameters as the temperature, humidity, pressure, dust or pollen content and the like of the air. In modified embodiments, the air control unit 22 or some of its components may be within the air feeding unit 20. For example, the air quality may be controlled initially within the air feeding unit 20 and then further controlled and fine tuned downstream of the air feeding unit 20.

[0087] The air quality control unit or system 22 (FIGS. 1 and 8) generally comprises a temperature control unit or system 54 and a humidity control unit or system 56 as schematically illustrated in FIG. 8 (the arrows represent the direction of air flow). The units 54 and 56 are positioned at suitable locations such as the feedlines leading to the air pool 14. Alternatively, or in addition, the units 54 and 56 may be located at one or more chambers with inlets and outlets and hence control the air quality therein. Other suitable components such as filters and the like may be used to cleanse the air of contaminants, for example, dust and pollen, as needed or desired. Inert scents and coloring may be added to the air flow to enhance the enjoyment and thrill of the riders.

[0088] Referring in particular to FIG. 8, the temperature control unit 54 generally comprises a plurality of temperature sensors 58 and devices for increasing or decreasing the temperature, as needed or desired. These devices can comprise any one of a number of heaters 60 and coolers 62 such as heat exchangers and the like.

[0089] Still referring in particular to FIG. 8, the humidity control unit 56 generally comprises a plurality of humidity or moisture sensors 64 and devices for increasing or decreasing the humidity or moisture content of the air, as needed or desired. These devices can comprise any one of a number of humidifiers 66 and dehumidifiers 68 as known in the art.

[0090] A ground control system, as discussed further below, can be utilized to monitor and control various operational aspects of the air control unit 22 (FIGS. 1 and 8). These may include the operation of the heaters 60, coolers 62, humidifiers 66 and dehumidifiers 68, and monitoring of the measurements from sensors 58 and 64. The ground control system sends commands to the various components to adjust or fine tune the quality of the air flow, as needed or desired.

[0091] The air distributor unit or system 24 (FIGS. 1 and 9) is downstream of the air control unit 22 and upstream of the air pool or arena 14. In the illustrated embodiment, the air distributor unit 24 is below the bottom safety zone 18. The air distributor unit 24 is used to provide a generally uniform vertical air flow into the arena 14. In modified embodiments, the air distributor unit 24 can be used to provide a designated or predetermined or preselected pattern of air flow to the air pool to enhance the effect of the amusement the riders can experience.

[0092] Referring in particular to FIG. 9, the air distributor unit 24 generally comprises one or more layers 70 of porous material, net-like frames, screens and the like with holes or passages 72 configured and arranged in a predetermined manner to provide a generally uniform and controlled air flow as generally designated by the arrows 74. Suitable honeycomb structures may be interspersed within the layers 70 and/or upstream or downstream of the layers 70 to align and orient the air flow, as needed or desired. Each layer 70 may comprise an integral unit or a plurality of units removably attached to one another.

[0093] Flight Rider

[0094] FIGS. 10 and 11 show different views of the riding device 210, also referred to as the flight rider, flight craft, flying device or aircraft. The riding device 210 generally comprises a main outer body or shell 212, a safety seat 214, preferably having a built in helmet 234 and seat belt 214a, for a pilot passenger, a motion controller 216 operable by the passenger, a motion stabilizer 218 and a motion or air flow control system 220 which directs the movement of the device 210. Also shown in the figures is a ride participant, passenger or pilot 222. In modified embodiments, the riding device can be configured and designed to have more than one safety seat and accommodate more than one passenger, as needed or desired.

[0095] Referring in particular to FIGS. 10 and 11, the outer body 212 has an aerodynamically symmetric shape, preferably spherical, which allows the riding device 210 to be more easily stabilized. In modified embodiments, other suitable shapes such as ellipsoidal, oval, disc-shaped and the like may be efficaciously utilized, as needed or desired.

[0096] In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 10 and 11, the outer body 212 has a plurality of holes 224 arranged in a predetermined fashion which allows air flow through the device 210 which serves several functions. The air flow provides air to the participant 222. As discussed further below, the air flow also permits the motion control system 220 and the motion stabilizer 218 to be placed inside the outer body. Advantageously, this preserves the aerodynamic shape of the riding device 210 and also allows for more secure collisions, which is a feature of some embodiments of the invention, between the riding devices 210.

[0097] Referring in particular to FIGS. 10 and 11, the holes 224 can be configured in arranged in a number of manners. In the illustrated embodiment, the holes 224 are generally circular in shape. In modified embodiments, the holes 224 can be shaped in other manners, for example, ellipsoidal, oval, polygonal such as hexagonal and the like.

[0098] In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 10 and 11, the outer shell 212 has a row of eight holes 224a slightly above the centerline plane 226, a row of eight holes 224b slightly below the centerline plane 226, a row of four holes 224c about midway between the body top 228 and the centerline plane 226 and a row of four holes 224d about midway between the body bottom 228 and the centerline plane 226. Of course, fewer or more holes 224 positioned at other positions may be efficaciously utilized, as required or desired, giving due consideration to the goal of achieving one or more of the benefits and advantages as taught or suggested herein.

[0099] Referring in particular to FIGS. 10 and 11, the holes 224a are symmetrically positioned and substantially equidistantly spaced from one another. The holes 224b are symmetrically positioned and substantially equidistantly spaced from one another. The holes 224c are symmetrically positioned and substantially equidistantly spaced from one another. The holes 224d are symmetrically positioned and substantially equidistantly spaced from one another. In modified embodiments, the holes 224 may be positioned in other manners, as required or desired, giving due consideration to the goal of achieving one or more of the benefits and advantages as taught or suggested herein.

[0100] In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 10 and 11, the holes 224a are angularly offset from adjacent holes 224a by about 45° (π/4 radians). The holes 224b are angularly offset from adjacent holes 224b by about 45° (π/4 radians). The holes 224c are angularly offset from adjacent holes 224c by about 90° (π/2 radians). The holes 224d are angularly offset from adjacent holes 224d by about 90° (π/2 radians). In modified embodiments, the holes 224 may be offset in other manners, as required or desired, giving due consideration to the goal of achieving one or more of the benefits and advantages as taught or suggested herein.

[0101] In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 10 and 11, the holes 224a are angularly offset from corresponding holes 224b by about 22.5° (π/8 radians). In another embodiment, the holes 224a are substantially aligned with corresponding holes 224b. In modified embodiments, the holes 224a, 224b may be offset in other manners, as required or desired, giving due consideration to the goal of achieving one or more of the benefits and advantages as taught or suggested herein.

[0102] In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 10 and 11, the holes 224c are angularly offset from corresponding holes 224d by about 45° (π/4 radians). In another embodiment, the holes 224c are substantially aligned with corresponding holes 224d. In modified embodiments, the holes 224c, 224d may be offset in other manners, as required or desired, giving due consideration to the goal of achieving one or more of the benefits and advantages as taught or suggested herein.

[0103] Referring in particular to FIG. 10, one or more resilient cushioning devices 232 are provided on the outer surface of the shell 212 to absorb and release impact forces during bumping of the riding devices 210 which adds the utility and enjoyment of the participants 222. The cushion 232 may extend along the centerline plane 226 and around the shell 212. Other cushions 232 may be placed at other suitable locations such as the top 228 or bottom 230 or may cover substantially the entire shell 212, as needed or desired. The cushions 232 may comprise any one of a number of suitable materials such as rubber, cellular foam, inflatable bladders and the like.

[0104] The outer shell 212 (FIGS. 10 and 11) is fabricated from a suitably strong and substantially transparent material such as composite plastics and thermoplastics. In modified embodiments, the outer shell 212 or portions of it may efficaciously be fabricated from other plastics, metals, alloys, ceramics, combinations thereof, and the like, as needed or desired.

[0105] The riding device 210 and the outer body 212 (FIGS. 10 and 11) are dimensioned such that they may comfortably accommodate at least one participant 222. In one embodiment, the riding device 210 and the outer body 212 have a diameter of about 1.8 m (6 feet) and a footprint of about 3.3 m2 (36 ft2). In other embodiments, the riding device 210 and the outer body 212 may be dimensioned in other manners, as needed or desired. For example, to accommodate more than one ride participant 222 in a single riding device 210, the diameter and footprint of the riding device 210 and the outer body 212 may be larger.

[0106] The seat 214 (FIGS. 10 and 11) is generally designed and configured to accommodate a rider or participant 222 and is positioned at the bottom of the device 210 to provide a low center of gravity and hence increased stability. The seat 214 includes a safety hat or helmet 234. The hat 234 is preferably an integral part of the seat 214. In modified embodiments, the hat 234 may be removable. The seat 214 also includes a safety belt or bar to safely restrain the participant 222 during movement of the riding device 210. In modified embodiments, the seat can be configured or designed to accommodate more than one participant such as parents with children and the like, as needed or desired.

[0107] The motion controller 216 (FIGS. 10 and 11) allows the participant 222 to pilot the air craft 210 and control its motion via actuations of the motion control system 220. The motion controller 216 may comprise a joystick, press or push buttons, levers including foot actuated levers and combinations thereof, as needed or desired.

[0108] The motion stabilizer 218 (FIGS. 10 and 11) provides balance and stability to the riding device 210 and prevents or mitigates undesirable vibrations and oscillations. The stabilizer 218 is mounted above the safety seat 214 and generally comprises a plurality of vanes or blades 236. In the illustrated embodiment, four vanes or blades 236 are provided though fewer or more may be utilized, as needed or desired.

[0109] As best seen in the top view of FIG. 11, the blades 236 are oriented at approximately right-angles (90°) to adjacent blades 236. In modified embodiments, other suitable blade orientations may efficaciously be utilized, as needed or desired.

[0110] Also, as best seen in the top view of FIG. 11, the blades 236 are angularly offset from adjacent holes 224c by about 45° (π/4 radians). In another embodiment, the blades 236 are substantially aligned with corresponding holes 224c. In modified embodiments, other suitable angular offsets may efficaciously be utilized, as needed or desired.

[0111] Referring in particular to FIGS. 10 and 11, the blades 236 of the motion stabilizer 218 facilitate in maintaining proper vertical alignment of the riding device 210 during motion with respect to the vertical axis or plane 238 of the riding device 210. Hence, if there is undesirable rotation from the position shown in FIG. 10 about the plane or axis 238, the upward air flow impinges on the large flat surface of one or more of the blades 236 causing the riding device 210 to rotate back towards its original upright position, that is, as shown in FIG. 10. Advantageously, in this manner the stabilizer 236 prevents or mitigates unwanted and undesirable vibrations and rotation of the riding device 210.

[0112] The motion control system 220 generally comprises a central or main controller 240 and a plurality of nozzles with open and shut capability utilizing corresponding flow controlling or restricting valves. As best seen in the top view of FIG. 11, these include four horizontal movement control nozzles HN1, HN2, HN3, HN4 and four vertical movement control nozzles VN1, VN2, VN3, VN4. Various suitable valves may be utilized in conjunction with the nozzles, for example, butterfly valves, electronically controlled valves, valves with varying degree of open, shut and partially open-shut capability, and combinations thereof, among others, as needed or desired.

[0113] Referring in particular to FIG. 11, the forward motion is controlled by activating (opening) nozzles HN1 and HN2. The backward motion is controlled by activating (opening) nozzles HN3 and HN4. The leftward motion is controlled by activating (opening) nozzles HN1 and HN3. The rightward motion is controlled by activating (opening) nozzles HN2 and HN4.

[0114] Referring in particular to FIGS. 10 and 11, the upward motion (that is, upwards in the direction of axis or plane 238) is controlled by activating (opening) nozzles VN2 and VN4. The downward motion (that is, downwards in the direction of axis or plane 238) is controlled by activating (opening) VN1 and VN3.

[0115] Referring in particular to FIG. 11, the clockwise rotation is controlled by activating (opening) HN2 and HN4. The contour-clockwise rotation is controlled by activating (opening) HN1 and HN3.

[0116] Still referring in particular to FIG. 11, the motion in any other direction can be accomplished by combining the motions above and adjusting the airflow volume in each nozzle.

[0117] Loading and Unloading of Passengers

[0118] FIG. 12 illustrates one embodiment of a ride participant 222 loading scheme. The system is initially shut down and all the riding devices 210 are placed at the upstream end 26 of the air pool 14, such as on the bottom safety zone 18. The ride participants 222 enter the arena 14 through one or more entrance/exit gates 242 proximate the arena upstream end 26. The participants 222 each select a riding device 210 and are secured within it. When all pilots 222 are in a ready for take-off position, the system is started. When the system reaches the appropriate air speed profile the rider units 210 move upwards and are suspended and ready for free-flying.

[0119] FIG. 13 illustrates another embodiment of a ride participant 222 loading scheme. With the system is running at the operational air speed, all the riding devices 210 are placed at the top of the air pool 14 on a loading platform 244 which may be the same as the cover 34 (FIG. 5) of the top safety zone 16 or an independent unit. The participants 222 enter the system through an escalator from ground level to the top of the air pool 14. Each participant 222 picks a riding device 210 and is secured within it. After all pilots 222 are in their position, the system releases the riding devices 210 into the air pool 14. This may be done by slidingly moving the platform 244 or by opening hatch doors and the like. The riding devices 210 will start free-fall motion through the top safety zone 16, and will slow down as they reach the flying zone(s) of the arena 14. Eventually the riding devices 210 will reach their respective stable positions in the flying zone(s) and be ready for free-flying.

[0120] FIG. 14 illustrates another embodiment of a ride participant 222 loading scheme. While the system is running at the operational air speed, all the riding devices 210 are placed on a conveyor 246 that passes through the air pool 14. The participants 222 enter into respective riding devices 210 outside the air pool 14 and on the conveyor 246. When all the pilots 222 are in their position, the conveyor transports all the riding devices 210 into the air pool 14 sequentially. In the air flow, all the riding devices 210 will move upwards and are suspended and ready for free-flying.

[0121] FIG. 15 illustrates one embodiment of a ride participant 222 unloading scheme. With the riding devices 210 suspended or flying, the air speed within the air pool 14 is gradually reduced and each pilot 222 guides his or her riding device 210 to land onto a landing position on the ground or bottom safety zone 18. In the event a pilot 222 is unable to handle the landing maneuvers, an operator takes over the pilot control through the override mode (as discussed above) and guides the riding device 210 into a landing position. After all pilots 222 are in their position, the system opens one or more exit gates 242 and all pilots 222 exit out of the air pool 14 safely.

[0122] FIG. 16 illustrates another embodiment of a ride participant 222 unloading scheme. The system gradually reduces its air speed and each pilot 222 guides his or her riding device 210 to land onto a generally slow moving conveyor 246 proximate the upstream end 26 of the air pool 14. In the event a pilot 222 is unable to properly land onto the conveyor 246, a ground operator takes over the pilot control using the override mode (as discussed above) and lands the riding device 210 on the conveyor 246. The conveyor 246 transports the riding device 210 with the pilots 222 out of the arena 14 one by one or sequentially. The conveyor 246 momentarily stops to release the pilot 222 in the riding device 210 and the pilot 222 is released outside the air pool 14 safely. Once the pilot 222 is released, the conveyor 246 resumes its transportation until all the riding devices 210 are transported out of the air pool 14.

[0123] FIG. 17 illustrates yet another embodiment of a ride participant 222 unloading scheme. The system operates at its operational air speed and each pilot 222 guides his or her riding devices 210 into an exit gate 250 to land onto a generally slow moving conveyor 248 located in one of the flying zone areas. In the event a pilot 222 is unable to guide his or her riding device 210 into the exit gate 250, a ground operator takes over the pilot control using the override mode (as discussed above) and guides the riding device 210 to the exit gate 250. The conveyor 248 transports the riding device 210 and pilots 222 onto the ground. The conveyor 248 stops momentarily to release the pilot 222 in the riding device 210 and the pilot 222 is released outside the air pool 14 safely. Once the pilot 222 is released, the conveyor 248 resumes its transportation until all the riding devices 210 are transported out of the air pool 14.

[0124] FIG. 18 illustrates one embodiment of a portal or entrance door 260 of the riding device 210. The riding device 210 is initially placed at a loading zone 261 in accordance with one of the embodiments of loading zones (see, for example, FIGS. 12, 13 and 14). The door 260 is then opened and this allows each participant 222 to get into or enter the flight rider 210 through the entrance door 260. The participant 222 is secured into his or her seat and the door 260 is then closed securely. When all pilots 222 are ready for take-off position, the system starts loading procedure as taught or suggested herein in one of the loading embodiments. In modified embodiments, the entrance door can be designed as a sliding door along the flight rider's surface horizontally or vertically, or it can be designed as a splitting door or in any other suitable manner, as needed or desired.

[0125] FIG. 19 illustrates one embodiment of a portal or exit door 260 of the riding device 210. When the participants 222 have completed their rides, the riding device 210 eventually rests at an unloading zone 262 in accordance with one of the embodiments of unloading positions (see, for example, FIGS. 15, 16 and 17). The exit door 260 is then opened, and participants 222 exit the flight rider 210 through the door 260 into the unloading area 262 and thereafter exit the air pool amusement system. In modified embodiments, the exit door can be designed as a sliding door along the flight rider's surface horizontally or vertically, or it can be designed as a splitting door or in any other suitable manner, as needed or desired.

[0126] Communications and Control System

[0127] FIG. 20 shows a communications and control system 333 for the air pool amusement system. The communications and control system 333 generally comprises a ground control system 300, the rider motion control system 220 and wireless communication devices on both systems. Also shown in FIG. 20 are the riding device 210, antennas 302, 303 with illustrative receiving signals 305, 306, 307 and transmitting signals 308, 309, 310. Additionally, FIG. 20 shows an operator 311, with a remote control 312, who monitors and operates the communications and control system 333.

[0128] FIG. 21 shows the motion control system 220, in block diagram format, of the riding device 210. The motion control system 220 has a wireless receiver 320 to receive signals and data from the ground control system 333 (FIG. 20). The motion control system 220 has wireless transmitter 321 to transmit signals and data to the ground control system 333. The motion control system 220 has a power supply 322 for electronic, mechanical and any other functions. The motion control system 220 has motion sensors 323 to detect the movement and acceleration of the riding device 210. The motion control system 220 includes the pilot motion controller 216 to control the movement and acceleration of the riding device 210. The motion control system 220 has an external data receiver 323 to receive flight data, audio/video data, or any other data intended for the rider 210 and/or the ride participant 222. The motion control system 220 has a computer system 350 to process and carry out the commands requested from different sources. The motion control system 220 has a mechanical device controller 324 to control mechanical devices 325, such as but not limited to the riding device nozzles, associated valves and other mechanical componentry. The motion control system 220 has an audio and video controller 326 to control audio and video devices 327. The wireless transmitter and receiver on the motion control system 220 on each rider 210 can further be utilized for rider-to-rider communications.

[0129] Referring in particular to FIG. 21, the computer system 350 has a unique identifier (ID or id) 351 for each rider or riding device 210. The unique identifier can be part of a software component 359 or it can be part of a hardware component 360. The computer system 350 has data storage 352 to store amusement system data, simulation data or any other data, as needed or desired, for the amusement rides. The computer system 350 has microprocessors 353 to process control command for the device controls 354, 355, 356, 357. The computer system 350 has an audio and video control 354 to send audio and video commands to the audio and video controller 326. The audio and video controller 326 controls the audio and video devices 327, such as but not limited to speakers, sound system, display screens, video system and the like, to broadcast audio and video sounds, images and other audio and video contents. The computer system 350 has motion controls 355 to send motion command to the mechanical device controller 324. The mechanical device controller 324 controls or moves the mechanical devices 325, such as but not limited to the riding device nozzles, associated valves and other mechanical componentry.

[0130] Still referring in particular to FIG. 21, the pilot motion controller 216 has a manual mode 328 and an automatic or auto mode 329. In the manual mode 328, the participant or pilot 222 directly controls the flight. In the auto mode 329, the flight is controlled by flight data from data storage 352 on the computer system 350 or from external data receiver 330 fed by external data sources.

[0131] FIG. 22 shows the ground control system 300 for the air pool amusement system. The ground control system 300 has a rider monitor 510 to monitor the flight conditions of the rider or riding device 210. The ground control system 300 has an air flow monitor 511 to monitor air flow conditions such as flow rate, air temperature, humidity and pressure, among others. The ground control system 300 has a wireless receiver 512 to receive signals and data from the riding devices 210. The ground control system 300 has a wireless transmitter 516 to transmit signals and data to the riding devices 210. The ground control system 300 has an operator control panel 513 to operate the system at the desired conditions. The ground control system 300 has a power supply 514 for electronic, mechanical and any other devices. The ground control system 300 has a backup power supply 515 to supply power to all electronic, mechanical and other devices in the event of a power outage or when the power supply 514 is down. The ground control system 300 has a computer system 540 to process and carry out the commands requested from different sources. The ground control system 300 has an air flow device controller 517 to control air flow devices 518, such as but not limited to the air feeding unit 20, the air control unit 22 and the air distributor unit 24, to control the air flow conditions. The ground control system 300 has a ground device controller 519 to control ground motion devices 520, such as but not limited to entrance and exit gates, conveyors, escalators, and the like. The ground control system 300 has an audio and video controller 521 to control audio and video devices 522, such as but not limited to speakers, sound system, display screens, video system and the like.

[0132] Referring in particular to FIG. 22, the computer system 540 has a rider identification or ID map 531 to map the name of each riding device 210 and its ride participant 222 to the rider's unique identifier 351 (FIG. 21). The rider ID map can be part of a software component 539 or it can be part of a hardware component 530. The computer system 540 has data storage 532 to store amusement system data, simulation data or any other data, as needed or desired, for the amusement system. The computer system 540 has microprocessors 533 to process control command for the device controls 534, 535, 536, 537, 538. The computer system 540 has audio and video control 534 to send audio and video commands to the audio and video controller 521. The audio and video controller 521 controls the audio and video devices 522, such as but not limited to speakers, sound system, display screens, video system and the like, to broadcast audio and video contents. The computer system 540 has air flow controls 535 to send motion commands to the air flow device controller 517. The air flow device controller 517 controls or adjusts the airflow devices 518, such as but not limited to the air feeding unit 20, the air control unit 22 and the air distributor unit 24, to control the air flow conditions. The computer system 540 has ground controls 536 to send motion commands to the ground device controller 519. The ground device controller 519 controls or moves the ground motion devices 520, such as but not limited to entrance and exit gates, conveyors, escalators, and the like.

[0133] Still referring in particular to FIG. 22, the operator control panel 513 has air flow control instruments 541 to adjust air flow conditions. The operator control panel 513 has ground control instruments 542 to control the ground motion system which is operatively coupled to the ground motion devices 520. The operator control panel 513 has rider control instruments 543 to control or override the riding devices 210. The operator control panel 513 has a radio frequency (RF) receiver 544 to receive remote command from an operator's remote controller 312 (FIG. 20). The operator control panel 513 has an automatic or auto control mode 545 to keep the system running under desired conditions automatically.

[0134] Other Features

[0135] Advantageously, the wireless communication system 333 (FIG. 20) and device identifier 351 (FIG. 21) allow the riding device 210 (see, for example, FIGS. 1, 10 and 11) to communicate with the ground control system 300 (see, for example, FIGS. 20 and 22). The computer system 350 and 540 in combination with the identifier 351 and rider map 531 allows the implementation of a safety override from the ground control system 300. In some embodiments, the computer system 350 comprises an automatic safety response system such as safety override controls 357 that allows automatic implementation of the safety override from within the riding device 210.

[0136] In some embodiments, the system 10 (FIG. 1) includes a sound system integrated with audio and video controls 354, 534. Thus, speakers and screen displays can be mounted on suitable positions to provide motion pictures, images, music, instructions and the like before, during and after the ride. For example, FIG. 23 shows a display screen 612 and a sound system 614 with speakers 616. This may comprise, but is not limited to, a bipolar surround speaker and image system.

[0137] In some embodiments, by utilizing an auto pilot capability 329 of the control system 220 (FIGS. 10, 11 and 21). The device 210 can fly on its own without piloting by the participant 222. One or more pre-programmed flight paths can be entered and saved in the control system memory or data storage which allows the participant 222 to choose a particular flight plan, such as “beginner”, “intermediate”, “expert” and the like.

[0138] Some embodiments are integrated with the computer system 350 and 540 to provide virtual flying experience and enable virtual-reality simulation by coordinating scenes the participants 222 view with the motion control system 220. For example, by providing outer space, planetary, inter-galactic or other suitable travel scenes and the like and integrating, coordinating, synchronizing or coupling the rider's motion controller 216 and motion control system 222 with these sceneries, the ride participants or users 222 desirably experience a generally true or life-like simulation of outer space, planetary, inter-galactic traveling experiences, among others.

[0139] Some embodiments provide an over-ride mode of operation for the control system 220 (FIGS. 10, 11 and 21) of the riding device 210. This allows an operator in a ground control system 300 to take over the maneuvering of the riding device 210. This can be helpful, for example, if any participant 222 is having trouble navigating or piloting the riding device 210.

[0140] From the foregoing description, it will be appreciated that a novel approach for a free flying amusement system has been disclosed. While the components, techniques and aspects of the invention have been described with a certain degree of particularity, it is manifest that many changes may be made in the specific designs, constructions and methodology herein above described without departing from the spirit and scope of this disclosure.

[0141] Various modifications and applications of the invention may occur to those who are skilled in the art, without departing from the true spirit or scope of the invention. It should be understood that the invention is not limited to the embodiments set forth herein for purposes of exemplification, but is to be defined only by a fair reading of the appended claims, including the full range of equivalency to which each element thereof is entitled.