Title:
Modular and adjustable autorotative flyer
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus is disclosed for a modular and adjustable autorotative flying toy comprising: a planar, quasi tear-drop shaped wing having a substantially linear leading edge; an elongated cylindrical spine adapted to receive the wing; and a root constructed from elastomeric material, adapted to receive the spine, one end of the spine is inserted into an aperture in the root and fixed there by the root's elastomeric properties. The spine's cylindrical surface has a slit running parallel to its elongated axis from its distal end towards the root. The slit receives the linear leading edge of the wing, securing it relative to the spine and the root. The flight and rotational characteristics of the flyer may be adjusted by interchanging its components for alternative components that have different size, shape or weight; and by slidably adjusting the wing's position within the slit in the spine.



Inventors:
Nicholson, William Ernest (Port Moody, CA)
Application Number:
10/267616
Publication Date:
05/22/2003
Filing Date:
10/08/2002
Assignee:
NICHOLSON WILLIAM ERNEST
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H27/00; (IPC1-7): A63H27/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HYLINSKI, ALYSSA MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP - West Coast (Atlanta, GA, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An apparatus for an autorotating flying toy, comprising a wing, said wing being positionally adjustable in a manner operative to alter flight and rotational characteristics of the toy.

2. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said wing is slidably adjustable relative to other components of the toy.

3. An apparatus according to claim 1, which further comprises: (a) an elongated spine adapted to receive said wing and operative to secure said wing during normal operation of the toy; and (b) a root adapted to receive said spine and operative to secure said spine during normal operation of the toy.

4. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein said wing is slidably adjustable relative to said spine and said root.

5. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said wing is fabricated from a substantially planar sheet of lightweight, semi-rigid material of uniform thickness.

6. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said wing is substantially planar and further comprises: (a) a substantially straight leading edge; and (b) a curved trailing edge having a convex portion and a concave portion.

7. An apparatus according to claim 6, wherein the toy further comprises: (a) an elongated spine adapted to receive the substantially straight leading edge of said wing and operative to secure said wing to said spine during normal operation of the toy; and (b) a root adapted to receive said spine and to secure said spine to said root during normal operation of the toy.

8. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein said wing has a substantially planar surface, which further comprises at least one of: a deviation, an indentation, and a protrusion that is operative to assist in securing said wing.

9. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein said root is relatively massive in comparison to said spine and said wing, so as to locate a center of gravity of the toy relatively close to a center of said root.

10. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein said root is fabricated from an elastomeric, shock-absorbent material.

11. An apparatus according to claim 3, wherein said spine further comprises a slit disposed over a portion of said spine and oriented parallel to an elongated axis of said spine, said slit operative to receive said wing and to secure said wing to said spine during normal operation of the toy.

12. An apparatus for an autorotating flying toy, comprising: (a) a substantially planar wing; (b) an elongated spine adapted to receive said wing and to secure said wing during normal operation of the toy; and (c) a root adapted to receive said spine and to secure said spine during normal operation of the toy, said wing being positionally adjustable relative to said root and said spine in a manner operative to alter flight and rotational characteristics of the toy.

13. An apparatus according to claim 12, wherein said wing is slidably adjustable relative to said spine and said root.

14. An apparatus according to claim 12, wherein said wing further comprises: (a) a substantially straight leading edge; (b) a curved trailing edge having a convex portion and a concave portion.

15. An apparatus according to claim 12, wherein said wing's substantially planar surface further comprises at least one of: a deviation, an indentation, and a protrusion, which is operative to assist in securing said wing to said spine.

16. A kit for assembling an autorotative flying toy, said kit comprising: (a) a plurality of substantially planar wings, each of which is different in at least one of: size, shape and weight; (b) a plurality of elongated spines, each of which is different in at least one of: size, shape and weight, and each of which is adapted to receive and secure any one of said plurality of wings during normal operation of the toy; and (c) a plurality of roots, each of which is different in at least one of: size, shape and weight, and each of which is adapted to receive and secure any one of said plurality of spines during normal operation of the toy, each combination of one of said wings, one of said spines and one of said roots being compatible, so as to fit together to form a unique autorotative flying toy having distinct flight and rotational characteristics.

17. A kit according to claim 16, wherein the flight and rotational characteristics of each unique autorotative toy formed from a combination of one of said wings, one of said spines and one of said roots are further adjustable by slidably adjusting a position of said one wing relative to said one root and said one spine.

18. A kit for assembling an autorotative flying toy, said kit comprising: (a) a plurality of substantially planar wings, each of which is different in at least one of: size, shape and weight; (b) a plurality of elongated spines, each of which is different in at least one of: size, shape and weight, and each of which is adapted to receive and secure any one of said plurality of wings during normal operation of the toy; and (c) a plurality of roots, each of which is different in at least one of: size, shape and weight, and each of which is adapted to receive and secure any one of said plurality of spines during normal operation of the toy, each combination of one of said wings, one of said spines and one of said roots being compatible, so as to fit together to form a unique autorotative flying toy having distinct flight and rotational characteristics, and the flight and rotational characteristics of each unique autorotative flying toy being further adjustable by slidably adjusting a position of said one wing relative to said one root and said one spine.

19. A kit for assembling an autorotative flying toy, said kit comprising: (a) at least one substantially planar wing, at least one elongated spine and at least one root; and (b) at least one of: (i) a plurality of substantially planar wings, each of which is different in at least one of: size, shape and weight; (ii) a plurality of elongated spines, each of which is different in at least one of: size, shape and weight; and (iii) a plurality of roots, each of which is different in at least one of: size, shape and weight; each elongated spine being adapted to receive and secure any one of said wings during normal operation of the toy and each root being adapted to receive and secure any one of said spines during normal operation of the toy, and each combination of any one of said wings, any one of said spines and any one of said roots being compatible, so as to fit together to form a unique autorotative flying toy having distinct flight and rotational characteristics.

20. A kit according to claim 19, wherein the flight and rotational characteristics of each unique autorotative toy formed from a combination of one of said wings, one of said spines and one of said roots are further adjustable by slidably adjusting a position of said one wing relative to said one root and said one spine.

21. A method of adjusting flight and rotational characteristics of an autorotative flying toy, comprising the steps of: (a) providing a wing that is secured to the autorotative flying toy during normal operation and supplies lift for the toy; and (b) adjusting a position of said wing relative to other components of the autorotative flying toy, said adjusting step changing aerodynamics of the toy in a manner that alters its flight and rotational characteristics.

22. An apparatus for an autorotative flying toy, comprising a single wing, said wing having an adjustable position, which adjustable position influences flight and rotational characteristics of said toy.

23. An apparatus for an autorotative flying toy, comprising: (a) a substantially planar wing, having: (i) a substantially straight leading edge; and (ii) a curved trailing edge with a convex portion and a concave portion; (b) an elongated spine, having a slit disposed over a portion of said spine and oriented parallel to an elongated axis of said spine, the slit being operative to receive the substantially straight leading edge of said wing and operative to secure said wing to said spine during normal operation of the toy; and (c) a root adapted to receive an end of said spine and to secure said spine to said root during normal operation of the toy, in a manner such that said root is separated from said wing.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The invention relates to flying toys. More particularly, the invention relates to flying toys having autorotative characteristics.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] In order to assist with the dispersion of seeds in plants and trees, nature has developed a seed-pod with characteristics of autorotation. When such a seed-pod falls from a tree, its autorotation slows its descent, allowing the seed to be dispersed by wind. Toy designers have made many attempts to design flying toys that emulate the autorotation exhibited by such seed-pods. As explained below, these prior art toys vary widely in design.

[0003] A first class of prior art autorotative flyers involves toys having a dual or multi-wing design. Examples of this class of flying toys include those described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,863,250 (the “Harris toy”), U.S. Pat. No. 5,284,454 (the “Randolph toy”), U.S. Pat. No. 5,615,892 (the “Miller toy”) and U.S. Pat. No. 6,146,231 (the “Rachmany toy”). Multi-wing autorotative flying toys suffer from the disadvantage that they are generally more difficult and costly to fabricate than single-wing toys, because of the relatively large number of parts required to affect the multi-wing design and because of the relative complexity of the parts. Many multi-winged flyers, such as the Randolph toy, the Rachmany toy and the Miller toy, are not designed specifically to emulate the characteristics of an autorotative seed-pod. Another disadvantage of the multi-winged inventions described above is that their flight and rotational characteristics may not be easily adjusted by their users.

[0004] U.S. Pat. No. 5,403,221 (the “Savage flyer”) describes a relatively flat aerial toy that has a length greater than its width, causing it to rotate about its longest axis on decent and causing it to rotate about its shortest axis during its entire flight. The Savage flyer is adapted for launch using an elastic launching device and is composed of two parts: an elliptical head and a tail shaped like an isosceles trapezoid. One disadvantage of the Savage flyer is that it requires its outer edges to be surrounded by a protective outer surface member, because its multi-axis rotation may cause the Savage flyer to hit the ground on any of its sides. The Savage flyer is not shaped like a seed-pod and, with its multi-axis rotation, does not specifically emulate the flight characteristics of a seed-pod. An additional disadvantage of the Savage flyer is that its flight and rotational characteristics may not be easily adjusted by the device user.

[0005] U.S. Pat. No. 4,904,219 (the “Cox toy”) describes a hand or sling shot launched flyer fabricated with a single piece construction. The shape of the Cox toy is designed to enable it to fly upward in a substantially non-rotational manner and, upon reaching its maximum altitude, to rotate in a spiral path on its descent. The single piece fabrication of the Cox toy has a pointed head portion and a wing portion having two curved edges that come to a point at its distal end. The pointed ends of the Cox toy represent a disadvantage, because they may cause injury to property, users or other onlookers when the toy is launched. An additional disadvantage of the Cox toy is that a user may not adjust its flight and rotational characteristics.

[0006] The toy described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,947,993 (the “Hoppe flyer”) is a single piece airfoil adapted to be propelled into the air using an elastic type device. The Hoppe flyer is elongated and symmetrically shaped, with a tapered nose portion and a wing having a surface formation that stabilizes the device and causes it to rotate. The Hoppe flyer is rotational about multiple axes in a manner similar to the Savage flyer. The shape of the wing causes the Hoppe flyer to rotate about its elongated axis during its entire flight. During descent, the shape of the wing also causes a rotation about a lateral axis. The Hoppe flyer also has a center of mass that is relatively close to the center of its elongated axis. As such, the lateral axis about which the device rotates is relatively close to its geometrical center (i.e. like a helicopter blade) as opposed to one end (i.e. like a seed-pod). For these reasons, the Hoppe flyer does not specifically emulate the flight characteristics of a seed-pod. In addition, the single piece fabrication of the Hoppe flyer prevent a user from adjusting its flight and rotational characteristics.

[0007] The toys described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,505,650, 5,664,783, and 5,810,636 (the “Harned devices”) are maple-seed simulating autorotating flyers. They are constructed so as to have a spherical, shock absorbing nose section, a substantially straight leading edge, a curved tail, and a curved trailing edge. The Harned devices have a spine that lines both the substantially straight leading edge and the curved tail of the device. A brace member attaches the curved portion of the spine to the straight portion of the spine. The nose section comprises two hemispheres, one of which receives the spine. The wing abuts the outer surface of the nose section, requiring a concave shape having identical curvature to the outer surface of the nose section. The preferred embodiments of the wing also involve multiple concave and multiple convex sections on the trailing edge. In the Harned device described by U.S. Pat. No. 5,810,636, the flyer also includes a sound making device, which is activated by the rotation of the device during its descent. The multipart nose section, the brace, the curved portion of the spine and the above mentioned curvature of the wing are disadvantageous, because they add complexity and fabrication costs to the Harned devices. In addition, the flight and rotational characteristics of the Harned devices may not be adjusted by the user.

[0008] The autorotating toy described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,173,069 and D338,245 (the “Litos flyer”) comprises a generally circular root portion that is integral to a curved wing portion. The curved wing portion is concave on its leading edge and has an integral spar thereon. The trailing edge of the wing portion is substantially convex. The root portion of the Litos flyer provides counterweight, making its center of gravity (and its axis of rotation) closer to the root portion. The root portion may include a steel or lead weight to help influence the center of gravity and a vane that helps reduce the drag on the root section. The integral construction of the wing, the root, the vane and the spar are disadvantageous, because they make the Litos flyer relatively complex and difficult to fabricate. The steel or lead counterweight inside the root section add to the fabrication complexities and can make the Litos flyer somewhat unsafe for property, users and onlookers, as the increased mass of the device can cause it to acquire considerable momentum. An additional disadvantage of the Litos flyer is that its flight and rotational characteristics may not be adjusted by its users.

[0009] The rotating flying device described by U.S. Pat. No. 6,050,871 (the “Chen device”) comprises an airfoil made from elastic, tear resistant, crystal gel having novel time delay recovery properties. The Chen device has one or more inner and outer gel profiles with connective membranes that may or may not have holes therethrough. The unusual properties of the crystal gel cause the gel to expand in a manner that is related to its rate of spin during flight, causing correlated changes in the inner and outer gel profiles. The gel membranes serve to control the rate of change in the size of the gel profile. In a disadvantageous contrast to most of the other flying toys, the Chen device requires the user to impart a spin on the device during launch by spinning their wrist. In this sense, the Chen device is not autorotative. In addition, the Chen device is relatively delicate and is susceptible to being torn or otherwise damaged when subjected to external forces, such as compression, torsion, tension and elongation. Another disadvantage of the Chen device is that a user may not easily manipulate its flight and rotational characteristics by altering its orientation, weight or shape.

[0010] Canadian Patent No. 2,116,635 describes an autorotative single-wing toy (the “Bears toy”) that rotates in a manner of a helicopter rotor during descent. The Bears toy comprises a weighted end and a wing attached to the weighted end. The wing has a relatively straight leading edge and a curved trailing edge. The wing's thickness varies from a relatively thick cross-section near the leading edge to a relatively thin cross-section near the trailing edge. A disadvantage of the Bears toy is that the multiple thicknesses or the gradient in the wing's cross-section make it relatively complex and expensive to fabricate. An additional disadvantage of the Bears toy is that it is not designed to be modular or modifiable; consequently, a user may not easily manipulate its flight and rotational characteristics by altering its orientation, weight or shape.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] It is an object of the present invention to implement an apparatus for a modular and adjustable autorotative, winged flying toy that overcomes some of the disadvantages of the prior art.

[0012] Other objects of the present invention include providing: (i) an apparatus for an autorotative, winged flying toy, wherein the rotation and flight characteristics of the toy may be easily adjusted by the user; and (ii) a method that facilitates such adjustment.

[0013] Another object of the present invention is to provide an autorotative, winged flying toy that emulates the flight characteristics of a seed-pod.

[0014] Yet another object of the present invention is to implement an autorotative, winged flying toy that is simple and inexpensive to fabricate from rudimentary components.

[0015] Still another object of the present invention is to provide an autorotative, winged flying toy that is safe for use by children and is relatively incapable of causing damage to property or injury to its users or other onlookers.

[0016] In accordance with the present invention, an apparatus for an autorotating flying toy is disclosed. The toy comprises a wing that is positionally adjustable in a manner that alters the toy's flight and rotational characteristics.

[0017] Preferably, the wing may be slidably adjustable relative to other components of the toy.

[0018] Advantageously, the toy may further comprise an elongated spine, adapted to receive and secure the wing, and a root, adapted to receive and secure the spine.

[0019] Preferably, the wing may be fabricated from a substantially planar sheet of lightweight, semi-rigid material having uniform thickness. In addition, the wing may further comprise a substantially straight leading edge and a curved trailing edge having a convex portion and a concave portion. Advantageously, the wing may further comprise a deviation, indentation, protrusion or bend on its planar surface, which is operative to assist in securing the wing to the spine.

[0020] Preferably, the root may be relatively massive in comparison to the spine and wing, so as to locate the toy's center of gravity relatively close to (or inside the body of) the root. In addition, the root may be fabricated from an elastomeric, shock-absorbent material.

[0021] Preferably, the spine may further comprise a slit disposed over a portion of its surface and oriented parallel to its elongated axis. The slit may be operative to receive and secure the wing during normal operation of the toy.

[0022] Another aspect of the present invention involves a kit for assembling an autorotative flying toy. The kit comprises a plurality of wings, a plurality of spines and a plurality of roots, each such plurality containing elements with different size, shape or weight. Each combination of one wing, one spine and one root is compatible to form a unique autorotative flying toy, with distinct flight and rotational characteristics.

[0023] Advantageously, the flight and rotational characteristics of each such unique autorotative flying toy may be further altered by slidably adjusting the position of the one wing relative to the one root and the one spine.

[0024] Another aspect of the present invention involves a method of adjusting the flight and rotational characteristics of an autorotative flying toy. The method comprises the steps of: (a) providing a wing that is secured to the toy; and (b) adjusting the position of the wing relative to the toy's other components.

[0025] Further advantages of the invention will become apparent when considering the drawings in conjunction with the detailed description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0026] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the autorotative single-wing flying toy that is the subject of the present invention.

[0027] FIG. 2 is a plan view of the invention, the opposing plan view being a mirror image thereof.

[0028] FIGS. 3 and 4 are elevated views of the leading and trailing edges of the flying toy respectively.

[0029] FIGS. 5 and 6 are elevated views of the tail and root end of the flying toy respectively.

[0030] FIGS. 7 through 12 represent various views of a particular embodiment of the wing in accordance with the present invention:

[0031] (a) FIG. 7 is a plan view of the wing having tension flanges;

[0032] (b) FIG. 8 is an elevated view of the wing;

[0033] (c) FIG. 9 is an enlarged cross-sectional view of a tension flange, along the line 30-30;

[0034] (d) FIG. 10 is an elevated view of the curved tail portion of the wing component;

[0035] (e) FIG. 11 is an enlarged cross-sectional view of a tension flange, along line 29-29; and

[0036] (f) FIG. 12 is an enlarged cross-sectional view from the curved tail portion of the wing, showing the tensioning flanges securing the wing inside the cylindrical spine.

[0037] FIGS. 13 through 15 depict another embodiment of the wing in accordance with the present invention:

[0038] (a) FIG. 13 is a plan view of the wing, the opposing plan view being the mirror image thereof;

[0039] (b) FIG. 14 is an elevated view of leading and trailing edges of the wing; and

[0040] (c) FIG. 15 is an elevated view of the curved tail of the wing.

[0041] FIGS. 16 through 19 depict the cylindrical spine of the flying toy:

[0042] (a) FIG. 16 is an elevated inside view of the cylindrical spine component of the flyer;

[0043] (b) FIG. 17 is an enlarged cross-sectional view of the cylindrical spine viewed from the tail end of the device;

[0044] (c) FIG. 18 is an enlarged cross-sectional view of the cylindrical spine viewed from the root end of the device; and

[0045] (d) FIG. 19 is an elevated view of the cylindrical spine component of the flyer viewed from other than the inside edge.

[0046] FIGS. 20 to 21 depict the root portion of the device:

[0047] (a) FIG. 20 is an elevated inside view of the root component of the flyer;

[0048] (b) FIG. 21 is an elevated inside view of the root component of the flyer taken from other than the inside view; and

[0049] (c) FIG. 22 is a cross-sectional view of the root component of the flyer.

[0050] FIG. 23 is a schematic representation of a user launching the toy by throwing it upward.

[0051] FIG. 24 is a schematic representation of the typical flight path of the device once it has been launched.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0052] FIGS. 1 through 22 and more specifically FIG. 2 depict an embodiment of the apparatus for a modular and adjustable autorotative single-wing flying toy 10 in accordance with the present invention. In general, the flyer 10 is made up of three modular components: a wing component 25, a spine component 34 and a root component 15. The three components are adapted and have specific features that allow them to receive and secure one another in a fixed orientation to form the flyer 10. However, the three components (wing 25, spine 34 and root 15) are also easily detachable from one another to facilitate the interchange of individual components having different size, weight or shape. Changing the size, weight or shape of any one or more components represents one method of influencing the flight and rotational characteristics of the flying toy 10.

[0053] One embodiment of the invention comprises a kit having plurality of some or all of the components (i.e. a plurality of wings 25 and/or a plurality of spines 34 and/or a plurality of roots 15), with each of the individual components varying in size, weight or shape. In this manner, a user may interchange any one or more of the various components and alter the flying characteristics of the flyer 10. Examples of suitable components are provided below.

[0054] The characteristics of the individual components (wing 25, spine 34 and root 15) will now be described individually and in relation to one another.

[0055] The root component 15 of the flyer 10 is depicted in FIGS. 2 through 6 and FIGS. 20 through 22. In a preferred embodiment, root 15 is made of a resilient and shock absorbing material, such as sponge rubber. In general, any material having elastomeric properties will suffice to form a root component 15 that conforms with the requirements of the present invention. One purpose of the elastomeric nature of the root 15 is to provide a safe flyer 10 that does not cause injury to persons or property. Although the shape of the root 15 is not a necessary feature of the invention, a preferred embodiment of the invention includes a spherically shaped root 15. The invention should be understood to include roots of other shapes, which may affect the aerodynamics of the flyer 10. The term “root” should be understood to encompass, for example, a central component, a part by which an object is attached, a core piece, a bottom or base, a supporting element or a lower part.

[0056] The function of the root component 15 is two-fold. Primarily, the root component 15 acts as a counterweight, which has sufficient mass relative to the other components of the flyer 10 to situate the flyer's center of mass 55 at a location that is substantially close to the root 15. Depending on the relative size, shape and weight of the three components (wing 25, spine 34 and root 15), the exact location of the flyer's center of mass 55 may vary between a location close to the root 15 (as shown in FIG. 2) to a location within the body of the root 15 (not shown). The location of the flyer's center of gravity 55 significantly affects the flight and rotational performance of the flyer

[0057] The second function of the root 15 is to receive and secure the spine 34. For this reason, the root 15 is provided with an insertion aperture 18 as depicted in FIGS. 20 and 22. The insertion aperture 18 is a small hole in the root 15 having a shape and an ambient cross-section approximately the same (but slightly smaller than) the proximate end 37 of the spine 34 (see FIG. 16). The insertion aperture 18 extends into the body of the root 15 and is oriented from the root's outer surface towards its center (i.e. radially in the case of a spherical root 15). To secure the spine 34 to the root 15, the proximate end 37 of the spine 34 is slidably inserted into the insertion aperture 18. Because of the elastomeric properties of the root material and because the shape and ambient cross-section of the insertion aperture 18 are slightly smaller than the proximate end 37 of the spine 34, the spine 34 is fixed and secured during normal operation of the flyer 10. In general, the characteristics of the insertion aperture 18 (i.e. the shape, ambient cross-section and depth) are designed, such that the spine 34 is secured by the elastomeric forces of the root 15 during normal operation of the flyer 10, but may be easily removed from the root 15 by a user should he or she want to interchange one or more of the components. In this sense, the required characteristics of the insertion aperture 18 depend on the size, weight and shape of the flyer components (wing 25, spine 34 and root 15) and the elastomeric properties of the root material.

[0058] The spine component 34 of the invention is depicted in FIGS. 2 through 6 and FIGS. 16 through 19. The spine 34 is an elongated and substantially straight member, having a proximate end 37 and a distal end 36. The spine 34 forms the substantially straight leading edge 56 of the flyer 10. Although the exact shape and material of the spine 34 are not critical to the invention, a preferred embodiment of the flyer 10 involves a cylindrically shaped spine 34 made of a durable, lightweight plastic, such as PVC. The spine 34 depicted in drawings is substantially hollow, but again, this is not a necessary feature of the flyer 10. The invention should be understood to incorporate both solid and hollow spines of various shapes and materials, provided that they conform to the characteristics of the invention described herein.

[0059] With regard to the fixation of the three components (wing 25, spine 34 and root 15), the proximate end 37 of the spine 34 is received and secured in the insertion aperture 18 of the root 15 as discussed above. The spine 34 is specifically adapted with a slit 35 (see FIG. 16) operative to receive and secure the wing component 25. The slit 35 runs parallel to the elongated axis of the spine 34 from its distal end 36 to a slit termination point 38 some distance along its elongated axis. The wing 25 is secured to the spine 34 by slidably inserting its flat edge 28 (starting with its tip 43) along the slit 35 from the distal end 36 towards the slit termination point 38 (i.e. along the direction of arrow 57). The size of the slit 35 is slightly smaller than the width of the wing 25, such that the wing 25 is secured by the tensile strength of the spine 34 during normal operation of the flyer 10. However, the wing 25 may easily removed from the spine 34 by a user should he or she want to interchange one or more of the flyer's components.

[0060] In addition to securing the wing 25 to the spine 34, the slit 35 provides a means for a user to adjust the flight and rotational characteristics of the flyer 10 without interchanging the flyer's components. In the preferred embodiments, the slit termination point 38 is located at approximately 54-77% of the distance along the elongated length of the spine 34 (as measured from its distal end 36). Accordingly, the tip 43 of the wing 25 may be slidably inserted from the spine's distal end 36 along the direction of arrow 57 up to the slit termination point 38 as described above. However, the wing 25 need not be inserted all the way to the slit termination point 38. Alternatively, the wing 25 may be backed-off in the slit 35 along the direction of arrow 58. The adjustment of the relative position of the wing 25 in the slit 35 along the directions of arrows 57 and 58 changes the dynamics, and hence, the flight and rotational characteristics of the flying device 10. In this manner, a user can adjust the flight and rotational characteristics of a single flyer 10 without having to interchange its components (wing 25, spine 34 and root 15). Obviously, the operational range of adjustment of the relative position of the wing 25 is limited by the tensile strength of the spine 34 and its ability to secure the wing 25 in a fixed location.

[0061] The spine 34 has several other features that assist in the operation of the flyer 10. The substantially straight spine 34 forms the leading edge 56 of the flyer 10, stabilizing the substantially linear edge 28 of the wing 25, resulting in a more uniform flight characteristic. In addition, the thickness of the spine 34 relative to the thin wing 25, provides a graspable member that may be used for hand launching the flyer 10.

[0062] A first embodiment of the wing component 25 of the flyer 10 is depicted in FIGS. 2 through 6 and FIGS. 13 through 15. The wing 25 is planar and quasi-tear drop shaped, with a substantially linear leading edge 28 designed to fit into slit 35 of the substantially straight spine 34. The tail edge 31 of the wing 25 has a convex curvature. The trailing edge 40 of the wing 25 has a unique shape, which is convex over a distal portion 39 of the trailing edge 40 and is concave over a proximate portion 42 of the trailing edge 40 with a single inflection point. The substantially straight leading edge 28 and the curved trailing edge 40 meet at a tip 43. When the wing 25 is inserted into the spine 34 as described above, tip 43 is inserted into the slit 35 and is not exposed where its sharp profile may cause injury to the user or other onlookers.

[0063] A second embodiment of the wing 25 is depicted in FIGS. 7 through 12. The second embodiment of the wing 25 includes a plurality of tensioning flanges 32 located just interior to the substantially straight leading edge 28 of the wing 25. The tensioning flanges 32 alter the planar profile of the wing 25 and provide an additional means of stabilizing and securing the wing 25 to the spine 34. As can be seen from FIG. 12, when the wing 25 is inserted into a substantially hollow spine 34, the tensioning flanges 32 meet the interior circumferential surface of the spine 34 at location 1 and the wing's substantially straight leading edge 28 meets the interior circumferential surface of the spine 34 at location 3. This arrangement results in pressure on the interior circumferential surface of the spine 34, which helps to stabilize and secure the wing 25 to the spine 34.

[0064] It should be noted here that the exact number and shape of tensioning flanges 32 is not unique to the design depicted in FIGS. 7 through 12. Many other similarly functioning designs can be envisaged, such as: (i) a pair of elongated and straight tensioning flanges that run along (but just interior to) the length of the leading edge 28 of the wing 25; (ii) a plurality of tensioning flanges that are only raised in one dimension (i.e. above or below the plane of the wing 25); or (iii) a gradual thickening of the wing's planar profile in the region close to its leading edge 28.

[0065] In general, the invention should be understood to incorporate any deviation, addition, indentation, protrusion or bend in the planar profile of the wing 25 at or near its substantially straight leading edge 28, which is designed to help stabilize the wing 25 or secure the wing 25 in position relative to the spine 34.

[0066] Operation of the flying toy 10 is depicted in FIGS. 2, 23 and 24. The toy 10 is assembled as shown in FIG. 2, with the wing 25 inserted and secured to the spine 34 and the spine 34 inserted and secured to the root 15. An optimal hand launch is depicted in FIG. 23. The user 42 grips the flyer 10 near the graspable distal end 36 of the spine 34, swinging their arm from a backward orientation 44 through to a nearly vertical position 48, whereupon the flyer 10 is let go. FIG. 24 depicts how the flyer 10 travels straight (i.e. substantially rotation free) with the root 15 leading the wing 25 when the flyer 10 is traveling upward 50. However, when it reaches its vertical apex 52, the flyer 10 begins autorotation 54. It should be noted here, that the invention does not require the flyer 10 to be hand launched from the ground. The flyer 10 may be released from baloons, kites, buildings, mountains and other high structures. In addition, the flyer 10 may be launched using an elastic or other mechanical device.

[0067] During descent, the dynamics of the flyer 10 cause autorotation 54 about its center of mass. The root 15 of the flyer 10 will lead the descent, because of its relatively large mass and the lack of lift in the root region of the flyer 10. The substantially straight spine 34 and leading edge 28 of the wing 25 will tend to tilt down below the trailing edge 40 of the wing 25, because of their greater weight. The wing 25 then experiences aerodynamic forces including lift and thrust, which cause the wing 25 and thus the flyer itself 10 to rotate about the center of mass. Depending on wind conditions and appropriate combinations of components, the flyer 10 may drift or hover during its autorotative descent.

[0068] The flyer 10 can be used for catch games between several individuals, because of its propensity to move with the wind in a quick and erratic fashion. In addition, users can play height games, where they compete to throw the flyer 10 the highest, or dispersal games, where they determine who can make the flyer 10 drift the most.

EXAMPLES

[0069] As mentioned above, the flyer 10 is comprised of modular components (root 15, wing 25 and spine 34), which may be interchanged for other components having different size, weight or shape. In this manner, the user is able to alter the flight and rotational characteristics of the flyer 10. The following discussion provides general ranges of size, weight and shape of the various components that have produced desirable results. It should be understood that each of the modular components (root 15, wing 25 and spine 34) can be of varying sizes, shapes and weights to combine with and complement the other components of the flyer 10 for aerodynamic experimentation and variability. Therefore, the examples provided in this discussion are not intended to limit the scope of the invention, but rather to provide practical and useful examples.

[0070] Ideally, the root 15 is made of sponge rubber and weighs between 2-10 grams, comprising approximately 25-75% of the weight of the flyer, with a diameter between 10-30 millimeters. Preferably, the spine 34 is made of a lightweight plastic (i.e. PVC) and is between 188-241 millimeters in length, weighing 2-3 grams (i.e. approximately 10-43% of the flyer's total weight). The spine 34 is hollow and cylindrical in shape, with an inside diameter of approximately 3 millimeters and an outside diameter of approximately 5 millimeters. The slit 35 in the spine 34 ranges from approximately 0.07-0.18 millimeters and extends approximately 50-75% of the distance up the elongated axis of the spine 34. The wing is made of semi-rigid planar plastic, such as polyester, nylon, PVC, vinyl, lexan or acetate and has a thickness of approximately 0.19 millimeters and a weight around 2 grams (i.e. approximately 10-35% of the total device weight).

[0071] It should be understood that the above description is intended for illustrative purposes only, and is not intended to limit the scope of the present invention in any way. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that various modifications can be made to the embodiments discussed above without departing from the spirit of the present invention.