Title:
Air cannon apparatus and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An air cannon for projecting a coherent mass of air in a targeted direction. The air cannon has a membrane inside a frustoconical shell that is placed under tension and released suddenly to force air out the small diameter end of the cannon past a lip. The cannon can have a port for injecting a scent, smoke or fog into the cannon for delivery as a coherent mass with the air. The mass of air remains coherent a relatively long distance so that the air, scent, smoke or fog is experienced by a person located at the target location.



Inventors:
Schwartz, Justin M. (Orlando, FL, US)
Kiddoo, Michael R. (Orlando, FL, US)
Trowbridge, Scott R. (Windermere, FL, US)
Kelley, Tim (Mt. Vernon, IA, US)
Application Number:
11/248980
Publication Date:
12/21/2006
Filing Date:
10/11/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F41B11/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KNOX, STEWART
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
General Electric Company (Norwalk, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An air cannon for propelling a mass of air in a predetermined direction, comprising: a frustoconical shell having a large diameter end and a small diameter end; a flexible membrane mounted over and closing the large diameter end of the shell; a lip inside the small diameter end forming an effect port; at least one resilient member inside the shell connected between the membrane and the small diameter end ; and tension means for placing the flexible membrane and at least one resilient member under tension whereby releasing the tension means causes the membrane to quickly return to a relaxed state and forces the mass of air through the effect port in the predetermined direction.

2. The air cannon of claim 1, wherein there are two resilient members connected between a center region of the membrane and the small diameter end.

3. The air cannon of claim 1, wherein the tension means comprises a handle affixed to a center region of the membrane on a side of the membrane facing the exterior of the shell.

4. The air cannon of claim 1, further comprising an opening through the side of the shell forming a scent port, and scent means for delivering a scent, smoke or fog through the scent port into the shell.

5. The air cannon of claim 4, wherein said scent means comprises a tube delivering a scent, smoke or fog inserted into the scent port.

6. The air cannon of claim 4, wherein said scent means comprises a cup holding a source of scent, smoke or fog, the cup being attached to the scent port.

7. The air cannon of claim 1, further comprising a targeting indicator on the shell.

8. The air cannon of claim 1, further comprising a hand grip or stand support for the shell.

9. The air cannon of claim 1, wherein the flexible membrane is resilient or stretchable.

10. The air cannon of claim 1, wherein the flexible membrane is made of polyethylene.

11. A method for propelling a mass of air at a target in a predetermined direction using an air cannon comprising a shell having a large diameter end and a small diameter end, a flexible membrane mounted over and closing the large diameter end of the shell, a lip inside the small diameter end forming an effect port, at least one resilient member inside the shell connected between the membrane and the small diameter end, the method comprising the steps of: placing the flexible membrane under tension in a direction away from the interior of the shell; aiming the air cannon small diameter end at a target area; releasing the flexible membrane from tension so that the at least one resilient member rapidly returns the flexible membrane to a relaxed state, whereby the mass of air is forced out of the shell through the effect port at the target area.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising injecting a scent, smoke or fog into the shell before releasing the flexible membrane from tension.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein injecting a scent, smoke or fog comprises inserting a supply tube through a scent port opening in a sidewall of the shell and dispensing the scent, smoke or fog through the supply tube.

14. The method of claim 12, wherein injecting a scent, smoke or fog comprises attaching a cup containing a source of scent, smoke or fog to a scent port opening through a sidewall of the shell.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority of provisional U.S. Patent Application No. 60/691,672, filed Jun. 17, 2005, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The field of the invention relates to amusement and entertainment devices.

During interactive shows or events in entertainment venues a plurality of sensory effects are often used to enhance the experience of those attending the show or event. Sensory effects include smoke or fog, scents, or rushing air such as blown by a fan. Creating these effects generally requires highly technical equipment that involves using electricity, many moving parts, motors and microprocessors. See, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,786,474 and U.S. Patent Application Publication 2005/0046049, which describe systems and methods for delivering a controlled amount of a scent to a target in the shape of an air ring.

Current methods and apparatus for launching fog or smoke, scents, or rushing air generally lack any highly directional properties, especially over distance, thus making them ineffective at targeting a specific area or person at which the effect is launched. Creating a device that is cost effective, easy to manufacture, highly directional, and easy to operate is necessary in this field to deliver the most exciting experience.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A cannon for propelling a slug or coherent mass of air in a specific direction. The cannon has a frustoconical shaped shell with a flexible membrane mounted closing the larger diameter end of the shell. The membrane has a resilient member connected to the shell for placing the membrane under tension when the membrane is stretched away from the shell. The smaller diameter end of the shell is an effect port end having a lip for creating a vortex in air forced out of the shell by movement of the membrane. The resilient member and membrane cooperate to quickly force air out of the shell when the membrane is released after being stretched away from the shell. Air forced out of the shell past the lip is propelled as a slug or coherent mass of air toward an intended target.

In one embodiment, the mass of air ejected from the cannon can include a scent, smoke or fog. The shell includes an opening between the membrane and effect port end for receiving the scent, smoke or fog into the shell.

In a another embodiment, the shell includes a targeting device mounted on the shell to aid aiming the effect port end of the cannon in a specific direction.

Other and further objects and advantages will become apparent from the following description. The drawings are intended to show examples of the many forms of the invention. The drawings are not intended as showing the limits of all of the ways the invention can be made and used. Changes to and substitutions of the various components of the invention can of course be made. The invention resides as well in sub-combinations and sub-systems of the elements described, and in methods of using them.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of an air cannon according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a front elevation view of the air cannon of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a sectional perspective top, back, right side view of the air cannon of FIG. 1 with the membrane under tension;

FIG. 4 is a sectional perspective top, back, right side view of the air cannon of FIG. 1 with the membrane relaxed; and

FIG. 5 is a top, back right side view of the air cannon of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings in which like reference numerals are used to indicate the same or related elements, FIG. 1 illustrates an air cannon 10 formed by a frustoconical shaped shell 20 with large diameter end 22 and small diameter end 24. The shell 20 includes a membrane 30 mounted to close the large diameter end 22 of the shell 20. In one embodiment, shell 20 has a supporting frame structure including spars 28 and end supports 22a, 24a. Spars 28 are rigid supports to prevent the shell from collapsing inward and provide longitudinal strength between the ends 22, 24 of the shell 20. Spars 28 may be made of aluminum, polycarbonate or another rigid material suitable to resist the forces exerted on the shell 20 as described further herein. The spars 28 are preferably lightweight as well, so that the cannon 10 is not heavy and easily portable. The end supports 22a, 24a can be any material suitable for reinforcing the ends of the shell 20 and supporting the other components of the cannon 10 as described below.

The membrane 30 is mounted to close the large diameter end 22 of the shell 20. The membrane 30 is a non-porous, flexible material, and in one embodiment is resilient or stretchable. The membrane 30 can be made from any non-porous material that is durable and highly bendable such as polyethylene. The membrane 30 is shaped so that in a relaxed state, it is concave, extending into the shell 20, or flat at the end 22 of the shell 20. The membrane 30 can be deformed to a tensioned state.

As best seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, resilient members 40 are connected between the membrane 30 and the shell 20. In one embodiment, two resilient members 40 are connected between the membrane 30 and shell 20 to provide a balanced force on the membrane 30, but more resilient members 40 or only one may be used. The resilient members 40 are any material having elastic properties, such as bungee cords, elastic bands or rubber bands. The resilient members 40 are preferably connected so that they are just under tension when the membrane 30 is relaxed. Resilient members 40 are preferably connected near the center of the membrane 30 and adjacent the small diameter end 24 inside the shell 20.

A handle 35 is attached to the membrane on the side facing the exterior of the shell 20. As illustrated, the handle 35 is preferably located in a center region of the membrane 30. The handle 35 is used to pull the membrane back from the shell 20 against the resilient members 40 to place the membrane 30 under tension. When the handle 35 is released, the membrane 30 is rapidly brought back to the relaxed position by any stretchable properties of the membrane 30 and the resilient members 40. The rapid motion of the membrane 30 compresses the air inside the shell 20 and forces it toward the small diameter opening 24.

The small diameter opening 24 has a lip 25 which creates an effect port 24b forming a vortex in the air 100 as it leaves the shell 20. The air 100 is ejected from the cannon 10 as a propagating toroidial vortex or slug 100. The air 100 maintains a coherent shape over a long distance from effect port 24b. The air cannon 10 can be aimed by pointing the small diameter opening 24 toward a specific area. In one embodiment, a targeting indicator 48 is provided to assist aiming the cannon 10. The targeting indicator 48 can be a cross-hair or an electronic pointing device, among other targeting devices.

Referring again to FIG. 1, a scent, smoke or fog can be injected into the shell 20 through substance port 26. A cup holding a scent, smoke or fog generating substance can be fastened to the substance port 26, or a supply tube connected to an appropriate source can be inserted through the substance port 26 for more forcibly injecting the scent, smoke or fog into the shell 20. When the membrane 30 is placed under tension of the resilient members 40 and released, the scent, smoke or fog is ejected from the cannon 10 with the slug of air 100.

When the air cannon is large, the shell 20 can be mounted onto a stand support 50 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, so as to support the air cannon 10 above the ground or floor 60 for use. The stand support 50 permits tilting of the cannon 10 in yaw and pitch directions, and it can be swiveled in the floor 60 mount. A smaller version of the air cannon 10 may include a hand grip (not shown).

The cannon 10 may be any size, but in a nonlimiting example, the large diameter end 22 may have a diameter of between about 1-2 feet and the small diameter end may have a diameter of between about 5 inches to 1 foot, while the longitudinal axis length between the ends 22, 24 is between about 1 foot and 3 feet. Depending on the size of the cannon 10, it can propel the slug of air 100 significant distances, such as 20 or 30 yards and the slug remains intact so that a person at whom the cannon 10 is directed will feel the slug of air 100 hit them, or have the scent, smoke or fog delivered to their location substantially intact. In a further embodiment, the air cannon 10 may be hand-held.

In a further embodiment of the invention, a locking device with a trigger (not shown) may be used to pull the membrane 30 back to a tensioned position and hold it securely until the cannon 10 is ready for firing by releasing the locking device. For example, a rack and pawl connected to the membrane 30 at the position of the handle 35 could be used to incrementally tension the membrane until the rack is suddenly released and the membrane 30 is permitted to rush forward toward the effect port 24b under the force of the resilient members 40.

Thus, a novel air cannon apparatus and method has been shown and described. Various changes and substitutions can of course be made to the description above, all within the spirit and scope of the invention.