Title:
Cowling for a Guideway Vehicle
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
According to one embodiment, a guideway vehicle has a first end, a second end, a support surface, and a cowling coupled to its first end or second end. The support surface is configured to support an intermodal container for transport along a guideway system. The cowling has an outer surface that slopes upwardly from the first end to a cowling edge such that the intermodal container may be placed proximate the cowling edge during transport of guideway vehicle on the guideway system.



Inventors:
Roop, Stephen S. (College Station, TX, US)
Application Number:
12/248763
Publication Date:
04/16/2009
Filing Date:
10/09/2008
Assignee:
The Texas A&M University System (College Station, TX, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61D17/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KUHFUSS, ZACHARY L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BAKER BOTTS L.L.P. (Dallas, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An aerodynamic transport system comprising: a guideway vehicle that is operable to transport an intermodal container over a guideway system comprising a guideway coupled to a running surface, the guideway vehicle having a first end, a second end, and an upper support surface for support of the intermodal container; two cowlings coupled to each of the first end and the second end of the guideway vehicle, each of the two cowlings having an outer surface that slopes upwardly from the upper support surface to a cowling edge, the each cowling having a length and a width that are adjustable such that the cowling edge is operable to be disposed essentially adjacent the intermodal container; and a computer controller coupled to the two cowlings, the computer controller operable to measure a wind direction, wind speed, or turbulence around the two cowlings, and adjust a height and a length of the cowling according to the measured wind direction, wind speed, or turbulence.

2. An aerodynamic transport system comprising: a guideway vehicle that operable to transport an intermodal container over a guideway system, the guideway vehicle having a first end and an upper support surface for support of the intermodal container; and a cowling coupled to the first end of the guideway vehicle, the cowling having an outer surface that slopes upwardly from the upper support surface to a cowling edge, the cowling edge configured to be placed proximate the intermodal container.

3. The aerodynamic transport system of claim 2, further comprising a second cowling that is coupled to a second end of the guideway vehicle.

4. The aerodynamic transport system of claim 2, wherein the cowling has a length that extends from the first end towards the second end, the length being adjustable such that the cowling edge may be disposed essentially adjacent the intermodal container.

5. The aerodynamic transport system of claim 4, wherein the length of the cowling is manually adjusted.

6. The aerodynamic transport system of claim 4, further comprising a computer controller coupled to the cowling, the computer controller operable to measure a wind direction, wind speed, or turbulence around the cowling, and adjust the cowling length according to the measured wind direction, wind speed, or turbulence.

7. The aerodynamic transport system of claim 2, wherein the cowling has a height that extends upwardly from the support surface, the height being adjustable such that the cowling edge may be disposed essentially adjacent the intermodal container.

8. The aerodynamic transport system of claim 7, wherein the height of the cowling is manually adjusted.

9. The aerodynamic transport system of claim 7, further comprising a computer controller coupled to the cowling, the computer controller operable to measure a wind direction, wind speed, or turbulence around the cowling, and adjust the height according to the measured wind direction, wind speed, or turbulence.

10. The aerodynamic transport system of claim 2, wherein the guideway system comprises a central guideway that is operable to direct the path traveled by the guideway vehicle.

11. A transport method comprising: providing a guideway vehicle having a first end, a second end, and a support surface, the guideway vehicle comprising a cowling coupled to its first end and having an outer surface that slopes upwardly from the first end to a cowling edge; and placing the intermodal container on the surface such that the cowling edge lies proximate the intermodal container.

12. The aerodynamic transport method of claim 11, wherein providing a guideway vehicle comprises providing a guideway vehicle comprising a second cowling having a second cowling edge coupled to its second end, and wherein placing the intermodal container on the surface comprises placing the intermodal container of the surface such that the second cowling edge lies proximate the intermodal container.

13. The aerodynamic transport method of claim 11, further comprising adjusting the length of the cowling to dispose the cowling edge essentially adjacent to the intermodal container.

14. The aerodynamic transport system of claim 13, wherein adjusting the length of the cowling comprises manually adjusting the length of the cowling.

15. The aerodynamic transport method of claim 13, wherein adjusting the length of the cowling comprises measuring a wind direction or a wind speed around the cowling, and automatically adjusting, using a computer controller, the length of the cowling according to the measured wind direction or the wind speed.

16. The aerodynamic transport method of claim 11, further comprising adjusting a height of the cowling such that the cowling edge is essentially adjacent the intermodal container.

17. The aerodynamic transport method of claim 16, wherein adjusting the height of the cowling comprises manually adjusting the height of the cowling.

18. The aerodynamic transport method of claim 16, wherein adjusting the height of the cowling comprises measuring a wind direction or a wind speed around the cowling, and automatically adjusting, using a computer controller, the height of the cowling according to the measured wind direction or the wind speed.

19. The aerodynamic transport method of claim 11, wherein transporting the intermodal container along the guideway system comprises transporting the intermodal container along a guideway system comprising a central guideway.

20. The aerodynamic transport method of claim 11, further comprising transporting the intermodal container along the guideway system.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/978,968, entitled “COWLING FOR AN AUTOMATED TRANSPORT VEHICLE,” which was filed on Oct. 10, 2007.

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

This disclosure generally relates to guideway vehicles, and more particularly, to a cowling for a guideway vehicle and a method of using the same.

BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE

Shipment of product by railway line has been widely accepted as an efficient means of transporting product over relatively long distances. Railway lines typically include a pair of elongated tracks for support and direction of a train having multiple railway cars. Motive force for the train is usually provided by a particular type of railway car that is commonly referred to as an “engine.” The engine and other non-powered railway cars may be aligned in an end-to-end relationship with one another such that each railway car may be remain relatively close to another railway car in front of it.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

According to one embodiment, a guideway vehicle has a first end, a second end, a support surface, and a cowling coupled to its first end or second end. The support surface is configured to support an intermodal container for transport along a guideway system. The cowling has an outer surface that slopes upwardly from the first end to a cowling edge such that the intermodal container may be placed proximate the cowling edge during transport of guideway vehicle on the guideway system.

Some embodiments of the disclosure may provide numerous technical advantages. Some embodiments may benefit from some, none, or all of these advantages. According to one embodiment for example, the cowling may be operable to reduce drag caused by air turbulence during movement through the air. The guideway vehicle of the present disclosure may therefore provide enhanced efficiency and stability for movement along the guideway system.

Other technical advantages may be readily ascertained by one of ordinary skill in the art.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A more complete understanding of embodiments of the disclosure will be apparent from the detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of one embodiment of an aerodynamic guideway vehicle according to the teachings of the present disclosure on which one example of an intermodal container is placed;

FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the aerodynamic guideway vehicle of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a side elevational view of the aerodynamic guideway vehicle of FIG. 1 on which another example intermodal container is placed;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged, partial, side-elevational view of the aerodynamic guideway vehicle of FIG. 1 showing several components of its cowling; and

FIG. 5 shows one embodiment of a series of actions that may be performed to transport intermodal container of FIG. 1 or 3 using the aerodynamic guideway vehicle according to the teachings of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

The aerodynamic aspects of a typical train having numerous railway cars may not be important due to the relatively close proximity of one railway car to another. That is, air movement around one railway car may serve to shield another railway car following behind from unwanted turbulence that may hamper its efficient movement through the air.

Another form of transportation commonly referred to as a guideway system differs from the railway system in that guideway vehicles associated with these guideway systems are usually self-powered and thus typically travel over the guideway system one at a time. These guideway vehicles generally include a cargo bay for storage of product as well as a motor for movement along the guideway system. The guideway system generally includes a central guideway made of a structurally rigid material, such as metal or concrete, that directs the path of the guideway vehicle. Because these guideway vehicles typically travel alone, turbulence caused by movement through the air may cause a significant loss of efficiency.

FIG. 1 shows one embodiment of an aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 that may provide a solution to this problem as well as other problems. Aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 has a first end 12, a second end 14, wheels 16 for movement along a guideway system 18, and an upper support surface 20 for support of an intermodal container 22. According to the teachings of the present disclosure, aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 also includes cowlings 24a and 24b coupled to its first end 12 and/or second end 14 that may be operable to reduce drag caused by air turbulence during movement. In this particular embodiment, cowlings 24a and 24b are included on the first end 12 and second end 14; however, it should be appreciated that only one cowling 24a or 24b may be provided on either the first end 12 or second end 14 for reduction of turbulence during movement along guideway system 18.

Cowlings 24a and 24b may be formed of any suitable material. In one embodiment, cowlings 24a and 24b are each formed of one or more sheets of material, such as metal or fiberglass, that are bent or molded into their desired shape. Each cowling 24a or 24b has a cowling edge 26. The intermodal container 22 may be placed on the upper support surface 20 such that the cowling edge 26 of each cowling 24a or 24b is generally proximate to intermodal container 22. In this manner, the cross-sectional shape of cowling edge 26 generally conforms to the cross-sectional shape of intermodal container 22 such that a generally laminar airflow may be maintained across the intermodal container 22 during movement.

Intermodal container 22 may include any suitable type of container for housing product during shipment. In one embodiment, intermodal container 22 has a structure that provides for transport over a roadway using trucks and transport over a guideway system 18. That is, intermodal container 22 may be transported by truck or aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 without placement in another housing structure. The intermodal container 22 as shown is generally box-shaped and adapted for placement on upper support surface 20 of the aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10.

FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 that is configured on guideway system 18. Guideway system 18 generally includes a vertical element referred to as a guideway 28 that is centrally disposed on a running surface 30. Aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 has a guideway engagement structure 32, which may include a linear induction motor for providing a motive force for aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10. In other embodiments, aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 may include any type of motor for movement along guideway system 18. Guideway engagement structure 32 engages guideway 28 such that aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 follows a path dictated by the path of guideway 28. Running surface 30 may be provided for support of the wheels 16 of aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10.

FIG. 3 shows another example of aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 whose cowlings 24a and 24b may be adjusted for transport of an intermodal container 36 having differing dimensions than intermodal container 22 of FIG. 1. Intermodal container 36 differs in size from intermodal container 22 of FIG. 1 due to wheels 38 and additional support structures 40 configured on intermodal container 36 that are typically used for transport by semi-trailer trucks over a conventional roadway. Intermodal containers 36 of this type may have a length of up to approximately fifty-four feet long. Adjustment of cowlings 24a and 24b will be described in detail below.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged, partial, side-elevational view showing several components of a cowling 24a according to the teachings of the present disclosure. Although only one cowling 24a is shown and described, it should be understood that the other cowling 24b may include similar elements and features.

Cowling 24a has a length L that is adjustable such that cowling edge 26 cowling 24a may be adjusted to be relatively adjacent to either intermodal container 22 (FIG. 1) or intermodal container 36 (FIG. 3). In some embodiments, cowling 24a may be adjusted to generally conform to the cross-sectional profile of any suitable container transported by aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10. In this manner, the space between the intermodal container 22 and the cowling edges 26 may be made relatively small for reduction of turbulence during movement. Intermodal containers 22, such as shown in FIG. 1, may have a length of approximately forty feet long. Thus, the length L of at least one of the cowlings 24a and 24b may be adjusted to accommodate intermodal containers having a length that ranges from approximately forty to fifty-four feet in length.

In the particular embodiment shown, adjustment of length L may be provided by panels 24a′, 24a″, and 24a′″ that lie adjacent one another and slidable relative to one another for expansion or contraction of cowling 24a. Panels 24a′, 24a″, and 24a′″ may be expanded and contracted by actuation of a motor 42 coupled to a linkage assembly 44. In other embodiments, the length L of cowling 24a may be adjusted by any suitable approach, such as manually using an arm-crank that expands and/or contracts panels 24a′, 24a″, and 24a′″ relative to one another.

Cowling 24a also has a height H that may be adjusted to conform to the cross-sectional shape of the intermodal container 22 or 38. As shown, intermodal container 38 (FIG. 3) has a greater height than the height of intermodal container 22 (FIG. 1). In the particular embodiment shown, height H is adjusted by pivoting cowling 24a proximate first end 12 about a hinge assembly (not shown). In other embodiments, the height H of cowling 24a may be adjusted using any suitable approach.

Adjustment of the cowling height H or length L may be provided by an adjustment mechanism, such as a manual control mechanism or a computer control mechanism. Certain embodiments incorporating adjustable cowlings 24a and 24b may provide an advantage in that the cowlings 24a and 24b may be adapted to conform to various types of intermodal containers having various lengths and heights. In this manner, turbulence caused by a structural discontinuity normal to the direction of airflow may be effectively controlled and mitigated.

In one embodiment, actuation of motor 42 and linkage assembly 44 may be controlled by a controller circuit 46 housed in cowling 24a that automatically adjusts the length L and/or height H according to dimensions of intermodal container 22 or 36. In some embodiments, one or more sensors 48 may be included that measure ambient wind speed or wind direction. Controller circuit 46 may be configured to receive such measurements and adjust the length L and/or height H of cowling 24a for reduction in wind turbulence during transport of intermodal container 22 or 36 on aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10.

Modifications, additions, or omissions may be made to aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 without departing from the scope of the disclosure. The operations of cowlings 24a and 24b may serve other purposes besides providing an aerodynamic structure for movement of aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 along guideway system 18. For example, cowlings 24a and 24b may provide a housing for additional elements of aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10, such as its motor that provides motive force for movement along guideway system, or as a passenger compartment for protection of passengers during movement of aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10. Additionally, operations of controller circuit 46 may be performed using any suitable logic comprising software, hardware, and/or other logic. As used in this document, “each” refers to each member of a set.

FIG. 5 shows one embodiment of a series of actions that may be performed to transport intermodal container 22 or 36 using aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10. In act 100, the process is initiated.

In act 102, an intermodal container 22 or 36 is placed on aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10. Aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 is any suitable type of vehicle adapted for transport along a guideway system 18, such as a guideway system having a guideway 28 centrally disposed over a running surface 30.

In act 104, the length L of cowling 24a or 24b is adjusted to make its cowling edge 26 essentially adjacent to intermodal container 22 or 36. The length L of cowling 24a or 24b is manually adjusted or automatically adjusted. For automatic adjustment, a controller circuit 46 that is coupled to a motor 42 and associated linkage assembly 44 may be employed for contracting or expanding panels 24a′, 24a″, and 24a′″.

In act 106, the height H of cowling 24a or 24b is adjusted. Height H of cowling 24a or 24b may be manually or automatically adjusted in a manner similar to adjustment of its length L. In one embodiment, cowling 24a or 24b is pivotally coupled about the first end or second end of aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 for adjusting its height H.

In act 108, intermodal container 22 or 36 is transported along guideway system 18. In one embodiment in which a controller circuit 46 is provided for automatic adjustment of the length L or height H of cowlings 24a and 24B, controller circuit 46 may receive measurements from one or more sensors 48 indicating wind direction and wind speed, and adjust the length L or height H to reduce wind turbulence during movement of aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10.

Cowlings 24a and 24b may continually provide an aerodynamic movement of aerodynamic guideway vehicle 10 during transport of intermodal container 22 or 38. When transport of intermodal container 22 or 38 is complete, the process ends in act 110.

Although the present disclosure has been described with several embodiments, a myriad of changes, variations, alterations, transformations, and modifications may be suggested to one skilled in the art, and it is intended that the present disclosure encompass such changes, variations, alterations, transformation, and modifications as they fall within the scope of the appended claims.