Led by Rick Cavallaro, DDWFTTW has developed a wind-powered car called the Blackbird that is capable of traveling upwind at speeds faster than the wind! In 2010 Cavallaro’s team set a world record by traveling downwind at 2.8 times the speed of the wind – and they recently tweaked the vehicle to travel upwind as well. The downwind record was an amazing accomplishment, but the latest feat is even more astonishing.
Earlier this month Rick Cavallaro and the Blackbird team took their modified wind-powered car to the New Jerusalem airport in Tracy, California to attempt to set a new record. This time the team traveled 2.01 times faster than the wind speed when headed upwind.
“For some folks, the idea that it can advance directly into the wind at all has been counter-intuitive,” said Cavallaro. While it may seem like a wind-powered vehicle heading directly into the wind could end up traveling faster and faster in an endless feedback loop, that isn’t the case. “There’s at least an element of truth to this, but as with the downwind cart, frictional losses still win out at a certain speed,” Cavallaro said.
For the latest test, the team made only minimal changes to the Blackbird. The biggest changes were the replacement of the propeller with a turbine and the removal of the transmission. The turbine looks similar to the original propeller, but it spins in the opposite direction and sends its power to the wheels.
Now that the team has most likely set a new record with its latest upwind run, Cavallaro hopes that other teams will develop new system that will break both of his team’s records.