Using USB Load Cells to measure lift and drag forces acting on WingSuits

Since the dawn of time, man has observed birds that can take off at will and fly through the sky with effortless ease and dreamed of doing the same.  

Although over the last hundred years, man has invented and built amazing flying machines, nothing until now has come close to doing so without being confined inside a metal cocoon that we call an aircraft.  Wingsuit flying is the closest one comes to the "dream of flight" where one can fly without any powered engines or cabins.  Experienced skydivers don colorful fabric suits with “wings” between their arms and legs and leap from aircraft or high cliffs and glide through the air.

When flown by an expert pilot this type of wingsuit can fly over 3 feet forward for every one foot of downward travel, this is called a “3 to 1 glide ratio”. This is a thrilling and amazing sport but the professional aerodynamicists and undergraduate researchers in Team Eagle Wingsuit at Embry Riddle University, believe that wingsuit performance can be greatly improved and can achieve glide ratios of 6:1.

Team Eagle Wingsuit at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University is doing scientific research to improve wingsuit performance by applying aerodynamic principals to wingsuit design. They are using an iLoad Pro USB Load Cell to measure the lift and drag forces to characterize wingsuits while varying various parameters to optimize its design and performance.

The iLoad Pro is a digital load cell with integrated USB output that makes it easy to measure forces directly on a PC via the USB port.  The USB Port both provides the power to the sensor as well as acts as the means of communicating data back to the LoadVUE software where one can capture the data, display the results in any units and plot the data as a Force vs. Time X-Y plot.  The ease of use of this load cell makes it very convenient for students and researchers to quickly instrument test pieces and gather data for further analysis.

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The team leader for this project is Professor Timothy Sestak (shown in the picture above), a former Naval Aviator, an aeronautical engineer who worked for Boeing and IBM, an Embry-Riddle Professor, and a current Ph.D. candidate for the Embry-Riddle Ph.D. in Aviation program. Professor Sestak is also a skydiver and wingsuit pilot.