Inflatable Wind Turbine From The Segway Guy

The inventor who gave the world the Segway – you know, that upright-riding, personal-transportation thing – is now seeking a patent for an inflatable wind turbine. Although the patent application talks some about the power-producing possibilities of the turbine, in an interview with a New Hampshire newspaper, inventor Dean Kamen makes it clear he doesn’t see this as a game-changing energy generator. Instead, he views it more as a cool way to create a little power and perhaps an outdoor messaging system.

Although obscure, this isn’t a completely out-of-left-field idea. Turns out there’s a company, Magenn, that has developed what it calls the Air Rotor System. That’s it, pictured below.

inflatable wind turbine

image via Magenn

But as for Kamen’s contraption, as described in the patent application, the turbine would have several advantages over turbines that are planted in good old terra firma. For one thing, in low-wind situations the inflatable’s mobility would allow the operator to pack it up and move it to a better power-producing spot. Also, by being much lighter in weight than traditional turbines, “the inflatable sail wind turbine may be installed in various locations that a heavier and/or larger conventional wind turbine may not (be), for example … on the roof of buildings.”

image via Dean Kamen/USPTO

And then there’s the advertising angle. Using “light emitting diodes … powered by energy generated by the wind turbine,” the patent application suggests, could create “an image on the blades” that “may include, but are not limited to, pictures, text, symbols, numbers, the date and time, weather forecasts, traffic information, and advertising.”

Kamen’s inventions, by the way, do extend far beyond the Segway to a number of very cool health-related innovations and devices, including “an advanced prosthetic arm in development for DARPA that should advance the quality of life for returning injured soldiers,” according to the website of his company, Deka Research and Development.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.