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, picture below.
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.”
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.