Friday, 8 August 2014

The Etrich Taube

8 August 1914

The Taube (“Dove”) is perhaps the most distinctive-looking aeroplane in the arsenals of Germany and Austria–Hungary today, and takes its shape from a surprising source: the seed of an exotic cucumber vine!

The seeds of the Javan cucumber (Zanonia macrocarpa) are unusual in that each one is surrounded by a transparent film shaped like a pair of wings. When the ripe seed pod bursts open, the seeds glide some distance away from their parent plant. A subtle twist in the structure of the wings produces exceptionally stable flight.

The seed of Zanonia macrocarpa, illustration from
Heinrich Gustav Adolf Engler’s
Das Pflanzenreich: Cucurbitaceae - Fevilleae & Melothrieae

German biologist Dr Friedrich Ahlborn studied these seeds and published an analysis of their aerodyamics in 1903. This study came to the attention of Austrian aviator Igo Etich, who used it as the inspiration to build a series of prototype aeroplanes using a similar wing design.

However, success did not come to Etrich until the design of the Taube in 1910 (with the assistance of partner Franz Wels) added a conventional fuselage and tail. The Taube also benefitted from the availability of a new, light-weight engine. Designed by Ferdinand Porsche at the Austro–Daimler company, it is intended specifically for aero use, unlike the automobile engines pressed into service previously to power Etrich’s designs.

In his native Austria, Etrich was able to patent his unique, seed-inspired wing design. He was then able to license the design to the Lohner-Werke, which produced the design in small numbers for the Austro–Hungarian army. In Germany, however, Dr Ahlborn’s prior work made it impossible to secure a patent, and, as a result, several German aeroplane manufacturers (most notably, Rumpler, Albatros, Gotha, and Jeannin) have produced unlicensed copies of the design. The German army has already purchased over 250 examples in recent years, finding them an excellent school machine. Many presently equip front-line units where they are used for scouting duties.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    may I ask you I can could send me a 1 Mbyte gpx-file of the Etrich Taube. I'm writing a book on plant application and could use this picture. Which should be te reference?

    Wit kind regards,$

    Marcel De Cleene, prof. dr., Ghent Univeristy