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Is it possible to fly by tornado? I'm doing experiments to discover if the core of a curved vortex can be used for propulsion and lift of an aircaft, and if it could be a good future alternative to: wings, rotors, and rockets.

Tornadoes have recently (april 2011) clearly proven that they can lift buildings... Stop it nature! A twister is a beautiful phenomena, as long as it doesn't destroy. If we can use that force for flight (the lower air pressure in the center of a vortex), that would be great! Image if it could reduce fuel consumption, or give aircaft VTOL capabilities (read: no need for large airfields, safer take-off and landings), that's my goal -next to having a good time doing experiments.

In 2011 we (Giesbert Nijhuis and friends -especially Alex Baumgart) build a new type of curved vortex machine. The first type made use of 4 tubes, but is hard to scale to a larger and more powerful size. We discovered by many experiments that sucking just one end of a leading edge vortex over a curved edge, produces a fine curved vortex. It can lift a DVD box, about 75 gram. We are already working on new machines. When ready, I'll post it on YouTube and here on my site. If it really works; please remember you saw it here for the first time!

curved vortex type 2-A

curved vortex type 2-B


It is not yet proven if the whole unit can lift itself, but if possible, then we could make something like the drawing below; a circular curved vortex array, a new type of propulsion system, in the center of a circular VTOL aircaft!
It seems to good to be true..
Will it work in a closed system? In space??
An UFO drive!

circular curved vortex array


These curved vortices form similar to how large tornadoes form, or the smaller dust devils. It's not primarily wind that makes a tornado. Most important is an area of less airpressure, where air wants to accelerate to. A large volume/region of warm air is usually the cause of the reduced air pressure, and the drive of the tornado/dust devil.
Remember Newton's first law about how mass will keep on going straight? "Every body remains in a state of constant velocity unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force". Air turning around the center of a vortex is actually constantly accelerating towards the center, where the lower air pressure is. For a powerful tornado to form, horizontal wind from two opposite directions is necessary, but a less powerful tornado can also rise with little or even no wind. Far around a dust devil is usually very little horizontal wind. When there's no wind, the surrounding air still accelerates towards the vortex tube, and this motion energy doesn't disappear, tit is added to the power of the twister.
The closer the air gets to the center of the vortex tube, the faster it spins, just like someone figure skating, bringing her bodyweight more to her centrum, thus increasing her rpm. But because of friction, the inner layers transfer part of their motion energy to the outer layers. That's how a tornado can build up so much energy; the lower pressure causes the air to accelerate towards the vortex tube, and most of that energy stays in the tornado, increasing its power for as long as the conditions are right.
In my curved vortex machines, I simply use a fan instead of warm rising air, but furthermore there is no real difference as for the vortex. I don't create a vortex, I create the right conditions, and then it creates itsef. Try it yourself, it's fun to do :-)


Vortex lift technology is used in aviation, but never by using the core of the vortex. The core of the vortex is the most interesting part though, because of the greatly reduced airpressure in there. Usually, a vortex is seen as a negative thing, a drag, like on wing's tip. This "drag" though, might be the key to more energy efficient lift/thrust.
Examples of how vortices are used in aviation today:
- A large leading edge vortex, on delta wings.
- A small leading edge vortex, on many jet fighters. Leading edge root extensions (LERX).
- Lost of tiny vortex generators on top/front of a wing, to keep the air better attached to the wing.
None of them using the core of a vortex.

Insects, small birds, and fish.. they probably use the core of a vortex all the time.

If you would like to support this research, get a Fly by Tornado T-shirt

Previous page: Curved Vortex Lift - 2010

Giesbert Nijhuis

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