The Flying Carpet is a platform of any shape, size, or material that is suspended by a four-point cable system. The platform can serve as a movable scaffolding and worker positioning system that enables workers to maneuver themselves, parts, and tools throughout a large work volume for tasks such as ship repair and aircraft paint removal with up to 20 times improved efficiency over hand-built scaffolding. The Flying Carpet is a cable-supported platform that uses single-axis jog-, velocity-, and force-control modes.

Full-scale Flying Carpet prototype top view. The platform is near a mock ship (right) and in this test, there was no dry dock wing wall to push against with the platform outriggers.

With a simple joystick and specialized control software, the Flying Carpet can be safely moved anywhere within the boundaries of the four points. The unique cable rigging design makes the platform exceptionally stable. Each of the four points has at least one winch. The winches are controlled either on the platform or remotely by a central PC, allowing safe movement in three-dimensional space.

A model Flying Carpet applied to external building surface access. The wooden supports simulate inflatable columns or other superstructure that support the Flying Carpet.

The four upper support points can be attached to towers mounted to a dry dock, on the ground, along a pier, to a gantry, or to the ceiling, walls, or other superstructures. Two front cable pairs provide platform lift while two rear cables mount lower to pull back on the platform, creating a rigid system. Cables can be multi-part lines for added safety and lift capacity. By suspending the platform from above, the system improves operating efficiency by “flying” over ground clutter or landscaping that typically hinders wheeled vehicles at the worksite.

Hoists that control each cable's length can be mounted on the support structure or the work platform. The total hoist rigging capacity of the prototype, which uses two-part wire ropes, totals 8,200 kg. In the prototyped configuration, the Flying Carpet carries its hoist motors, which provide a stabilizing counterweight. Motor location on the platform also eliminates the problem of mounting motors on the surrounding support structure, making the platform easier to reconfigure.

Flying Carpet motion types include Cartesian and joint modes. Cartesian control allows the worker to very simply move the platform front-to-back, side-to-side, and up-and-down, as well as yaw about the vertical axis, all while maintaining level. Joint mode allows single-hoist motion for setup or cable replacement for normal maintenance.

Platform levelness is ensured by both the platform kinematic control and through a redundant level sensor. Operator control is through the tethered joystick, either worn by the operator or mounted to the platform. With the platform, an onboard or remotely located operator can manipulate and hold attached materials such as heavy steel plates, or tools such as welders, grinders, robots, and other cargo only dependent upon the platform rated capacity. Tension sensors in line with each cable prevent hoist or platform overloading from occurring.

The full-scale prototype Flying Carpet demonstrated 10-m lift, 9-m forward-to-back motion, 5.5-m side-to-side motion, and yaw of more than ±25° before the cables went slack.

For more information, contact Jack Pevenstein, Technology Partnership Office, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 301-975-5519 .


Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2017 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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