Up, Up, and Away! The U.S. Army's 1950s Hoverboard Prototype

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For any child of the '80s, this archival footage of the U.S. Army's "flying platform" technology from the mid-'50s immediately calls to mind the hoverboard from Back to the Future: Part II. A levitating surface that could be controlled like a surfboard? Awesome! That exact idea was behind the flying platform, developed by Hiller Helicopters for the U.S. Army, demonstrated in the clip below. The Hiller Aviation Museum explains that the project grew out of work by Charles H. Zimmerman, an aeronautical engineer, who "theorized a person's natural balancing reflexes would suffice in controlling a small flying machine ... similar to riding a bicycle or balancing a surfboard." 

The segment above in an excerpt from The Big Picture, a TV series produced by the Department of Defense in the '50s and '60s. Courtesy of the Internet Archive, this episode, "Fifty Years of Aviation History," begins in 1907 and ends with speculation about the future of military aviation. The Hiller Aviation Museum has remarkable photographs and diagrams from the 1956 patent application, below, and you can find more here.  

A newsreel from British Pathé includes more archival footage of the invention as well: 

For more films from the Internet Archive, visit http://www.archive.org/.

Via Devour and Laughing Squid.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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