Unexpectedly Intriguing!
August 14, 2020

Inventions in Everything celebrates innovations, no matter where or when they occur, but ideally, ones that memorialize their inventors' creativity through patents.

That's because it takes a special kind of dedication to take what may seem like a crazy idea to many all the way through the time consuming and costly process of patenting an invention. As many practical innovators have discovered, the costs of defending a patent can often outweigh the benefits it provides, unless the patent holder has very deep pockets.

That makes it a very special occasion whenever we discover a story where an organization with very deep pockets devotes considerable resources and over two years of its time to apply and receive a patent for a seemingly crazy invention. In this case, UK Patent 1330990 was issued in 1973 to the British Rail Board, the then British government-owned organization responsible for operating all the United Kingdom's overground railways, for one of its employee's invention of a flying saucer.

We're not making this up. Tom Scott tells the story of the patenting of what we'll call HM Flying Saucer in the following two-and-a-half-minute-long video:

The good news is that the 1973 patent has since expired, which means that anyone can now make their own flying saucer using the technology described in the original patent without the worry of infringement.

Before you laugh, consider the story of U.S. Patent 3,053,480, which was assigned to Piasecki Aircraft on 11 September 1962. The patent covered the invention of an omni-directional, vertical lift, helicopter drone by Piasecki Aircraft employee Edward G. Vanderlip, which turned out to be far ahead of its time. In fact, it wasn't until well after its patent expired on 11 September 1979 that the development of what we some 40 years later now recognize as modern quadcopter-style drone technology got underway in earnest by hobbyists.

We don't know what hobbyists are working away at making the patented HM Flying Saucer concept a reality, but we hope to see them buzzing the skies someday. If they're not already....

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