What Is A Wind Tunnel? As the name suggests, the wind tunnel is a tunnel with wind or air moving inside it. Wind tunnels are used for the scientific research purpose in aerodynamics to study the effect of moving air upon the suspended solid objects. Normally the wind tunnels are horizontal in shape.
The interesting aspect about wind tunnels is that the suspended object is held stationary while a gush of air moves around it. This is to measure the impact of the wind on that object, in case that object was to fly in the air. For example, wind tunnels are often used to measure the impact of flowing air upon the airplanes. NASA has some of the finest wind tunnels to do their various aerodynamics testing.

Also, since skyscrapers have become a norm in cities not just in the USA but around the world, wind tunnels play a very crucial role in testing whether the building can withstand fast blowing winds or not.

Another utility of wind tunnels is that they are used to find out ways to reduce the power consumption of the vehicles on roads at any given speed.

How Do Wind Tunnels Operate?

Powerful rotating fans are used to blow air through the tunnel. Depending upon the size of the tunnel, a single or multiple fans are used. Generally larger the diameter of the tunnel, more are the number of fans used to blow air.

The object to be tested is suspended freely inside the tunnel so that the air blown by the fans can move around it. This allows the experimentalist to see how that object will fare, if it is actually moved through the air at that speed (equivalent to the speed of the blowing air inside the tunnel).

To determine the motion of air around the object various qualitative methods are used like placing smoke or dye in the air to see how it moves around the object or attaching the tufts (like a bunch of threads)  to the object, to gauge air flow patterns.  

What Is A Vertical Wind Tunnel?

Vertical Wind Tunnel, as the name suggests, is a vertical shaped wind tunnel wherein the wind blows in a vertical direction, normally upwards. The biggest differentiator of vertical wind tunnels from the industrial wind tunnels is that they are meant for recreation.

All the Indoor Skydiving companies utilize vertical wind tunnels to simulate the outdoor skydiving experience. Vertical wind tunnels are also used as a training tool for the outdoor skydivers. The wind moves upward at a speed of 195 km/h (scientifically which is actually the highest possible speed attainable by an object as it falls through the air).

So when the body floats in the mid-air inside the tunnel, that is a simulation of the actual skydive and provides a realistic feeling of skydiving. That explains the popularity of indoor skydiving in the USA and around the world. It is fast becoming one of the most popular recreation activities, sports as well as hobbies.

Brief History Of Indoor Skydiving And Vertical Wind Tunnels

As shared in one of our articles earlier, the first person ever to do indoor skydiving was an American named Jack Tiffany in the year 1964. But that was for the testing purpose and not for the recreation at that time.

Flyaway Indoor Skydiving is known to be the first commercial vertical wind tunnel in the USA which started with two tunnels, one facility in Las Vegas and the second one in Pigeon Forge in 1982. This first tunnel in Las Vegas latter was renamed as Vegas Indoor Skydiving as a separate business.

The biggest brand for indoor skydiving in the USA and the world is iFLY which began its operations as SkyVenture in 1998 but was rebranded as iFLY in 2005. Currently, with tunnels at 37 locations, it has the largest tunnel base around the world.

How To Build A Vertical Wind Tunnel?

First of all, you need to be clear why do you want to build a vertical wind tunnel? For establishing an indoor skydiving business, for some outdoor public entertainment shows, for skydiver training or for the military training purpose.

Based upon your objective you can go for a particular design. For example:

  1. For indoor skydiving tunnel, you should go for a wall to wall tunnel design, because it allows seamless indoor skydiving experience without any risk of the person falling down while floating inside it.
  2. For outdoor public entertainment shows, you should go for open tunnel design, because it generates less noise (normally 79 dBA and 82 dBA at its full capacity), suitable for spectator areas.  Also, its velocity of nearly 137 mph allows performances at an admirable height of 20m.
  3. For the skydivers’ or military training purpose, you should go for recirculation tunnel design, because they provide the best simulation of free fall of skydiving. Additionally, they are very low on the noise. We just want to make it clear that although these tunnels are apt for the training purpose, they are also suitable for the indoor skydiving. So in that way, they are complementary to the wall to wall tunnels.
  4. For special industrial needs, one can also go for custom made tunnels.

Now coming to the question of building a vertical wind tunnel, either you can own them or you can rent them, based on your requirement. Also, the height of the ceiling of the building wherein you want to install the tunnel, should not be less than 18m.

Normally if you go for a full ownership and get your own tunnel built by some manufacturer like Aerodium, it takes anywhere from 6-8 months just for construction and 2-3 months for installation at your premises.

The cost of building a vertical tunnel can vary from 1-3 million dollars. And possibly another 3 million dollars investment is required for construction and infrastructure  There are franchise opportunities too wherein royalties normally run between 5-7% of revenue but you can save on upfront cost in the case of full ownership. For instance, iFLY charges a royalty of 7% for its full franchise.

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