Balloon flies by flipping itself inside out

German automation technology company Festo has created one of the weirdest flying objects ever seen: a helium-filled balloon that propels itself by turining itself inside out.

SmartInversion consists of a chain of six prisms filled with helium and connected by a carbon-fiber frame which pulsate to produce forwawrd motion. In essence, it scoops up the air in front of it and pushes it back in a similar way to a jellyfish’s motion through water.

It’s based on a design by artist and mathematician Paul Schatz which involves dividing a cube into two star shapes and an invertible cubic belt to create what he called an ‘invertible cube’.

The cubic belt is a six-member joint ring, which separates from the two interlocking parts at the corners and can be continuously inverted to take on different shapes.

A tiny onboard computer drives three motors to move the SmartInversion, which can be guided round a room with a smartphone.

The device is about 15 feet across, but weighs just five pounds, and needs 2,130 litres of helium for around 2,334 grams of lift. It’s powered by an 8.4V battery and can stay in the air for about five hours, says Festo.

Festo still hasn’t worked out what to do with its invention, but is asking delegates to the Hanover Trade Fair 2012 for ideas, particularly in industrial environments.

Any ideas? Check it out below.