Tech Graduate Attempts To Break World Record

A Georgia Tech graduate is preparing to attempt a world record for an effort that has proved a source of debate and frustration for many: can a vehicle powered by the wind travel downwind at a speed faster than the wind?

Georgia Tech graduate Rick Cavallaro's wind-powered vehicle, the Blackbird
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Georgia Tech graduate Rick Cavallaro's wind-powered vehicle, the Blackbird

Rick Cavallaro, who earned a degree in aerospace engineering from Tech in 1984, is hoping to prove his theory on Friday using a vehicle he helped design and build. The attempted feat will take place in the dry El Mirage Lake bed in San Bernardino County, Calif.

His project has has been the source of frustration and debate for both engineers and physicists. But Cavallaro claims his vehicle has already traveled more than twice as fast than the wind during one test.

"It's so counterintuitive to so many people," Cavallaro said. "People on the Internet are saying it can't be done."

The vehicle – dubbed the Blackbird – is being sponsored by Google and Joby Energy and was helped constructed with assistance from San Jose State University.The North American Land Sailing Association will be on hand Friday to certify the results.

Cavallaro has been documenting the process and preparations at his website,, and hopes to quell the doubts of naysayers while opening up fascinating new possibilities regarding the potential of wind power.

"We don't claim it's perpetual motion," he said. "We're not saying we've solved all the transportation problems. But these are interesting new applications involving harvesting wind power."

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities and the eighth best engineering and information technology university in the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, Georgia Tech’s more than 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.