Renard, Charles

SUBJECT AREA: Aerospace
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b. 23 November 1847 Damblain, Vosges, France
d. 13 April 1905 Chalais-Meudon, France
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French pioneer of military aeronautics who, with A.C.Krebs, built an airship powered by an electric motor.
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Charles Renard was a French army officer with an interest in aviation. In 1873 he constructed an unusual unmanned glider with ten wings and an automatic stabilizing device to control rolling. This operated by means of a pendulum device linked to moving control surfaces. The model was launched from a tower near Arras, but unfortunately it spiralled into the ground. The control surfaces could not cope with the basic instability of the design, but as an idea for automatic flight control it was ahead of its time.
Following a Commission report on the military use of balloons, carrier pigeons and an optical telegraph, an aeronautical establishment was set up in 1877 at Chalais-Meudon, near Paris, under the direction of Charles Renard, who was assisted by his brother Paul. The following year Renard and a colleague, Arthur Krebs, began to plan an airship. They received financial help from Léon Gambetta, a prominent politician who had escaped from Paris by balloon in 1870 during the siege by the Prussians. Renard and Krebs studied earlier airship designs: they used the outside shape of Paul Haenlein's gas-engined airship of 1872 and included Meusnier's internal air-filled ballonnets. The gas-engine had not been a success so they decided on an electric motor. Renard developed lightweight pile batteries while Krebs designed a motor, although this was later replaced by a more powerful Gramme motor of 6.5 kW (9 hp). La France was constructed at Chalais-Meudon and, after a two-month wait for calm conditions, the airship finally ascended on 9 August 1884. The motor was switched on and the flight began. Renard and Krebs found their airship handled well and after twenty-three minutes they landed back at their base. La, France made several successful flights, but its speed of only 24 km/h (15 mph) meant that flights could be made only in calm weather. Parts of La, France, including the electric motor, are preserved in the Musée de l'Air in Paris.
Renard remained in charge of the establishment at Chalais-Meudon until his death. Among other things, he developed the "Train Renard", a train of articulated road vehicles for military and civil use, of which a number were built between 1903 and 1911. Towards the end of his life Renard became interested in helicopters, and in 1904 he built a large twin-rotor model which, however, failed to take off.
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Bibliography
1886, Le Ballon dirigeable La France, Paris (a description of the airship).
Further Reading
Descriptions of Renard and Kreb's airship are given in most books on the history of lighter-than-air flight, e.g.
L.T.C.Rolt, 1966, The Aeronauts, London; pub. in paperback 1985.
C.Bailleux, c. 1988, Association pour l'Histoire de l'Electricité en France, (a detailed account of the conception and operations of La France).
1977, Centenaire de la recherche aéronautique à Chalais-Meudon, Paris (an official memoir on the work of Chalais-Meudon with a chapter on Renard).
JDS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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