Parseval, August von

SUBJECT AREA: Aerospace
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b. 1861
d. 22 February 1942 Berlin, Germany
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German designer of tethered observation balloons and non-rigid airships.
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Major von Parseval and his colleague Captain von Sigsfeld were serving in the German army during the 1890s when improved military observation from the air was being pursued. Tethered observation balloons, raised and lowered by a winch, had been used since 1794, but in strong winds a spherical balloon became very unstable. Manned kites were being developed by "Colonel" S.F. Cody, in Britain, and others, but kites were a problem if the wind dropped. A very successful compromise was achieved in 1897 by von Parseval and von Sigsfeld, who developed a kite-balloon, the Drachen ("Dragon"), which was elongated like an airship and fitted with large inflated fins. It was attached to its tethering cable in such a way that it flew with a positive incidence (nose up) to the wind, thus producing some lift—like a kite. The combination of these factors made the kite-balloon very stable. Other countries followed suit and a version designed by the Frenchman Albert Caquot was widely used during the First World War for observing the results of artillery fire. Caquot balloons were also used around London as a barrage to obstruct enemy aircraft, and "barrage balloons" were widely used during the Second World War. After working at a government balloon factory in Berlin where non-rigid airships were built, von Parseval designed his own non-rigid airship. The Parseval I which flew in 1906 was small, but larger and faster non-rigids followed. These were built by Luftfahrzeug-Gesellschaft m.b.H. of Berlin founded in 1908 to build and operate Parseval airships. The British Admiralty ordered three Parseval airships, two to be built by Vickers of Barrow (who had built the rigid airship R 1 Mayfly in 1911), and one to be built in Berlin. This one was flown from Berlin to Farnborough in 1913 and joined the Vickers-built Parseval in the Naval Air Service. During the First World War, Parseval airships had the unique distinction of serving on both sides. Three small Parseval airships were built between 1929 and 1932 for use in advertising.
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Further Reading
A.Hildebrandt, 1908, Airships Past and Present, London (describes the kite-balloon). Fred Gütschow, 1985, Das Luftschiff, Stuttgart (includes a record of all the airships). Basil Clarke, 1961, The History of Airships, London (provides limited coverage of von Parseval's work).
Basil Collier, 1974, The Airship: A History, London (provides limited coverage of von Parseval's work).

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

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