Top Tech Rollercoasters

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Storm Runner at Hersheypark

Hersheypark says the most innovative of its 11 roller coasters is Storm Runner.

Built in 2004, Storm Runner features a hydraulic launching system that propels riders from zero to 72 miles per hour in less than two seconds. With drops of up to 185 feet, multiple barrel rolls and a so-called snake dive, Storm Runner was the first launch-style roller coaster with inversions. This 2,700-feet-long ride takes you out of the station and back in less than a minute.

"Storm Runner was the only launching roller coast with ride elements called inversions -- barrel rolls and overloops. Many of the other launching coasters go up a hill and down and done," says Kent Bachmann, a mechanical engineer with Hersheypark. "This ride is actually woven into the old part of the park. We interact with five other attractions, going over water and under the monorail."

But what's most innovative about Storm Runner is a feature that you can't see: the energy savings in the design of the ride.

The ride's nitrogen-powered propulsion system and magnetic breaking systems helped reduce the ride's power consumption by half, from 5 megawatts of power with its initial design to 2.5 megawatts of power.

"When we designed Storm Runner, we were looking to design a linear induction motor system, but we did the calculations and we were going to turn the lights on and off in Hersheypark," Bachmann says. "What we ended up doing is knocking the power consumption down by half by using nitrogen gas and oil to launch the 12-ton trains."

Sensors line the 185-foot-long launch track and key control points on the rest of the track. These sensors feed data into the ride's computerized control system about the position and speed of the trains.

"I can log into the computer, and it gives me the launch speed, the dynamics of loading. I can see all of these safety issues such as where the valve is and where the encoder is on the drive," Bachmann says.

Bachmann says the future of roller coasters is like Universal's Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket, where you can customize your experience on the ride.

"I think you're going to start seeing a lot more sensory play," Bachmann says. "You're going to start seeing a lot of visual effects so your mind is being engaged other than just the physical."

Slideshow: Images of these rollercoasters

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This story, "Top Tech Rollercoasters " was originally published by Network World.

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