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i360 newsletter 2
release date—2 August 2014

We’re not exaggerating when we say that the i360 is a real feat of engineering and that its design is completely unprecedented. The i360 has several features that make it stand out from other ‘observation towers’ in the UK – or indeed anywhere else in the world.

The first and most exciting difference (from a passenger’s point of view) is that while most towers have a viewing platform that remains stationary, with visitors ascending in a lift to reach it (like the Spinnaker Tower or the Shard), the i360 is designed so that the entire observation deck moves. Visitors step into the viewing ‘room’ (which is spacious and comfortable) at street level, and then the whole pod gradually rises up to a height of 138 metres. After stopping at the top, the pod then gradually descends and visitors exit at beach level. Passengers get a gradually changing perspective all the way up – and, as they are able to walk around the pod at all times, the view really is 360 degrees. It’s a totally unique visitor experience.

From a technical perspective, as Brighton i360 director Dr John Roberts explains, there are really two things that make the i360 special: the motor system and the tower design.

Most people see the pictures and think that the i360 must be something like a lift. Actually, the two things couldn’t be more different.

A lift is a hugely energy-expensive mechanism that uses electricity to raise and lower its passengers in the lift cabin. Mechanically, lifts are fitted on the outside with sliding devices (“sliders”) which are constantly connected to guide rails, usually inside a lift shaft. The lift then moves up and down the guiderails.

The i360 is based on cable car technology; it uses gravity and counterweights to manage its load. In fact, all of the elements in the motor system (cable, bull wheels, drive motor) are the same as on standard cable cars. However, while on conventional cable cars these elements are laid out horizontally, for the i360 we have arranged them vertically – hence why we call it ‘A Vertical Cable Car’.

The i360 pod is connected by cable-car type cables to a giant 70 tonne counterweight that is inside the tower, hidden from view. When the pod goes up, the counterweight goes down; so when the pod is at the bottom, the counterweight is at the top. When the pod is full and ready to ascend, the motor kicks in briefly to make the pod rise up, and then when it is at the top, very gentle brakes are applied to allow it to descend slowly to the ground. Almost the entire process is done by weights and gravity – not electricity.

The counterweight weighs slightly less than the empty pod (on purpose). This makes it very energy efficient, because the motor is only ever lifting the difference between the pod and the counterweight, never the whole weight of the pod. It also means that the i360 can never get stuck (thank goodness!). In the unlikely event that we lose all power (mains and our back-up generator) then our team will use gravity and the brakes to bring the pod back down to ground safely. And yes, we have a spare set of brakes just in case!

Another unique aspect of the design, is the fact that it the i360 has been designed to allow you to walk around the pod to enjoy the view from different angles. This is where it is very innovative from all the other ‘moving observation towers’ such as the ‘Tiger Sky Tower’ in Singapore or Weymouth Eye where you are required to sit down and the tower slowly moves up and around. On the i360 you have the freedom to move about and choose what you want to look at. . It is even perfectly safe for all the guests to stand on the same side of the pod at the same time if they really want to! This innovation means the pod can become a unique event space for weddings, parties or an intimate concert.

With the i360, Brighton is not just getting an attraction that will help it compete as a tourist destination – it is getting innovation on an international scale, a true architectural and engineering one-off.

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