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Canada Transportation Technology Science

First Human-Powered Ornithopter 250

spasm writes "A University of Toronto engineering graduate student has made and successfully flown a human-powered flapping-wing aircraft. From the article: 'Todd Reichert, a PhD candidate at the university's Institute of Aerospace Studies, piloted the wing-flapping aircraft, sustaining both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds and covering a distance of 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour.'"
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First Human-Powered Ornithopter

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  • by quangdog ( 1002624 ) <{quangdog} {at} {}> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @04:51PM (#33668356)
    Besides the "gee-whiz" factor, why is time being spent on this sort of research? Will any flapping-wing aircraft ever be as efficient as a modern jumbo-jet for transporting large loads of cargo and people? I'm no aerospace engineer, and I'm not saying that a jet is the model of efficiency, but I don't see how a flappy wing mode of transport would be better.
  • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @04:57PM (#33668472)

    “Though the aircraft is not a practical method of transport, it is also meant to act as an inspiration to others to use the strength of their body and the creativity of their mind to follow their dreams.”

    There you go, it ain't much, but then again creativity is a pretty expensive and scarce commodity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @05:00PM (#33668500)

    This thing reminds me of a 3D bicycle. Bicycles, even in 2D, are awesome - they don't require any fuel, are relatively light, are good for keeping fit, have low maintainance costs and are generally nice.
      I wouldn't say that a analogue for a bicycle IN AIR would be a waste of research, quite the reverse.
      It might be a problem setting traffic rules for these things, tho.

  • Re:Ornithoglider (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AshtangiMan ( 684031 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @05:05PM (#33668584)
    I tend to agree. It looks like the max altitude (and perhaps speed) was reached just prior to releasing the tow cable. The flapping may have extended the glide, you can see the cockpit move up on the "flap" but it also sinks when the wings spring back up. I'm not sure what is being done is sustainable flight. I am glad they did this though, as it looks promising, and perhaps they will get to the sustainable flight goal.
  • Not that great... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EkriirkE ( 1075937 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @05:34PM (#33668956) Homepage

    This is merely a glider, nothing more. The up-flap cancels out the down-flap as the wings appear to move vertically. All winged animals I'm aware of either twist their wings at angles or fold them, especially on the up-flap, so that most of the powered force is directed to pushing air under the wings on the down flap and the wing simply cuts through the air on the up flap.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @05:37PM (#33669004)

    I am not impressed at all because of it. I understand that it needs to get launched some how, but it seems to me that it just glided off the initial tow. It would have probably gone father if it didn't flap the wings. I know my gliders I build RC ones and that flapping would just be consider flutter which actually spoils the lift. The flapping would probably create some lift but at the speeds this one was moving it looks like it just spoils it.
    And I don't just build any gliders mine go past 300mph [] and in the right conditions I can make ounce 60" bricks fly []

    World record has now past 400mph. I haven't been able to build anything tht will structurally handle those speeds just disintegrates on the air.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @05:56PM (#33669274)

    Seriously. I watched the video. I saw a car towing what appears to be a glider until it was already airborne. After that, I saw the wings flap.... ***slightly*** It did not look like the flapping had anything to do with staying airborne. The flapping continue for a few seconds...***not*** 19.3 seconds. Then the flapping stopped, it glided for a few more seconds and the video ended.

    Not trying to be rude...but how does this prove anything? It just looks like another glider.

  • Nothing new (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @06:22PM (#33669572)

    ...we've had flapping-wing aircraft for three-quarters of a century.

    Birds flap their wings with a painfully inefficient reciprocating motion, because nature doesn't know how to make one critical component: a rotating joint. We do, so our wing-flappers flap their wings with nice, efficient rotary motion...and we call them helicopters.


  • by ebuck ( 585470 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @06:46PM (#33669888)

    Can you really tell from the video you can determine how long and far he could have flown without the "flapping wings". I would like to see a comparison of this machine with an ordinary glider launched with the same altitude and speed.

    Or better yet, the same glider launched with the same altitude and speed, but without the flapping.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @07:11PM (#33670118)


    Mine wasn't French we didn't have these behind the Iron curtain, we had to make our own. I "improved" an awful concept drawing form a shitty magazine.

    I had fitted it with something like long stork legs on wheels which would detach and remain on the ground on takeoff (too heavy to lift). It would land on its belly (or side, or back, depending on the wind).

    Since it was just steel wire, it was easy to fix - pliers, wooden hammer and a few strips of foil ... lots of fun.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @10:35PM (#33671580)

    Human powered flight will be necessary in the future because not everyone has oil and most people won't have access to petrochemicals to power their planes. However, flight consists of 3 aspects: take off, mid-flight manuevering, and landing safely

    You forgot to mention useful, meaningful, range, payload and altitude.

    The MIT Daedalus [] managed 71 miles over calm spring Mediterranean waters at 15 to 30 feet.

    The Daedalus had its fleet of marine escorts.

    But the fundamental reason for building an aircraft is to navigate over terrain - to be truly and freely airborne under ordinary conditions of wind and weather.


  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @11:07PM (#33671758) Homepage Journal

    There are a lot of things about rotor aircraft that until recently have been way too complex to model.

    How recently? Are we due for a big advance in rotorcraft in the near future due to new understanding, or is this a "we finally know why aspirin works" kind of discovery?

  • Re:Nothing new (Score:4, Interesting)

    by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @11:07PM (#33671760)

    I've always wondered about bird vs. helicopter efficiency ... here's one guy's opinion. []

    If true, nature's "painfully inefficient reciprocating motion" leaves our "nice, efficient rotary motion" in the dust.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith