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is an "ornithopter"?
An ornithopter is a mechanical "bird" that flies
by flapping wings.
was the first ornithopter?
About 1870, but the first
was flown in 1942.
your own ornithopter!
Simple school projects to advanced robotics.
New Type of Ornithopter - S1 Robotic Bird
is a device that imitates the flapping-wing flight of birds.
Ornithopters were flown successfully in the 1870s. However,
most ornithopters to date used a simple crank mechanism for
flapping the wings. This doesn't allow much control over how
the wings move. The new system of the S1 Robotic Bird (www.birdkit.com)
mimics the nervous system and muscles of a real bird, allowing
total control over the wing movements.
move indepently for steering, and they can go to a level position
for gliding whenever desired. In fact, you can program the
wing movements any way you can imagine, to try various flight
styles and aerobatic maneuvers.
S1 Robotic Bird grew out of my earlier research in flapping-wing
flight. I built my first "robotic" ornithopter in
2005. Just like the S-1, that earlier project had an onboard
computer or "microcontroller" to control the wing
However the S-1 uses new, commercially available
technology, instead of an elaborate custom-built system. This
makes the S1 Robotic Bird much easier to build and accessible
for many hobbyists. The Robotic Bird is available today from
is a device that flies by flapping wings.
it different from an airplane or helicopter? Those machines
are driven by rotating airfoils. In an ornithopter, the driving
airfoils have back-and-forth motion instead. This imitates
nature, because no animals have any rotating parts.
da Vinci did not invent the ornithopter.
of the ornithopter goes back to ancient times. Ancient Assyrians
depicted God flying in a winged chariot or ornithopter at
least 3,000 years ago. Ornithopter attempts were made before
Leonardo's time, and Leonardo himself never actually built
one -- he only drew sketches. The first successful flight
of a manned ornithopter
took place in 1942.
your own ornithopter!
the challenge of building your own ornithopter, with model
kits from BirdKit.com.
Bird kits range from simple models powered by rubber band,
to advanced robotic birds. They are all great flyers and perfect
for school projects!
Olympiad: Students compete to see who can make the longest
flight time with an ornithopter or "flying bird"of
their own construction. The challenge of building and flying
these models is a great way for kids to learn about science
and also how to work together as a team.
Hobbyists: For many years, hobbyists have enjoyed building
and flying their own ornithopters. The ornithopter provides
enduring satisfaction: Although it's now easy to get started
in this hobby, you can go on and pursue an endless variety
of more advanced projects.
Air Vehicle Ornithopters: Researchers are developing tiny
ornithopters that can pass as a bird or insect. Some of these
MAV ornithopters can hover in place and carry useful payloads
like spy cameras. Typical MAV ornithopters are controlled
Ornithopters: A few manned ornithopters have made successful
flights. Many people are not aware of this work and still
believe that manned flapping-wing flight is impossible. A
more accurate understanding is that it requires more advanced
technology compared with the simple propeller-driven airplane.
Q: What is
A: An ornithopter is a device that imitates the flapping-wing flight
found in nature. The word "ornithopter" (c.1908) combines
the ancient Greek words for "bird" and "wing".
An ornithopter doesn't need to have feathers, though. What makes
it birdlike is the flapping motion! Airplanes have a rotating propeller.
Helicopters have a rotary wing that provides both lift and thrust.
But animals don't have any rotating parts!
Q: Why flapping
A: I build ornithopters because people are blown away when they
see one of these machines, flying high overhead, doing something
they thought was utterly impossible. There are practical benefits
as well: flapping wings potentially offer improved efficiency, better
maneuverability, and reduced noise compared with the rotary-driven
airplanes and helicopters. The resemblance to a real bird can also
be useful, e.g., for spying or for keeping birds away from airport
Q: Have people
ever flown in an ornithopter?
A: Yes. Adalbert Schmid's engine-powered manned ornithopters, flown
in 1942 and 1947, were the most successful to date. Several other
manned ornithopters have made
Q: How does
an ornithopter fly?
A: The ornithopter works on the same principle as the airplane.
The forward motion through the air allows the wings to deflect air
downward, producing lift. The flapping motion of the wings takes
the place of a rotating propeller. more
Q: Why doesn't
the upstroke cancel out the downstroke?
A: The force produced by a wing depends on the angle the wing is
held at, relative to its motion through the air. This is called
the "angle of attack". During the upstroke, the angle
of attack is reduced, keeping air resistance to a minimum. more
Q: Can I
build my own ornithopter?
A: Yes! It is very challenging, but many people build ornithopters
as a hobby or school project. There are free plans on this web site,
but you will have a better chance of success if you start with one
of the flying bird model kits available at BirdKit.com.
can I get funding to build a manned ornithopter?
A: I don't know of any funding sources. I can only suggest that
if you build a working, radio-controlled model of your proposed
design, that will probably make it much easier to get funding.
Learn more about
ornithopters by subscribing to the newsletter, Flapping