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Ornithopters: Historical Timeline

1000 BC: Ancient Assyrians depicted God in a winged chariot or ornithopter.

700 BC: The Hindu epic Ramayana describes an ornithopter using biofuels.

875 AD: Abbas ibn Firnas built an ornithopter that made a successful gliding flight.

c. 1500: Leonardo da Vinci sketched some ornithopter ideas but didn't build one.

Lippisch is better known as the designer of the Me-163 Komet rocket powered fighter.
1929: Alexander Lippisch manned ornithopter. Short flight using pilot's muscles.

1942: Adalbert Schmid manned ornithopter. Extended flights with motorcycle engine.

1947: Second manned, engine-powered ornithopter by Adalbert Schmid.

1995: Vladimir Toporov manned, muscle-driven ornithopter with four wings.

2006: James DeLaurier jet-assisted takeoff of manned ornithopter.

2010: Todd Reichert ornithopter powered by muscles of pilot.
Power was supplied by steam, compressed air, or stetched rubber with shaped bobbins to optimally release the stored energy.
1890: Lawrence Hargrave used small flappers, avoiding the need for gear reduction.
Lippisch and colleagues produced several large engine-powered ornithopters in the early 1940s. They were efficient flyers, capable of flight times 15 to 30 minutes.
1938: Alexander Lippisch perfected the small-flapper concept.
The monoplane had a stretched rubber band, whereas the biplane had a more modern twisted rubber band motor.
1871: Jobert's monoplane and biplane, the first known rubber-powered ornithopters.

1872: Alphonse Penaud built this ornithopter with a slightly more modern design.

1884: Tatin introduced a system for mechanically driving the torsion of the wings.
Pichancourt used a mechanical torsion mechanism like Tatin, but others after him seem to have forgotten about this idea.
1889: Pichancourt in Paris apparently was the first to sell mechanical birds commercially.
Trouvé reportedly flew an ornithopter in 1870 powered by compressed air. It may have been the first ornithopter ever flown, but we don't have any pictures of it.
1890: Gustav Trouvé. Gunpowder charges fired into a bourdon tube flap the wings.

1935: Vincenz Chalupsky used compressed air for power.
Spencer's work was rediscovered in the 1990s, and his braced membrane wing was incorporated in many later designs. In the 1980s, Dale Anderson converted one of the Seagulls to radio control.
1958: Percival Spencer built a series of bird-shaped, engine-powered ornithopters.
The Orniplane now resides at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT. Spencer is also noted as a pioneer pilot and the designer of the Republic Seabee amphibious airplane.
1961: Percival Spencer's Orniplane was the first radio-controlled ornithopter.
Kiselev also developed some of the first electric ornithopters.
1984: Valentin Kiselev's RC tandem ornithopter powered byinternal combustion engine.

1986: Aerovironment's QN pterosaur, first to use active computer stabilization.

1990: Horst Raebiger's EV7 used thick-airfoil wings with mechanically driven torsion.

1991: James DeLaurier's ornithopter looked like the EV7 but used passive wing twist.

1998: Albert Kempf's Truefly had foam wings & mechanically driven wing torsion.

1998: Sean Kinkade's Skybird began a series of models in small-scale production.

2000: Ornithopter applications: bird control, wildlife study, onboard camera.

2000: Caltech's MicroBat was among the 1st micro air vehicle(MAV) type ornithopters.

2003: Cybird P2 was the first mass-produced ornithopter for radio-control hobbyists.

2007: Robert Musters further developed the mechanically twisted foam concept.

2013: Servo-driven wings mimic the brain and muscles of a real bird.
1937: Chicago Aeronuts advanced the freeflight design and held the 1st competition.
This organization had a major role in promoting ornithopters and accelerating new innovation.
1984: Patrick Deshaye founded the Orithopter Society to share info and advance the field.

1995: Roy White set the indoor ornithopter duration record at 21 min 44 sec.

1993: Nathan Chronister's Freebird plans made it easy to start building ornithopters.
Nathan Chronister's scissor-wing design formed the basis for several radio-controlled toys, and the hoverable micro air vehicles that were soon developed at various universities.
1994: Luna scissor-wing design simplified construction of four-winged ornithopters.

2005: Yusuke Takahashi converted Luna to remote control, allowing it to hover.

2006: 1st International Micro Air Vehicle (IMAV) competition. Utah entry shown.

2006: Delfly ornithopter (TU Delft) combined hovering with camera payload.

2007: Nathan Chronister 3 gram ornithopter, the size of a real hummingbird and hovers.

2007: Peter Muren's is the world's smallest RC ornithopter at 1 gram.

2010: Aerovironment's Nano Hummingbird combines hover & active stabilization.