Manned Ornithopters
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About the Ornithopter Society

!n 1984, Patrick Deshaye started the Ornithopter Society, to help bring together what little was known at the time about ornithopters. Deshaye managed to locate seven people in the US and UK who shared his passion for flapping wings. He began publishing a newsletter, which allowed the small group to share ideas and help each other uncover the mysteries of flapping wing flight. In a short time, the Ornithopter Society grew to over a hundred members.

In 1992, Nathan Chronister took over as president, in order to continue the society's mission of keeping people connected, and pulling together the scattered information on flapping wings. During this period, we had the pleasure of hearing from people all over the world about their various activities, and often, about discoveries from the past. While searching through a local library, Nathan made one of the most important discoveries. A few pages in an old book told the story of Percival Spencer's engine powered ornithopters. They were built around 1960. But until the early 90s, we didn't know about this work.

In the 1990s, several people were trying to build engine powered or electric ornithopters.Sean Kinkade was a machinist, and he was really good at building ornithopter mechanisms. He hadn't gotten anything to fly yet, and Nathan suggested trying Spencer's already proven wing design on his ornithopter. In a very short time, Sean reported a successful flight. He began selling ornithopters with his updated version of Spencer's wing design, and in that way the rediscovery of Spencer's work influenced a whole new generation of ornithopter enthusiasts.

Later, we found out about the amazing ornithopter research conducted in Germany in the 1930s and 40s. Some people were trying to build the "world's first" manned ornithopter, but then we found out it had already been done! If it had not been for the activities of the Ornithopter Society, we would not have any where near the full picture of ornithopter history that we have now.

The Ornithopter Society also aims to help new beginners get started in building their own ornithopters. In 1993, we introduced a new ornithopter design, called the "Freebird", which was available in the form of free plans. The Freebird was designed to be as simple and as easy to build as possible. A biplane version called "Luna" established a simple mechanism for flapping four wings. These simple, rubber band powered designs helped thousands of people learn how to build their own ornithopters.

It turned out that the Freebird and Luna designs were easily converted to electric power. A system of micro-sized gears developed by J. D. Nicoud is really what made this possible. It created an easy route for people to develop their own radio controlled ornithopters. Universities were taking a great interest in ornithopter research, and the Luna scissor-wing design formed the basis for the many four-winged micro air vehicle ornithopters that were developed. Toy companies also began to produce small radio-controlled ornithopters based on the Freebird or Luna. This introduced a whole new generation to the idea of mechanical flapping wings, but it also heightened the need for education.

Today, there is no shortage of information on ornithopters. Unfortunately, that information is not all sound. There are ornithopter plans that don't fly, and misleading claims made by some researchers. The Ornithopter Society is needed now more than ever, to provide a trusted resource for those who want accurate information.

We hope you will take a moment to support the work we are doing, and we hope the resources we provide will help you advance your own activities in exploring the wonders of flapping-wing flight!