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How to Design & Build Ornithopters

Once you have built your first ornithopter from the Ornithopter Zone's Freebird Plans, you might want to try developing some of your own ornithopters. Perhaps you will want to try something more advanced, like a radio controlled ornithopter. This section of the Ornithopter Zone web site provides an introduction to ornithopter design. For a more detailed treatment, please refer to the Ornithopter Design Manual, by Nathan Chronister, available here.

Power Systems: Choosing the right motor and battery are both essential for building a successful ornithopter. Here, I will explain some of the different options and how to choose the right power system.
Gear Design: Unless you use a rubber band for power, you'll probably need to gear down the motor, to give it enough torque to flap the wings. The gearbox can be one of the most challenging parts of your ornithopter to build. The information here will make it much easier.
The Flapping Mechanism: Here is where we convert the rotary motion of your motor into an oscillating wing motion. This is what makes your device an ornithopter instead of an airplane or helicopter! Several different mechanisms and construction techniques are described. The Ornithopter Zone web site also has a software program that can help you design your own flapping mechanism.
Wings: When building ornithopters, an efficient wing design can make the difference between failure and success. There are several general types of ornithopter wing. In this section, I'll describe the advantages and disadvantages of each type, and I'll tell you how to build them. This is where we talk about aerodynamics, in case you've been wondering where the lift comes from.
Stability and Control: It's pretty easy to stabilize a free-flight ornithopter, but when you add radio control, some surprising things happen. Often the ornithopter refuses to come out of a turn! Just as there are several ways to steer an ornithopter, there are also some things you can do to avoid these problems.