How to Design & Build
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.