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Human Powered Flapping Wings

I find this project very inspiring.

Human-powered aircraft makes aviation history by becoming the first to fly using flapping wings

By Niall Firth
Last updated at 12:36 PM on 23rd September 2010

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It has been the dream of engineers and eccentric inventors for centuries.

And ever since Leonardo da Vinci sketched the first human-powered ornithopter in 1485, humans have tried to take to the air like birds by flapping their wings.

But now a human-powered aircraft has made aviation history by becoming the first with flapping wings to fly continuously.

The Snow Bird takes off on its record-breaking flight as it becomes the first wing-flapping machine to fly

Student Todd Reichert lost 18lbs of weight to be able to fly the Snow Bird

The 'Snowbird' performed its record-breaking flight at the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Ontario in Canada in August.

Leonardo's Da Vinci's drawing of a Human-Powered Ornithopter from 1485 inspired the team

Todd Reichert, an Engineering PhD candidate at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), flew the wing-flapping device and sustained both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds, covering a distance of 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour.

He flew the Snowbird by pedaling with his legs. Pulleys and ropes attached to the wings pulled down when he pedaled forward.

‘The Snowbird represents the completion of an age-old aeronautical dream,' says lead developer and project manager Reichert.

‘Throughout history, countless men and women have dreamt of flying like a bird under their own power, and hundreds, if not thousands have attempted to achieve it. This represents one of the last of the aviation firsts.’

The Snowbird weighs just 94 lbs and has a wing span of 105 feet. Although its wingspan is comparable to that of a Boeing 737, the Snowbird weighs less than all of the pillows on board.

Pilot Reichert lost 18 lbs of body weight over the summer to facilitate flying the aircraft.

A composite photo which shows how the tips of the aircraft's wings flap up and down to give it lift

The feat was witnessed by the vice-president of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world-governing body for air sports and aeronautical world records.

The official record claim was filed this month, and the FAI is expected to confirm the ornithopter's world record at its meeting in October.

Reichert said: 'The use of human power, when walking or cycling, is an efficient, reliable, healthy and sustainable form of transportation.

‘Though the aircraft is not a practical method of transport, it is also meant to act as an inspiration to others to use the strength of their body and the creativity of their mind to follow their dreams.

You know they claim this is the first project that has enabled a man to fly with flapping wings and it even cites Leonard Da Vinci as somebody who apparently failed, but a lot of recent evidence strongly suggests that maybe this assumption isn't entirely accurate. Da Vinci's designs of inventions have since been scrutinized heavily by expert engineers and inventors alike. They all seem to say the same thing. For years, centuries even, the stock response was usually along the lines of, "great idea but it doesn't work". Right up until as late as the 1980's popular opinion has turned to the tune of "Great idea, great invention but why on earth did he put that one weird thing there?" (often referring to one single solitary aspect of the design which is seemingly foreign and logically inexplicable. Especially from such a skilled, ingenius and articulate craftsman such as he). Lately the truth with tons of supporting evidence of Da Vinci "non-functioning" designs has emerged, including his deep sea diving suit, his helicopter, his tank and also yes, his man-wings.

Da Vinci was an extremely secretive and allusive artist. He hated the idea of somebody getting a handle on him, as an artist, thinker and inventor. Some claim this was due to his latent homosexuality or his extremely reclusive and untrusting private life, but these are just theories. The most popular conclusion, according to the inventors, engineers and industrial designers who have studied his sketches that he was just covering his own end in a very shrewd and divisive manner.

When clients or "enablers" as Da Vinci saw them, commissioned him to work on an invention or design, he'd often do so in the utmost secrecy. They claimed his "backwards writing" (he always wrote his linear notes using a mirror to encode them slightly) was heresy (he was expelled from the Vatican after the backwards writing and lengthy dissections), or that he was possessed by the devil, or that it was necromancy (he was getting messages from the dead) or that it was some kind of dyslexia, but it's clear to anyone who knew the habitual behavioral habits and lifestyle of the artist that it was much more considered than all of that.

He was covering his tracks. Da Vinci was never really all that rich in his lifetime. He was often nomadic and moving from one "enabler" to the next, often going decades without producing the finished product and claiming his fee. This meant that everything he was paid was really important to his survival, not just an artist but as a human being. He found himself "protecting" all his proofs and sketches and designs (this is the real "Da Vinci Code") that Dan Brown hasn't happened upon.

Not only would he often encrypt the notes of his sketches in backwards writing, he'd also write in Math, he'd use fibonacci sequences and golden ratios to remind him (and only him) where the next word of a paragraph would be in relation to the former. He went to great lengths to ensure that if his designs (often of frightening war machines) fell into the wrong hands they would be utterly useless. Mainly, Da Vinci just wanted to be paid what was his and didn't want anyone stealing his ideas, or changing them and his egotism also feared that he would sell a concept and be replaced by a cheaper craftsman (this happened to him earlier in his life a couple of times).

So evidence showed that his tank and diving suit also had to remarkable design flaws in each. Things you'd expect somebody like Da Vinci to notice. But not your regular apathetic mistakes and errors, ones seemingly illogical to the rest of the design. Almost as if... they'd been put in after!

And that they had. All of Da Vinci's designs were (as it's known in the design world) "BAD" Broken As Designed. He purposefully made the tank, helicopter, diving suit and wings NOT WORK so nobody could steal his concept or not appoint him as the only person in the world who knew how to make it function. It's an early absolute version of "copyright" if you will, long before the concept even existed. And what's more, it was free, and impossible to get around. He'd rather die with those secrets, and that he did. Until now, that is.

You can watch more about this in a BBC Documentary in which a military team and several renown inventors set about rebuilding all the famous Da Vinci concepts and actually making them work by correcting all the known "designed to fail" faults he'd purposefully put in. It's an intriguing watch. You can probably download this via torrent or find it in an internet search (you can't buy it commercially so you can't get it elsewhere so I don't think this is illegal, I'm not sure). The documentary is from the BBC TV series, Leonardo.

You can read more about it here:

And some more about his "broken as designed" tricks:

From watching that documentary, according to the paraplegic inventor who build and tested Da Vinci's handglider and fixed the "fault" (in this case, a backwards tail) I can only presume that his wings worked beautifully and he foiled their functionality to protect his fantastic design from greedy turncoats and unscrupulous clients.
That's really awesome that finally it's been done. I am sure it wasn't cheap nor useful but valuable in a proof of concept kind of way!

Pentangeli thanks for the awesome summary on da Vinci, I had heard something of the sort but your explanation sorts things out much better.

I should definitely try to watch the BBC series you mentioned!
This is a great demonstration of the human spirit ..... but it pretty much ends there.

Safe human powered flight will always require very high efficiencies combined with low weight and strong materials - classic challenges to any aircraft.

But - obviously - the human motor system is certainly not designed for flight. Because of this there will always be the need for some kind of transmission system to match flight needs with the human motor system. This means added weight and power lost in transmission system (e.g. pulleys, gears, chains etc.) inefficiencies. Humans also have a low energy density and cannot metabolize fuel (i.e. food) fast enough for flight needs. For example a bat can process food so fast that it quickly urinates soon after taking in food and just as quickly can begin flight sans food waste products.

Without an external energy source, I doubt human powered flight will see any practical use any time soon.
It is safe ? lol

I like the ideia.
Human muscle power did not evolve for flight on this planet. However, brain power did evolve to make tools and machines. Two examples are airplanes and rockets.

The plane or most of it is a glider is efficient. It is difficult to give continuous supply of
power for a long period. Best wishes for the team work to make it a success
there was also a project of the russian artist vladimir tatlin, called the 'letatlin',
which was about to give the humans back the feeling of flying, which got lost with machine-powered flight
Human brain has made many impossible things possible!! This is one such example!
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