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is an "ornithopter"?
An ornithopter is a mechanical "bird" that flies
by flapping wings.
was the first ornithopter?
About 1870, but the first
was flown in 1942.
your own ornithopter!
Simple school projects to advanced robotics.
Discover Flapping Wings!
a device that flies by flapping wings.
it different from an airplane or helicopter? Those machines
are driven by rotating airfoils. In an ornithopter, the driving
airfoils have a back-and-forth motion instead. This imitates
nature, because no animals have any rotating parts.
da Vinci did not invent the ornithopter.
of the ornithopter goes back to ancient times. Ancient Assyrians
depicted God flying in a winged chariot or ornithopter about
3,000 years ago. Ornithopter attempts were made before Leonardo's
time, and Leonardo himself never actually built one -- he
only drew sketches. The first successful flight of a manned
ornithopter took place in 1942.
your own ornithopter!
the challenge of building your own ornithopter, with model
kits from BirdKit.com.
Bird kits range from simple models powered by rubber band,
to advanced robotic birds. They are all great flyers and perfect
for school projects!
Flight : These ornithopters are the simplest and least
expensive to build. They are powered by winding up a rubber
band, and they can be flown indoors. These ornithopters are
great for a school competition to see who can get the longest
flight time. The challenge of building and flying these ornithopters
is a great way for kids to learn about science and how to
work as a team.
Powered Ornithopters: Many ornithopters are powered by
electric motor and battery. These ornithopters range from
10 cm wingspan "micro air vehicles" to the size
of an eagle. These ornithopters are radio controlled, and
usually the tail is used for steering. They can be purchased
as a ready made toy, or built by the hobbyist.
Ornithopters : The most advanced ornithopters use an on-board
computer to mimic the brain and nervous system of a real bird.
High performance "servos" are the artificial muscles
that move the wings. Hobbyists can write their own programming
and explore how various wing movements can be used to control
the flight of the ornithopter.
Ornithopters: A few manned ornithopters have made successful
flights. Some people are not aware of this work, and they
still believe that manned flapping-wing flight is impossible.
The manned ornithopter is not the crazy idea that people once
thought. However, it does require more technology than the
Q: What is
A: An ornithopter is a device that imitates the flapping-wing flight
found in nature. The word "ornithopter" (c.1908) combines
the ancient Greek words for "bird" and "wing".
An ornithopter doesn't need to have feathers, though. What makes
it birdlike is the flapping motion! Airplanes have a rotating propeller.
Helicopters have a rotary wing that provides both lift and thrust.
Instead of rotation, the ornithopter wing imitates the reciprocating
motion of a bird's wing.
Q: Why flapping
A: Many people like to build and fly ornithopters, just because
ornithopters are amazing! There are practical benefits as well:
flapping wings potentially offer improved efficiency, better maneuverability,
and reduced noise compared with the rotary-driven airplanes and
helicopters. The resemblance to a real bird can also be useful,
e.g., for spying or for keeping birds away from airport runways.
Q: Have people
ever flown in an ornithopter?
A: Yes. Adalbert Schmid's engine-powered manned ornithopters, flown
in 1942 and 1947, were the most successful to date. Several other
manned ornithopters have made
Q: How does
an ornithopter fly?
A: The ornithopter works on the same principle as the airplane.
The forward motion through the air allows the wings to deflect air
downward, producing lift. The flapping motion of the wings takes
the place of a rotating propeller. more
Q: Why doesn't
the upstroke cancel out the downstroke?
A: The force produced by a wing depends on the angle the wing is
held at, relative to its motion through the air. This is called
the "angle of attack". During the upstroke, the angle
of attack is adjusted so that the wing isn't pushing down. more
Q: Can I
build my own ornithopter?
A: Yes! Many people build ornithopters as a hobby or school project.
There are free plans on this web site, but you will have a better
chance of success if you start with one of the flying bird model
kits available from BirdKit.com.
can I get funding for my project?
A: The Ornithopter Society now has a small grants program to facilitate
research in flapping-wing flight. Use the contact link at the left
side of this page for more info.
Learn more about
ornithopters by joining the Ornithopter