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Ornithopter Competition & Contests

OS Payload-Lifting Ornithopter Contest

This is a new contest sponsored by the Ornithopter Society and open to everyone. The goal is to become the first person to successfully fly an ornithopter carrying a 16-pound bowling ball as a payload. There is a prize for the winner. For more information, please visit the official contest page.

School Contests

If you're a science teacher, an ornithopter contest in your school is a great way to motivate your students. They will learn important math, science, and technology concepts through inquiry and real-world experience. High school students can compete with relatively simple designs like the Gryphon from BirdKit.com. They can also try their own modifications to improve flight times. A school gym is the perfect setting for such a contest. For sample contest rules and more instructional ideas related to ornithopters, see our Teachers Guide.

Science Olympiad

Science Olympiad is a national competition for middle and high school students. Students from different schools compete in various science-related contest events. Science Olympiad is now offering a trial event for flying bird models. If your school participates in Science Olympiad, tell your group advisor that you would like to give this a try. Here are some helpful resources:

AMA Nationals

Adults can get involved in ornithopter competition too! The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) has an ornithopter event in conjunction with its annual indoor model airplane competition. The contest is held in Johnson City, Tennessee, in a giant sports dome! Even so, part of the challenge is regulating the climb so the ornithopter won't hit the ceiling. Amazing flight times are possible. Maybe you can break Roy White's record of 21 minutes, 44 seconds! The ornithopters are more interesting and varied than fixed-wing contest models, and the ornithopter contest event always gets a great reaction from spectators!

Current US Records
Indoor Rubber-Powered Ornithopter
Ceiling Height
Set By
Cat. I
< 8 m
Roy White, 1995
Cat. II

8-15 m

Roy White, 1995
Cat. III
15-30 m
Ray Harlan, 2003
Cat. IV
> 30 m
Roy White, 1995

If you would like to compete in the AMA nationals, you will need to join the AMA ahead of time and then register for the contest. AMA membership information and contest rules can be found on the AMA web site. They also have information on local clubs that fly indoor model airplanes.

Some people are afraid to build an ornithopter because they think it's going to be hard. However, some excellent resources are available, making it much easier to prepare for indoor ornithopter competition than it was in the past. You don't have to design your own ornithopter to compete. If you have a good bit of experience with rubber-powered airplanes, and if you would like to try competing in the AMA ornithopter event, visit our plans section for some ideas.