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First Human-Powered Ornithopter

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the don't-stop-pedaling dept.

Canada 250

spasm writes "A University of Toronto engineering graduate student has made and successfully flown a human-powered flapping-wing aircraft. From the article: 'Todd Reichert, a PhD candidate at the university's Institute of Aerospace Studies, piloted the wing-flapping aircraft, sustaining both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds and covering a distance of 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour.'"

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The Spice... (5, Funny)

thescreg (1854974) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668336)

Must flow.

Congratulations UofT (0, Redundant)

Filter (6719) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668466)

Incredible!

Why Still Pursuing This? (1, Interesting)

quangdog (1002624) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668356)

Besides the "gee-whiz" factor, why is time being spent on this sort of research? Will any flapping-wing aircraft ever be as efficient as a modern jumbo-jet for transporting large loads of cargo and people? I'm no aerospace engineer, and I'm not saying that a jet is the model of efficiency, but I don't see how a flappy wing mode of transport would be better.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (4, Insightful)

vivin (671928) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668422)

Because you can. Because you want to. Just to show it can be done?

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (5, Funny)

Achoi77 (669484) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669584)

Also because it's a 0/2 flying artifact for 0 colorless mana.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (5, Informative)

GraZZ (9716) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668430)

Speaking as this guy's former roommate, one of the draws for him was that the aerodynamics and mechanics of flapping wing flight was not fully understood.

The science here is understanding aerodynamics to the point that a human-scaled device can be built.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669138)

The science here is understanding aerodynamics to the point that a human-scaled device can be built.

Indeed. Next up: defenestration.

Why is this considered human powered? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669274)

Seriously. I watched the video. I saw a car towing what appears to be a glider until it was already airborne. After that, I saw the wings flap.... ***slightly*** It did not look like the flapping had anything to do with staying airborne. The flapping continue for a few seconds...***not*** 19.3 seconds. Then the flapping stopped, it glided for a few more seconds and the video ended.

Not trying to be rude...but how does this prove anything? It just looks like another glider.

Re:Why is this considered human powered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669544)

This isn't supposed to be an airtight proof that it works to every layman, so comparing it side-by-side with a flight without the flapping and all instrumentation (e.g., speed when detach from the towline) made obvious in the video would have made the video less entertaining for no particular reason. I'm sure you can contact the people involved if you want proof -- he's probably written or writing up a thesis around it.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669484)

Paul MacCready and friends at Aerovironment built an RC pterodactyl in the 80's. Don't know how much they published of their research into flapping wings. It made several impressive flights. There was even IMAX footage shot that might be available if you look for it.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (3, Funny)

catmistake (814204) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669496)

Speaking as this guy's former roommate, one of the draws for him was that the aerodynamics and mechanics of flapping wing flight was not fully understood.

The science here is understanding aerodynamics to the point that a human-scaled device can be built.

I would like to see his paintings.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669566)

Human powered flight will be necessary in the future because not everyone has oil and most people won't have access to petrochemicals to power their planes. Granted this is a pretty far off scenario but a valid one.

However, flight consists of 3 aspects: take off, mid-flight manuevering, and landing safely. Until a plane can do all three under human power I consider it to be little more than a kite or fancy parachute.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668452)

We don't know, that's why.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (4, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668472)

“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.”

There you go, it ain't much, but then again creativity is a pretty expensive and scarce commodity.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669226)

[...] then again creativity is a pretty expensive and scarce commodity.

Yes, but hard to redirect. If this is what grabbed him, great!

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668500)

This thing reminds me of a 3D bicycle. Bicycles, even in 2D, are awesome - they don't require any fuel, are relatively light, are good for keeping fit, have low maintainance costs and are generally nice.
  I wouldn't say that a analogue for a bicycle IN AIR would be a waste of research, quite the reverse.
  It might be a problem setting traffic rules for these things, tho.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (5, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668554)

Beyond the other answers, anything that can be powered by a human can be powered even better by a small inexpensive engine. This could easily result in an inexpensive personal recreational aircraft. Think Ultralights. Regardless, pure science is pure science. Even if this particular application never results in anything, he surely had to solve problems and understand principles that no one has ever worked out before. Parts of that research will have value somewhere.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (4, Funny)

dnahelicase (1594971) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668924)

This is going to be vital technology for the new NSA/FBI/CIA robo-swallow assassins. Previously we were limited to a very specific payload based on the geographic region in which the swallow originated.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (1)

midtoad (18044) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669426)

Umm, an aircraft with the wingspan of a Boeing 737 is never going to be an inexpensive personal aircraft. Let's not damn this thing for not being practical. It's way cool just the way it is.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (1)

balaband (1286038) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668560)

How about moving peoples asses of the couch and making them do some exercise? I know that I would love try this thing, even with the price of (*gasp!*) pedaling.

The human-powered ornithopter – named the Snowbird – weighs just over 42 kilograms and has a wing span of 32 metres. You can watch video of the Snowbird’s historic flight here Reichert lost 8 kilograms of body weight this past summer to make it easy to pilot the plane. He trained daily, went on a special diet and strengthened his leg muscles.

Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting this is /. - so I see how this wouldn't work...

Always one in every crowd (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668832)

Besides the "gee-whiz" factor, why is time being spent on this sort of research? Will any flapping-wing aircraft ever be as efficient as a modern jumbo-jet for transporting large loads of cargo and people? I'm no aerospace engineer, and I'm not saying that a jet is the model of efficiency, but I don't see how a flappy wing mode of transport would be better.

Seriously, dude, if you ask questions like this, Slashdot is probably not the place for you.

P.S. Cynicism does not necessarily make you appear wise.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (0, Troll)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669230)

If you can power an airplane with human-muscle you may be on your way to find out how the hell bees can fly (they should not be able to fly if the current laws of psychics were correct), but on a more 'profit'-base. He at the very least found a way to reduce air-drag and that knowledge might save a couple thousand of gallon jet-fuel per trip in commercial airlines. I'm am sure I am missing a lot of other things that is to be gained from this.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (1)

redmid17 (1217076) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669396)

If you can power an airplane with human-muscle you may be on your way to find out how the hell bees can fly (they should not be able to fly if the current laws of psychics were correct), but on a more 'profit'-base. He at the very least found a way to reduce air-drag and that knowledge might save a couple thousand of gallon jet-fuel per trip in commercial airlines. I'm am sure I am missing a lot of other things that is to be gained from this.

Bees would violate the laws of aerodynamics for fixed wing airplanes. Fortunately for them they operate more like a helicopter and get more sufficient lift by beating their wings. Do people still seriously believe this?

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669498)

Well until the day I see the rapport with the reason of how they can fly I still believe this yes... It's all in the weight. Not so much the lift. There are a zillion insects and birds that use the clap-wing-method and don't defy gravity. They actually should be able to fly. But bees... bees should walk. Just like everybody else that can't fly!

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (5, Informative)

ebuck (585470) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669518)

Dude, stop propagating an urban legend originated in 1934. Nobody said that bees can't fly, they said that an airplane wing traveling at the speed of a bee can't fly. Airplane wings needed more laminar air flow to generate lift according to Bernoulli's principle, and that means more forward speed to generate the minimal air flow than a bee displays in it's forward flight.

Then the anti-science crowd then created a misinterpretation of this famous statement to read that "according to Science, bees can't fly" so it must be "God's work." Later it was softened to "According to science, bees can't fly so we don't know everything."

It doesn't take a lot of insight to imagine how flapping a wing can sustain slower air speeds than a fixed wing aircraft could sustain. But the original findings have been so misused, that using the quote is paramount to spreading anti-Science propaganda.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (0)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669562)

Whehe didn't want to spread something scientific incorrect on slashdot! Sorry!

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (1)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669314)

Besides the "gee-whiz" factor, why is time being spent on this sort of research? Will any flapping-wing aircraft ever be as efficient as a modern jumbo-jet for transporting large loads of cargo and people? I'm no aerospace engineer, and I'm not saying that a jet is the model of efficiency, but I don't see how a flappy wing mode of transport would be better.

People like you make me happy that I don't have to get the permission of some overarching governing body before I try something new. I would not call myself artistically inclined, but I'm quite willing to acknowledge that not everything has to have a simple survival or economic purpose.

Switch hats plz (1)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669452)

You are on slashdot. Please take off your management hat and put on your engineering one. Thank you.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (4, Funny)

BitHive (578094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669474)

What I want to know is why it's always college kids who are doing the cool stuff in /. stories. It really sends the wrong message that centers of elitist liberal brainwashing are somehow related to innovation when we all know that it's the hardworking, individualistic, ambitious types upon whom all progress depends.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669516)

Despite what you might think, not everything between mechanics, aerodynamics, and biology is understood.

Have you really never imagined you were a bird soaring the skies?

Curiosity and the thirst for knowledge is what drives us into the future, despite what your Economics professor might have told. With posting on this forum, I thought you would have discovered that by now.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (1)

capo_dei_capi (1794030) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669580)

C'mon, it was a project done by grad students, not by some post-doctoral research fellows.

Re:Why Still Pursuing This? (1)

ebuck (585470) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669600)

Just off the top of my head, it should provide slower air speeds without the issues of a rotary wing aircraft.

When you can't imagine an application, and you admit to being outside of your field, perhaps discretion (instead of discredit) is the best policy. I'm no aerospace engineer either, but it is easy to see how this could develop into lightweight planes with long flight times and limited ranges. Ideal for local city traffic reporting, if you think about it. Perhaps you could even put a cell phone repeater up there (by the time it is production ready).

Just in time... (4, Funny)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668360)

Just in time for Yueh to leave us a pair of stillsuits in the back. The article doesn't mention if it's big enough to lift a spice harvester however.

Oh a million deaths are not enough for Yueh!

Re:Just in time... (3, Informative)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669436)

Iirc, the transport of harvesters where done by carry-all's.

Re:Just in time... (1)

ebuck (585470) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669670)

Abbot: Who gave the still suits?
Costello: Yueh gave the still suits.
Abbot: No I didn't.
Costello: Of course.
Abbot: Of course what?
Costello: Of course you didn't.
Abbot: Then who did?
Costello: Yueh did!

Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a bird (4, Informative)

vivin (671928) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668402)

The article doesn't make it clear that the aircraft still needs to be pulled for it to glide into the air (you can see this in the attached video). I was under the impression that it took off like a bird. The "flapping" of the wings is really cool to see though, once the craft gets airborne.

Either way, really neat.

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (-1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668624)

"article doesn't make it clear that the aircraft still needs to be pulled for it to glide into the air (you can see this in the attached video)."

Doesn't look like your video attached so here's the link to a car pulling the aircraft so it can take flight. [vimeo.com]

Sorry but I'm not impressed, all they did was build a glider with flapping wings. It can not take flight by itself, it requires a car to pull it until it is airborne.

How disappointing

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (2, Insightful)

iamacat (583406) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668826)

This is the FIRST FLIGHT of the FIRST PROTOTYPE built by a college student who further chose to pilot it himself rather than hiring a professional athlete (although he did train and even lose weight). If the first prototype of a software application you wrote in school was more impressive than that, we would love to hear of it. Otherwise tone down the skepticism. One day people might fly this as a sports/hobby thing after being boosted by a friend or a ski lift-type thingy or it would be a cool spy gadget you can assemble from your backpack. Add a two person model or a very small motor to supplement human power and it becomes vastly more practical.

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668880)

Tell me how to build a full scale ornithopter that has room for a full wing-flap while grounded and still weighs little enough to get airborne, otherwise I'm just not impressed with your disappointment.

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669388)

Well, I made one or two as a kid, from thin steel wire and aluminium foil, rubber band-powered. The best could fly one park length (~50m?) from the ground by flapping furiously. Looked awesome in flight, but always lost a wing or tail on landing.

Too bad video at the time meant a (super-expensive and nearly impossible to find) 8mm video camera and a place to develop the roll.

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (1)

StickInTheMud94 (1127619) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669016)

I think one of the main problems with flapping wing take off is the initial oscillations. I think that the vehicle (made of very light materials) has to oscillate (crash) into the ground a few times before getting enough speed generated by the flapping wings...getting a tough enough machine to withstand those initial crashes is likely the reason some form of powered assist is required. For now. Big kudos to these researchers!

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668630)

Indeed. Who'd of thunk that being towed into a glide slope qualifies as "human powered."

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668682)

Actually, there are different kinds of birds.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEP-KgJkYnw

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669004)

I am not impressed at all because of it. I understand that it needs to get launched some how, but it seems to me that it just glided off the initial tow. It would have probably gone father if it didn't flap the wings. I know my gliders I build RC ones and that flapping would just be consider flutter which actually spoils the lift. The flapping would probably create some lift but at the speeds this one was moving it looks like it just spoils it.
And I don't just build any gliders mine go past 300mph [youtube.com] and in the right conditions I can make ounce 60" bricks fly [youtube.com]

World record has now past 400mph. I haven't been able to build anything tht will structurally handle those speeds just disintegrates on the air.

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (1)

FrigBot (1459361) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669340)

I don't get why you didn't post using your real name. Why be an AC?

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (1)

Motard (1553251) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669272)

I was a little disappointed by that. It went from "Best News Story Ever" to "Cool, but I'm not entirely sure that flight was demonstrated".

Still, a minor downhill incline would seem to be a reasonable requirement.

But is it true flight, or is it using ground effect?

I guess we'll need to send him off a cliff. ;)

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669604)

I was a little disappointed by that. It went from "Best News Story Ever" to "Cool, but I'm not entirely sure that flight was demonstrated".

How about if we wait to see the kid's thesis, where presumably he'll find a way to demonstrate the flapping adds something over a non-flapping flight? I hope he can do that. Cool story.

Re:Awesome stuff, but it doesn't take off like a b (2, Informative)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669478)

consider that most birds do give themselves a first start with their legs rather then wings. Hell, the swan basically runs like crazy before getting of the ground. And iirc, the wright brothers flier was pulled along a rail using a weight and pulley system to get enough speed. But once up to speed, the motorcycle engine was enough to keep it up there unless the pilot did something crazy.

Ornithopter (0, Redundant)

koterica (981373) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668416)

Can we ride it out to the spice [wikipedia.org] harvester?

The things grad students will do... (5, Funny)

kurokame (1764228) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668420)

To put off writing their thesis.

Re:The things grad students will do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668562)

I realize you're making a joke but.... This hasn't been done before, right? So then wouldn't explaining the aerodynamics behind how this works be suitable for a thesis?

On Ornithopters (4, Funny)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668448)

Human-powered ornithopters? Sounds like Dune meets the Flintstones!
Atreides, Paul Atreides
He's the greatest man in history
On the planet Arrakis
He'll kill Harkonnen and make the Fremen free

Re:On Ornithopters (1)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668766)

*haha*

oh ....god damnit...

*hihi*

christ...

I'd mod ya if i could.

Re:On Ornithopters (4, Funny)

boxwood (1742976) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669502)

I see you've bought into all the government propaganda about Paul Atreides.

FACT: Paul Atreides isn't a true Fremen. Why haven't we seen his birth certificate? I'll tell you why, he wasn't even born on Arrakis.

FACT: Paul Atreides is a secret Harkonnen. He cares more about loss of spice harvesting equipment than the lives of people. That doesn't sound like an Atreides to me.

FACT: Paul Atreides has a huge ego. He thinks he's some kind of messiah.

FACT: Paul Atreides's mother dabbles in witchcraft. She claims that she's no longer a witch, but do we really believe that?

FACT: Paul Atreides regularly cheats on his wife. The only reason he's still married is because it would hurt him politically to end the marriage.

Yeah, he makes big promises about making Arrakis more green, but what how can we trust him?

Re:On Ornithopters (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669560)

Human-powered ornithopters? Sounds like Dune meets the Flintstones!

So, that makes Dino...a sandworm? "Daddy's home! No, Dino! Down, Dino, Do... "

Re:On Ornithopters (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669578)

Dammit! There was supposed to be a Wilhelm scream at the end of that.

Screw the flying car... (1)

ztij (1819782) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668480)

2011 will be the year of the flying bicycle!

Re:Screw the flying car... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669402)

Only cool if it runs Linux.

Ornithoglider (4, Insightful)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668498)

So it gets towed to 20 feet and flaps a few times until it settles back to the ground. Flight? At least tow it to a certain height and flap to a higher altitude.

Re:Ornithoglider (4, Interesting)

AshtangiMan (684031) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668584)

I tend to agree. It looks like the max altitude (and perhaps speed) was reached just prior to releasing the tow cable. The flapping may have extended the glide, you can see the cockpit move up on the "flap" but it also sinks when the wings spring back up. I'm not sure what is being done is sustainable flight. I am glad they did this though, as it looks promising, and perhaps they will get to the sustainable flight goal.

Re:Ornithoglider (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668694)

The flap is meant to produce thrust, not lift I would think. The cockpit moving up and down is just a question of Newtons 2nd law, it isn't really gaining altitude or losing altitude, just changing the center of mass. I would like to know, however, how far it can fly with flapping vs how far it can glide without. That would at least give some idea of how effective it is.

Another interesting question would be what kind of wattage the operator is putting out. Is it something the average human can do or did the guy train for it for months? Is it something sustainable (200 watts lets say) or just a 30 second sprint that leaves him exhausted. Either way, it looks like they've done amazing work, especially keeping in mind that even human powered propeller aircraft are extremely difficult to make and fly.

Re:Ornithoglider (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668770)

Dude, you're never going to get 200W out of a human being, short of setting the person on fire. Muscular power should be somewhere around 1W, iirc.

Re:Ornithoglider (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668876)

1W... really? You burn about 120 Calories per mile running, and a human in very good shape can reasonably run 10 mph for a long period of time. That's 1200 Calories per hour comes out to be just about 1400W. Now granted, you're body isn't going to be 100% efficient in converting that chemical energy to mechanical, but I would bet that it's at least 15%. Or if you don't trust math, go to a science museum where they have a 100W light bulb hooked up to a stationary bike and hop on, you might just surprise yourself.

Re:Ornithoglider (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669254)

You don't even need to go anywhere. They sell crank-powered flashlight. I don't know how powerful the bulbs are, but the smallest flashlight bulb is at least two or three watts, and they only requires cranking about 1/4th of the time, with the rest going into a battery which isn't 100% efficient.

So if you can run a 3 watt bulb off fifteen seconds of cranking for 60 seconds, that's at minimum 12 watts, and probably more like 20 watts after you convert to batteries and back. While cranking a small crank, which is not a very efficient way of moving your arm, and legs are a lot better than even 100% efficient arm movement...we're evolved to walk for 12 hours at a time without getting tired (Although most of us are not in good enough shape), and on a bike, it's even less energy.

Re:Ornithoglider (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668890)

I've heard sprinters can put out 1 or 2 kilowatts in short bursts.
And if I can pedal a bicycle dynamo that powers a 3 watt lightbulb, that's probably like 10 watts at least.

Re:Ornithoglider (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668892)

You're thinking watts per kilogram of body weight, probably.

Wikipedia says:
Amateur bicycle racers can typically produce 3 watts/kg for more than an hour (e.g., around 210 watts for a 70 kg rider), with top amateurs producing 5 W/kg and elite athletes achieving 6 W/kg for similar lengths of time.

Re:Ornithoglider (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668944)

An ordinary cyclist (i.e. me) can easily produce 250 watts (a third of a horsepower). I know this because I got "volunteered" at college for a lab session. Given that I'm a bit of a bleb, I suspect a good cyclist can sustain that for a long time and/or produce considerably more over short periods.

I guess you're a 'Merkin, and therefore have either a) different units of measure or b) very different standards of fysical phatness.

The Internet: magical fact verifying machine (4, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668972)

Do you remember when, back in the day, you could write or say anything about anything, no matter how uninformed you were, and if you communicated authoritatively enough, your audience would just eat it up with a spoon and not question you? Yeah, we have the Internet now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human-powered_transport [wikipedia.org]

In the 1989 Race Across America, one team (Team Strawberry) [1] used an experimental device that consisted of a rear wheel hub, a sensor and a handlebar mounted processor. The device measured each cyclist's power output in watts. In lab experiments an average "in-shape" cyclist can produce about 3 watts/kg for more than an hour (e.g., around 200 watts for a 70 kg rider), with top amateurs producing 5 watts/kg and elite athletes achieving 6 watts/kg for similar lengths of time. Elite track sprint cyclists are able to attain an instantaneous maximum output of around 2,000 watts, or in excess of 25 watts/kg; elite road cyclists may produce 1,600 to 1,700 watts as an instantaneous maximum in their burst to the finish line at the end of a five-hour long road race.

Re:Ornithoglider (1)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668800)

Seriously... You can't tell at all whether the flapping did anything productive at all. The plane is towed into the air for a fair distance, then appears to coast and land - towards the end there's a little bit of flapping that doesn't seem to do anything at all. I'm not sure what, exactly, this is supposed to display, because it certainly doesn't demonstrate to the public (through the video) that this particular flapping does anything.

Re:Ornithoglider (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668856)

Birds have feathers on the wingtip that provide forward thrust on the down stroke.

Yes, the flapping is keeping it in the air (4, Informative)

Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668984)

I looked at all the videos available for the flight. It is obvious that the flapping is maintaining flight - if he just started gliding at the release point, there is no way the flight would have been as long. This [vimeo.com] is probably the best view, and it also lets you hear what this thing sounds like when it flaps.

Re:Yes, the flapping is keeping it in the air (1)

spinninggears (551247) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669376)

Can you really tell from the video you can determine how long and far he could have flown without the "flapping wings". I would like to see a comparison of this machine with an ordinary glider launched with the same altitude and speed.

Re:Yes, the flapping is keeping it in the air (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669622)

Just speculating from a armchair, but i would guess that the problem is that the flapping is more vertical then horizontal.

Also, as the wing do not deform much on the up stroke, i will claim that it basically produce much the same force downwards as it did upwards on the down stroke. Birds and bats appears to collapse the wings on the upstroke to allow it to move into position with minimal drag, not unlike a person swimming butterfly strokes.

Re:Ornithoglider (1)

midtoad (18044) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669102)

Let's see you stay in the air for more than a few seconds from a height of 5-6m in any unpowered aircraft. You'd watch a baby's first steps and say "that's not walking! you didn't even climb a flight of stairs!"

Re:Ornithoglider (1)

Rhacman (1528815) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669222)

I think the point is that it is hard to tell if this is any more than a glider. Even in a glider it is possible to gain altitude if you find the right air currents to provide lift.

Re:Ornithoglider (1)

spinninggears (551247) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669406)

Put me in an ordinary glider, give me the same initial altitude and initial velocity, and I think I will go as far as this machine.

The beginning (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668504)

...is a very delicate time.

Magically delicious (1)

GodricL (1898284) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668520)

Back in my day our Ornithopters cost zero mana and our Atogs liked it!

Re:Magically delicious (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668552)

My biggest question for him, is whether it made more sense to shrink the person or just ask Wizard's of the Coast to print a larger card.

Dune References (1)

bieber (998013) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668550)

I opened this when the front page was telling me there were only five comments, wondering if anyone had made a Dune reference yet. Oh, how naive I was...

Ph.D. Candidate (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668558)

FAIL.

Do yourself a favor and quit while your alive and stupid rather than dead and stupid.

Yours In Vladivostok [youtube.com] ,
K. Trout

Powered flight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668576)

Evidence should be provided that the aircraft can gain altitude without losing speed if the claim is made of powered flight. I am not convinced by this video that sustained flight is possible with this device given how much energy the car provided before the tow line was dropped. An aircraft that continually loses total energy (the sum of kinetic energy from speed and potential energy from altitude) is a glorified glider.

Re:Powered flight? (1)

GraZZ (9716) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668644)

They had an official there witnessing the flight, so I'm sure the appropriate definition of powered flight will have been taken into consideration.

Flap or car? (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668608)

Looks more like an automobile-powered flight to me. A car pulls it into the air, it flaps a few times and descends. That is human-powered, flapping flight? Sorry, doesn't impress me all that much.

Re:Flap or car? (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668830)

It maintained its altitude until they ran out of field. Not bad for a first flight. Give them time to refine it further.

I was really impressed by how graceful the wing flapping looked. It's not just a simple up-down motion of the ends, but a more complex wave-like motion over most of the wingspan.

Potential Customer (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668696)

Potential Customer: Ryanair.

Not the first, by any means (4, Informative)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668734)

This is not even close to the first human powered ornithopter. One of the most significant recent attempts is Yves Rousseau [wikipedia.org] who crashed and became a paraplegic as a result of one of his flights.

Weight concern? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668754)

I wonder why their design only used motion in one direction (push), never mind only using such a small amount of body strength (legs).
A design similar to a rowing machine would use more body strength, and could also capture energy in both directions. Hmm... rowing-powered ultralight chopper, anyone?

Re:Weight concern? (1)

brainboyz (114458) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669318)

The human body is much more powerful pushing with the legs / pulling with the arms.Given it looks like the "push" pulls the wingtips towards the ground and airframe weight / air flow pulls the wingtips back up, the "pull" would only serve to increase weight (additional linkage, or linkage capable of tension and compression) with little gain in power. However, I fail to see how a rowing machine would capture much energy on the reverse stroke comparative to the normal power stroke.

Inventor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668812)

Was the inventor's name Urza, by any chance?

flapping wings while falling down slowly (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668874)

This looked like the wings were flapping but the machine was slowly going down, not a single flap pushed it up.

This did not look like a flight, it looked like a delayed fall.

Fi8st post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33668906)

bloC in o+rder to already dead. It is

ornithopter? (1)

jguevin (453329) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668940)

Sure, it seems like a neat project now, but just wait until this guy swoops over Toronto and sounds the Panic Horn.

Not that great... (3, Interesting)

EkriirkE (1075937) | more than 4 years ago | (#33668956)

This is merely a glider, nothing more. The up-flap cancels out the down-flap as the wings appear to move vertically. All winged animals I'm aware of either twist their wings at angles or fold them, especially on the up-flap, so that most of the powered force is directed to pushing air under the wings on the down flap and the wing simply cuts through the air on the up flap.

Re:Not that great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33669368)

He's probably relying on the typical wing shape to do that, which is assymmetrical on the z-axis. Since there's more surface area on the top of the wing, there's less air resistance.

Re:Not that great... (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669392)

Because surely just basing it on those videos you can judge the wing twist and such. LOL.

Re:Not that great... (1)

spinninggears (551247) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669466)

I can't judge much at all from the videos, be it "wing twist" or whether this machines performs any better than an ordinary glider. Considering this is graduate student project at a major university, I was expecting real data and analysis not just videos. The U of T PR machine seems to be working quite well however.

No crap on a car windshield? (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669458)

In order to win the Ornithopter X-Prize, you need to flap and stay in the air long enough to drop your pants, and take a crap on a car windshield.

Now that would really prove that man can build a machine that enables man to emulate bird behavior.

Nothing new (2, Interesting)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 4 years ago | (#33669572)

...we've had flapping-wing aircraft for three-quarters of a century.

Birds flap their wings with a painfully inefficient reciprocating motion, because nature doesn't know how to make one critical component: a rotating joint. We do, so our wing-flappers flap their wings with nice, efficient rotary motion...and we call them helicopters.

rj

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