[Note: You should definitely watch the video below and see the very natural-looking way the wings of this flying machine flap.]
Ornithopters (from the Greek words ornithos “bird” and pteron “wing”) have a long history. They are basically machines or aircrafts that fly by “flapping their wings.” Leonardo da Vinci was a pioneer in the development of ornithopters — in 1485 he began to study birds in depth and made note that humans were too heavy and weak to fly simply by attaching wings to their arms but could perhaps due so with a more sophisticated aircraft.
Although there have been a handful of human-powered ornithopters built in the past 100 years or so, confirming that they were flying and not just gliding has been difficult.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Ornithopter Brought to Life, Flies in Canada
A Canadian engineering student, Todd Reichert, recently powered and piloted an ornithopter called Snowbird in what he and his colleagues from the University of Toronto, Poitiers University in France and Delft Technical University in the Netherlands think is “the first sustained flight of a human-powered ornithopter worldwide.”
The Snowbird flew 476 feet (145 meters) in 19.3 seconds, traveling at an average speed of 16.5 miles per hour (25.6 kilometers per hour). It definitely would have made Leonardo da Vinci proud.
“The Snowbird represents the completion of an age-old aeronautical dream,” Reichert said.
This successful, human-powered flight is likely to go into the Guinness Book of world records and and official flight record document has been submitted to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) for confirmation.
Congratulations to these modern-day students and innovators of Leonardo da Vinci’s human-powered flying machine for, as they say, “achieving the age-old aeronautical dream of self-powered flapping wing flight!”
Watch a truly beautiful video of the Snowbird flying at sunrise here:
Photo Credit: screenshot of video above