Aircraft

Semi-human-powered flight project gets off the ground ... just

The wings at rest in Smeets' workshop not long before the first test flight
The wings at rest in Smeets' workshop not long before the first test flight
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Smeets' most recent schematic of the backplate strapped to a human pilot and connected to a large pair of constructed wings
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Smeets' most recent schematic of the backplate strapped to a human pilot and connected to a large pair of constructed wings
The wings at rest in Smeets' workshop not long before the first test flight
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The wings at rest in Smeets' workshop not long before the first test flight
Custom-machined ribs are used to stabilize the wings
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Custom-machined ribs are used to stabilize the wings
Testing the wings seconds before lift off ...
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Testing the wings seconds before lift off ...
The flapping wings appear to have held Smeets in the air for just a few seconds
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The flapping wings appear to have held Smeets in the air for just a few seconds

A Dutch mechanical engineer is working on realizing da Vinci's dream of human-powered flight, with some help from modern technology. Jarnos Smeets is the driving force between the Human Birdwings Project, which utilizes a combination of gadgets including an HTC Wildfire S and a Wii remote. He claims to have conducted his first successful test flight this week, even though he didn't appear to get too far off the ground.

Smeets' basic concept is a little bit different than Jetman's, who managed to rocket himself across part of the Grand Canyon. Instead of a jetpack, a set of motorized wings made from a large kite sacrificed for the project and powered by a pair of brushless outrunner motors, is hooked on to the back of a (hopefully) willing participant.

The "pilot" also slips his arms through a pair of specially designed sleeves that are linked to the wings by a flexible connection and include an Android smartphone (the HTC Wildfires have been used so far) on each sleeve. When the pilot flaps his arms like a bird, the Android phones send speed information from their internal accelerometers via Bluetooth to a Seeduino microcontroller board on the back of the harness that then translates the human arm motions into motor-powered flaps of the wings.

The motorized propulsion system uses planetary gearboxes connected to eccentric shifts to achieve a range of motion that mimics a bird's wing-flap. That's all a technical way of saying the design converts human arm flaps into a more elegant motion that might actually generate some lift with the help of the wings.

Smeets also added a Wii remote mounted on the backplate of the harness to the original design, connecting its accelerometer with those in the Android smartphones to be able to tell the acceleration of the arms relative to that of the wings. Here's Smeets' schematic of the complete backplate that would be worn as a backpack by the pilot:

Smeets' most recent schematic of the backplate strapped to a human pilot and connected to a large pair of constructed wings
Smeets' most recent schematic of the backplate strapped to a human pilot and connected to a large pair of constructed wings

The wings themselves were constructed using lightweight kite fabric within a frame and with a series of custom-cut aerodynamic vertical ribs across the underside for stabilization. There's also a small tail-wing covering the mechanical parts of the apparatus that runs perpendicular to the main wing assemblies.

The project has been underway for several months now, and as you can see in the video of the test flight below, this early prototype does seem to suspend Smeets a few feet off the ground for at least a few seconds. Hardly a revolution, but a big first step, if it's legitimate. Now he says he will continue fine-tuning and tweaking the system to get it closer to the dream of da Vinci ... and Smeets.

Check out the first test run in the video below, and let us know what you think.

Source: TechCrunch

Ed's note: Some of our commenters have pointed to inconsistencies in this video, suggesting it's a fake. Smeet's has posted the following reply on YouTube in response to the issue:

"*UPDATE* Its amazing to see how this video created discussion. And I understand why. Ofcourse is an EDITED video! We combined two takes, the second take has a piece of ducktape on the wing (as we damaged a small part of the wings surface during the first try). Anyway, just wait for the coming video's and see for yourself!"

Testflight with wings made from a kite | 13/14

20 comments
David Whyte
Don\'t you blokes watch the video?It\'s a fake,obviously so as well!
David Anderton
FAKE!
Bill Bennett
please point out the fake areas in the times line David W and David A, all I saw was epic fail, no CGI
Seb Stent
Ok - its fake. Before he flies, notice no black dot above the circular design on the right wing. The camera pans down, goes blurry (cut to CGI), then pans up - mysteriously, a black dot now exists above the circular design. Also notice the change (its sublt, but there) in the shadow direction, and the (more obvious) change in the reflectiveness of the wings.
klo2001
good effort guys, cheers! I also being internalising a very similar complex situation in my head re human-powered flapping wings an hope to fly them in the next Bognor birdman :)
Carlos Grados
Keep trying! I look forward to seeing this invention work.
howsthebeach
a little disappointed I\'m going to have to start questioning the validity of the articles i read on this website.. its so fake its been posted fake on many website and on its own obviously fake just looking at the lame \"cutaways\" and obvious CGI on the wings with a mirror duplication of the left one with overlaid graphic.. shadowing is bad, etc etc.
citizenw
OK. I\'ve seen better hang time on basketball players (no wings). No risk of getting too close to the sun (yet). Keep on tryin\'! ;-D
Devildog1967
It boggles the mind that otherwise intelligent people can\'t see how clearly and obviously this video is a hoax. Here\'s a clue: Any time you see a video online showing something unbelievable and the video for NO reason leaves the subject (in this example the camera is pointed at the ground JUST before he starts to \"fly\") you should ask yourself why. For those that know this technique it\'s basically a \"splice\" for lack of a better term. That\'s when the video changes from the real subject (the guy before he starts \"flying\") to the digital version which can now show the incredible, but fake, act. There\'s no need to believe this fake junk when there\'s plenty of amazing REAL flying going on such as this: http://www.gizmag.com/go/3280/
Larry Hooten
It\'s been known for a long time that human arms don\'t have the power to allow human flight. If you really want to do something like this, find a way to power it with your LEGS.
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