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Another Ornithopter Takes Off 166

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the only-way-to-not-travel dept.
mnmn writes "Ornithopters have been around for a while, but a professor at the Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies has made progress with his. It flew for 14 seconds and covered a third of a kilometer. However it landed with a bit of a crash. Interestingly it uses a glow jet turbine from RC aircraft."
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Another Ornithopter Takes Off

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  • A Glow Jet Turbine? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mindwarp (15738) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @09:51AM (#15686880) Homepage Journal
    As far as I was aware model jet turbines run on Kerosene, just like their bigger brethren. Glow fuel is Nitromethane mixed with a lubricant such as Castor or Synthetic oil.
  • At last (Score:3, Funny)

    by Centurix (249778) <centurix AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday July 09, 2006 @09:52AM (#15686881) Homepage
    Someone flapping about something worthwhile!
  • by rangeva (471089) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @09:59AM (#15686899) Homepage Journal
    Cool!!! Can't wait for those charter flights to America on Boing Ornithopters... I wonder what kind of drinks they offer...
  • birds (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stocke2 (600251) * on Sunday July 09, 2006 @10:02AM (#15686908)
    I wonder if one problem is birds wings, while they do flap, they do not have a rigid shape, they change shape durring flight.
    I wonder if an ornithopter could work with a wing that could change it shape slightly.
    of course I am still not sure, is there an advantage to an ornithopter or is it just a curiosity thing?
    • Re:birds (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sowelu (713889)
      As far as I can tell, the main advantage of an ornithopter--the reason that birds use that design--is that it doesn't require spinning parts, and it doesn't require literally burning fuel ie high temperatures. Living creatures don't spin very well or very fast and have no ball bearings, so living propellors would be out of the question, and throwing away some of your own mass isn't a good survival strategy, plus high temperatures have all kinds of problems. Bird wings are very useful if you don't have met
      • Re:birds (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Deadstick (535032) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @11:02AM (#15687060)
        Precisely. We already have flapping-wing aircraft, and they fly much more efficiently than birds because we know how to make a rotating joint and nature doesn't. Consequently we flap with economical rotary [npr.org] motion instead of energy-wasting reciprocating motion.

        rj

        • Precisely. We already have flapping-wing aircraft, and they fly much more efficiently than birds because we know how to make a rotating joint and nature doesn't. Consequently we flap with economical rotary motion instead of energy-wasting reciprocating motion.

          There's a project [psu.edu] at Boeing to create a hummingbird-like propulsion system. It says, "Flapping flight may be the wave of the future for aviation." Their system relies on a shape-memory-metal actuator muscle. I'm forgetting at the moment who but ther
          • The largest birds, for example condors and albatrosses, spend almost all their time as fixed-wing gliders riding thermals. And even a Cessna 180 is bigger than a condor.

            This technology is for tiny and covert unmanned aircraft.
        • Re:birds (Score:5, Informative)

          by wjsteele (255130) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @08:06PM (#15688478)
          Sorry, but that is just not true. My Daughter won a four year scholarship by proving that Ornithopters are actually much more efficient in converting energy into flight then propeller driven airplanes. (Jet's are very inefficient compared to piston engined aircraft, it's just that they fly faster on cheaper fuel and have much lower maintenance costs which make them more "dollar efficient.")

          Anyway, the point is, during her analysis (which I might add was very impressive and detailed) she concluded that the flapping motion of birds and insects (which actually have two different flight models) were approximatly 300% more efficient at converting energy into aerodynamic fluid motion. Insects being a slight bit more efficient at it in denser air - which dramatically falls off the larger they get. Birds maintain efficiency to much thinner air - hence their ability to fly with increased sizes - with no known theroetical limit based on her limited science.

          What insects and most birds both do very well is use the wings motion in either direction to produces both lift and thrust (which is just lift in the direction of flight.)

          The real limit to ornithopters is the physical stresses created by the flapping motion. If you can model a birds wings on that large of a scale, the stress on the materials are tremendous, so careful thought has to go into materials selection as well as energy distribution. In fact, in these guy's earlier models, they were suffering breakages at the hinges (weak points.)

          Bill

          • Jet's are very inefficient compared to piston engined aircraft, it's just that they fly faster on cheaper fuel and have much lower maintenance costs which make them more "dollar efficient.")

            And yet 747s are the most efficient known method for moving people from place to place. Funny how that works.

            • Re:birds (Score:5, Informative)

              by ipfwadm (12995) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @10:25PM (#15688859) Homepage
              And yet 747s are the most efficient known method for moving people from place to place. Funny how that works.

              If you're speaking strictly of fuel efficiency, then bullshit. A 747 cruises at 650 mph. The highest number of seats currently in use on a 747 is 587 (most 747s have fewer seats due to first and business classes). This gives a maximum of 381,550 passenger miles per hour (source: Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]).

              A 747 burns, on average, 3,743 gallons of fuel per hour (source: International Civil Aviation Organization [icao.int]). This translates to 101 passenger miles per gallon.

              My Corolla, on the other hand, gets between 37 and 40 miles per gallon on the highway. Since we packed 'em in like sardines on the jet, we might as well do the same for the car and stick five people in there. At the low end of the mileage range, that's 185 passenger miles per gallon. Pretty amazing feat Toyota has pulled off, eh? Almost doubling the efficiency of the most efficient mode of transportation ever conceived!

              Even taking account the fact that a road route is longer than a great circle route, the car is still more efficient (15 gallons per passenger for the car, 24 for the 747 from JFK to LAX).

              And if I recall correctly, trains are quite a bit more efficient than cars.

              Now if you want to take time into account, or the infrastructure required to build a road/railroad across the country, then it's a slightly different story. But since the GP wasn't talking about those, it's a bit irrelevant.
              • so, what is the gas mileage of your Corolla when you drive over the Atlantic ocean? Based on my calculaiton its 0 miles per gallon.

                You also fail to take into account luggage.
                give each passenger of your vehical 2 suitcases and a carry on. Now you have 2 people and a completly full corolla. Of course you Estimated gas mileage will plummet as well because your milieage is based on 1 person, and the airline numbers are based on a full craft.
                Even if you gas mileage was the same, since you are moving 2 people, no
                • You also fail to take into account luggage.

                  I didn't. My parent did. He said, if you recall, "And yet 747s are the most efficient known method for moving people from place to place." Makes the rest of your post rather moot.

                  But by nitpicking holes in the specifics of my post, you fail to comprehend the gist of the thing: that saying the 747 is the most efficient method of travel is ridiculous. The Corolla was merely an example to demonstrate that. Change the Corolla to a van. Gets less mileage, but hol
          • for your completly unbiased information.

            Please, get some scientific data by a source that you are not related to.

            Because my son did quite a nice paper(which I might add was very impressive and detailed), on how ducks would be better if they sun beams out of there eyes, and my daughter, who partnered with him on this paper, also said the pink ducks are better. Both agreed the jets were better because they looked neat.

            • Have you ever heard of the Scientific Method? Scientific Data - regardless of who collects it, is still scientific data and can be checked and reproduced by anyone. Several other individuals examined her methods and results and determined that it was accurate, hence her winning the four year College scholarship.

              Being related to Einstein doesn't invalidate the "Special Theory of Relitivity" does it? It's not biased, it's proven.

              Bill
      • Living creatures don't spin very well or very fast and have no ball bearings, so living propellors would be out of the question

        I bet you didn't know that nature invented the rotary engine... it's used for some types of flagella, in the field of bacterial propulsion. :)

    • Re:birds (Score:4, Informative)

      by cgenman (325138) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @06:08PM (#15688227) Homepage
      It had been said for many years that bees to not posess large enough wings to fly, and therefore they don't.

      Recently, it was discovered that the bending of the bees' wings helped to create and pull vortecies of air from the base of the wings out to the tips, tripling the effective lift for the same surface area.

      My guess is you're quite correct... until we move to a soft-wing design, we're going to have a heck of a time getting advantage to ornithoptor flight. And non-rigid industrial quality materials isn't exactly what our society is known for producing right now.

      • by njh (24312)
        It has also been said for many years that aeroplane wings work because a low pressure is created on the upper surface. What many people say does not always correspond to what scientists know.
        • Re:birds (Score:5, Informative)

          by aXis100 (690904) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @08:14PM (#15688504)
          I agree. Im 29 and consider myself to be pretty bright, yet I only discovered that misconception a year ago. Both the education system and mass media repeat "popular" junk science, and it was only by accident that I drilled into a deeper explanation on lift and was suprised with the real science.

          This site [fiu.edu] has a pretty good explanation. My favourite sentence is this:

          Students of physics and aerodynamics are taught that airplanes fly as a result of Bernoulli's principle, which says that if air speeds up the pressure is lowered. Thus a wing generates lift because the air goes faster over the top creating a region of low pressure, and thus lift. This explanation usually satisfies the curious and few challenge the conclusions. Some may wonder why the air goes faster over the top of the wing and this is where the popular explanation of lift falls apart.
          • Cool, thnx. It never made much sense to me that the air on the top side should be at the end of the tip at the same time as the air at the bottom side (I guess there is no system, be it air, liquid, or light, where such a principle should be true, help me if I'm wrong). Still, I never took the effort to look it up.

            Ok, I might be not completely correct, but a simplified summary for the lazy people: the actual concept is that air is blown downwards, pushing the plane up.

            The mechanism is air viscosity: Flo

          • "Some may wonder why the air goes faster over the top of the wing and this is where the popular explanation of lift falls apart."

            that is an incorrect. Nobody says the air 'goes faster' over the top. Air has more distance to travel, therefore lower pressure lower pressure Q.E.D.

            There examples are very flawed as well. An airplave typically fly's with it's nose up, so the shape of the wing doesn't need to be a exaggerated as the examples says it does.

            Also, they ignore the fact that a wing on a jumbio jet, such
  • I dunno... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 09, 2006 @10:09AM (#15686926)
    These things really didn't help Paul.
  • in my MTG deck. 0/2 creatures with flying. I never knew they actually worked. I thought they were some crackpot invention that didn't really fly and was a MTG joke.
    • Perhaps, but fire breathing Ornithopters were a great addition to any flying red deck, giving you cheap flying creatures, capable of delivering quite a punch...
    • Me too. But I didn't know they were good for anything else than having 3 free artifacts in the first turn, giving me the opportunity to bring a Frogmit (2/2, 4 Mana with affinity for artifacts) in before anyone else could play his creatures.. OMG... did I play like a mindless pile of mud those days...
      (artifact lands are banned these days?! or just restricted? are ornithopters restricted too?)
  • by avi33 (116048) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @10:10AM (#15686931) Homepage
    My friend invented a flapping paper airplane [mac.com] 20+ years ago in junior high. Of course it's not nearly the same, since it reacts to pressure fluctuations instead of creating them. There are (pdf) instructions so anyone can be an ornithoptrix.

  • Am I the only one that thought of Magic: The Gathering when they read the title?
    • Re:Wait... what?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KylePflug (898555) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @01:47PM (#15687567) Homepage
      Real nerds thought of Dune.
  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @10:23AM (#15686961) Homepage
    A slashdot article that is

    1) Interesting
    2) NOT and infomercial or astroturf
    3) Has a paragraph to page ratio of greater than 2
    4) Has some modicum of detail
    5) Not about SCO, Apple, Google or Mr. Bill

    Congrats. Of course, the signal to noise ratio is still painfully small. But it's a start.
    • The easiest way to reduce SNR on things like slashdot, digg, etc is to apply a meta-filtering technique, perhaps through Yet Another Community Portal, but with much smarter filtering technology. A colleague and I have come up with an algorithm that would eliminate most of these problems, but after talking to Digg for a while about it, they weren't interested. If someone with a reasonable chance of success were to set up yet another community portal, I might be inclined to donate my research to its benefit
      • Why don't you just publish the formulae for all to see?
        • Well there's nothing terribly "secret" about it (I suspect it is similar to how amazon reccomendations are calculated, but it may have a different mathematical basis), however I can't really publish it until I have real-life statistical data to test it on, as it assumes a very specific generative model that I can only conjecture represents the users of a site well. It is also possible that because the generative model does not translate very well to linear algebraic calculations (like, say, fixed size inte
          • as it assumes a very specific generative model that I can only conjecture represents the users of a site well. It is also possible that because the generative model does not translate very well to linear algebraic calculations (like, say, fixed size intermediate feature models)

            Argle Bargle Morble Whoosh?

          • Well there's nothing terribly "secret" about it

            Except you need to keep it secret if you want it to work long-term. Look at the example of Google's Page Rank system, and how once it became commercially successful it also became the target of "gaming the system".

            The other thing to keep in mind is a lot of us come to /. for the comments, not just the stories. There's not much of a "community feel" to digg, but there's plenty here at /. So regardless of whether a story is a dupe, boring, a slow news day,

            • No, the type of algorithm I have developed is pretty much impervious to anyone gaming the system, except over very short runs... this kind of thing can be proven statistically in a very straightforward way. Also it is possible to detect the "short term" abuse that is possible in these systems and reduce that... it's a fairly simple signal detection problem.
    • by RMB2 (936187) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @12:39PM (#15687372)
      A slashdot article that is
      .
      .
      5) Not about SCO, Apple, Google or Mr. Bill
      Ironically enough, I'm not entirely sure you read TFA, because they clearly mention "a remote-controlled ornithopter, which they called Mr. Bill"

      Huh, well 4 outta 5 ain't bad
    • Yes, but so unfortunate that someone spoiled a good moment by mentioning all those things in the discussion.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    My friend had been an engineer on the flapper project for years and it was only recently that the booster was added. As far as I understand, the wings do flex and have successfully propeled the plane on the runway to significant (~60kph) speeds without need for a boost, however, the plane kept oscillating into the ground. More than one interesting test day was the result. All I can say is "congratulations" to those on the flapper team...its been a long time coming. :) (I hope there will be an alumni par
  • by Migraineman (632203) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @10:32AM (#15686985)
    The professor's website is being hammered by us, so I've only got the Star article to go from. "The R/C turbine provides thrust to get up to takeoff speed, at which point the flapping wings take over." I didn't see mention of a secondary propulsion means that causes the wings to flap. Electric motor? Pedal power? Briggs & Stratton? I'm curious how much horsepower it takes to keep his bird aloft. Anyone know?
  • He did it just for the record. I mean, take a local news reporter and a camera man, construct something utterly impossible and be sure to name the thing properly, then ride it, make the news and you've gotten yourself a history record and maybe a Slashdot news entry too.
  • I doubt anybody would like to sponsor it. As everyone is working on getting things cleaner, this seems like a feul gusler.
    Nobody should stop dreaming though, they should open a donation page and print names on the wings!
  • Anything like a BIRDS wings, and not aerodynamic lifting bodies, I might have been impressed.

    I cannot see how this would even qualify as a ORNIT-anything. Color me skeptical, but it could have
    been just luck the contraption went anywhere at all. Flapping aerodynamic wings must have been fighting
    the lifdthe wings naturally gave the craft.

    Calling PURE , UNADULTERATED BULLSHIT over here. Blue ribbion winner!
    • by Deadstick (535032) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @11:13AM (#15687109)
      A bird's wing is an aerodynamic lifting body, and model ornithopters were flying before the Wright Brothers. They don't "fight against the lift" of the wing, but use it in a pretty sophisticated way.

      We don't have human-carrying ornithopters because scaling effects get in the way. The ability of a wing to produce lift (and the muscle power available to it, in the case of a bird) goes up as the square of the size, but the weight goes up as the cube.

      This is what limits the size of birds. A hummingbird can fly all day, even hovering motionless. A robin needs to rest once in a while. An eagle can only fly under muscle power in bursts; most of the time he has to soar on rising thermal currents like a sailplane. An ornithopter big enough to carry a human is going to need a LOT of power.

      rj
      • What you say regarding bird size correlating to flapping endurance seems to make sense. However if you consider migratory birds your thesis starts to fall apart. There are many long-distance migratory birds that can fly all day and many of them are large, heavy birds such as geese, swans, and storks.
        • I suspect that this can be chalked up to the proportionatly enormous wing muscles these birds have, which is why ducks and geese are sought after game birds. They have tons of white meat compared to, say, a crow. They also have a relatively long wingspan for their weight, I think.

          Also, migratory birds don't fly the whole way from Canada down south in one go. They often stop to rest and refuel (and crap on my car).

          I'm no ornithologist, but these seem like logical deductions. Could be wrong.
          • All logical conclusions. When anything migrates, it has to stop and refuel and rest eventually. Also, it's not like there's one bird flying his ass off for 3000 miles all by himself. Ever notice the reverse V formation geese use when migrating? It's the most efficient formation for distance flying. The lead bird does most of the work, and each bird in sequence behind the lead does less and less work to stay aloft, because they're in a drafting chain. The birds at or near the back of the V are working the le
          • They have tons of white meat compared to, say, a crow.
            http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a981204b.html [straightdope.com]

            Basically, white meat stays white because farmers clip their chickens' wings to keep them from exercising those muscles much.

            The more a muscles is exercised, the darker the meat gets.
          • They have tons of white meat

            White meat is the atrophied pectoral muscle of a flightless bird, with very little blood supply. Ducks and geese are all dark meat.

            rj
      • We don't have human-carrying ornithopters because scaling effects get in the way. The ability of a wing to produce lift (and the muscle power available to it, in the case of a bird) goes up as the square of the size, but the weight goes up as the cube. This is what limits the size of birds

        So what about these [wikipedia.org]? They flew and were big. Really big. So why can't birds get that big?

      • A hummingbird can fly all day

        Hummingbirds use a huge amount of energy for their size.

        I see sunbirds (old world equivalent of hummingbirds) in my garden and they are constantly drinking nectar. Relative to their size they must be consuming a lot more than robins or eagles.

        • The power a bird (or other animal) can put out is roughly proportional to its weight...but because of the scaling relation I mentioned above, that's relatively plentiful for a hummingbird and scarce for, say, a condor. All birds eat heavily.

          rj
    • > Calling [...] BULLSHIT

      I tend to agree. The point of an Ornithopter would be to provide both lift and thrust with one element: the flapping wing. But this contraption uses a mini turbine to provide thrust, and it flaps the wing only for ... no purpose at all? Or rather it flaps the wing for being classified as a flapping wing contraption.

      Even for real a Ornithopter I remain skeptical. Using wings for lift and turbines for thrust is a very solid principle with a minimum of moving parts. To be precise, th
  • by alexhs (877055) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @11:18AM (#15687125) Homepage Journal
    It flew for 14 seconds [...] However it landed with a bit of a crash

    Is that their server being slashhunted that they're talking about ?
  • I know this may initially seem like a silly thing for people to build, but don't be fooled. Just as helicopters and airplanes have both found their niche, it is possible that ornithopters could one day fill another one. The fact that such a large one can fly even for a short amount of time is truly remarkable.
  • There are already small-scale (miniature compared to this) radio-controlled ornithopters that seem to fly every bit as well as a normal electric parkflyer. The problem is scaling the idea up. What makes this version somewhat revolutionary is that fact that it is full scale. The forces that the various parts of an ornithopter would experience when the flapping motion is occurring are pretty great, yet the materials have to be light-weight. Sounds like this flight was a complete success, despite the crash
  • by c41rn (880778) on Sunday July 09, 2006 @01:40PM (#15687548)
    According to this article [ornithopter.org], manned ornithopter flight had been achieved in 1942 by Adalbert Schmid. Like the ornithopter in the article, it was a manned, engine-powered ornithopter that could take off under its own power. The difference, it seems, is that Schmid's orni' had fixed wings in addition to the flappers whereas the one that flew today had only the flapping wings. Not to discredit or lessen their excellent achievement today, just think the history is interesting.

    Incidentally, you can buy some pretty neat ornithopter kits from www.ornithopter.org [ornithopter.org]. I'm not affiliated or anything, just interested in flapping-wing flight and experimenting on a small scale.

    The development of flapping wing flight is interesting because it can also have other applications. I am especially interested in the use of 'flapper' designs in water craft (specifically for use in robotics). An interesting use of similar tech can be seen in these kayaks [hobiecat.com]. Intersting stuff.

  • I hate to rain on their parade, but I don't consider a flight in ground effect to be a real flight, otherwise you could say hovercraft are flying too. When an aircraft is within about one wingspan of the ground, it can fly much more efficiently. An aircraft that can fly in ground effect can't necessarily fly up to usefull altitudes.

    The use of jets to give it a boost up to takoff speed is also highly questionable. Even if they cut the jets before liftoff, it may be sort of like a slingshot launch, which is

  • All we need are some giant mutated worms (courtesy of an Indian-Pakistani nuclear war) and a few more years of global warming, and we can have our very own Arrakis!

It's hard to think of you as the end result of millions of years of evolution.

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