Ornithopters In Fact And Fiction

An ornithopter (a flapping wing aircraft) under development at the University of Toronto's Institute for Aerospace Studies may yet make Leonardo da Vinci's dream a reality. The renaissance genius designed an aircraft that would achieve both lift and thrust with its flapping wings over 500 years ago. Many have tried to make it work; none have succeeded.


(From Toronto Ornithopter)

Professor James DeLaurier leads a group of scientists and engineers in creating a full-scale aircraft (not merely a model) that is a true engine-powered piloted ornithopter. The ornithopter will have its first flight in a few weeks at the Downsview airport in Toronto.

An Italian group is hoping to create a second craft and fly it at the 2006 Olympic games in February of 2006 in honor of Da Vinci.

Science fiction fans have long been familiar with the ornithopter concept; it plays an exciting role in Frank Herbert's Dune books - see dune ornithopter for a complete article. Herbert's concept is still a little in advance of reality:

He broke off as the Duke kicked on the jet brakes. The ship bucked as its tail pods whispered to silence. Stub wings elongated, cupped the air. The craft became a full 'thopter as the Duke banked it, holding the wings to a gentle beat, pointing with his left hand off to the east beyond the factory crawler.

Fans may also be familiar with the abbreviated term 'thopter from the novel.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/2/2004)

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