Human-Powered Ornithopter Takes to the Sky

How many of you, our readers, know what an ornithopter is? No, it's not a trick question and we don't want to offend anyone, but we thought of asking because, we must admit, not may of us autoevolution editors knew much about ornithopters either.

Until watching the video we bring you below, that is. Seconds after watching it, we were simply mesmerized by the idea, excited by the event itself and pure and simply proud of the guys which made it a reality, even if we don't know much about them.

To get back to our topic, an ornithopter is an aircraft which flaps its wings as it flies. Exactly like a bird, that is. Simple as it might sound, nobody managed, until now, to make an ornithopter powered by humans work (meaning it is a pilot which flaps the wings), let alone fly.

A team of engineers from the University of Toronto however managed the impossible. Their machine, dubbed the Snowbird, took to the skies above the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ontario in the beginning of August.

In September, the team filed the papers required by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) to give the machine the title of the world's first flying ornithopter. The announcement is expected to be made in October.

The Snowbird flew for 145 meters (475 feet) at an average speed of 25.6 km/h (16 mph). It managed to stay in the air for 19.3 seconds, enough to make it the first of its kind to achieve this feat.

"The Snowbird represents the completion of an age-old aeronautical dream," lead developer and project manager Todd Reichert was quoted as saying by

"Throughout history, countless men and women have dreamt of flying like a bird under their own power, and hundreds, if not thousands have attempted to achieve it. This represents one of the last of the aviation firsts."

HPO The Snowbird from U of T Engineering on Vimeo.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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