October 28, 2014
Once again too much time has passed since I last wrote. I wanted to say thank you again for your efforts on my behalf at Hanover Messe last year. I was very happy to receive a letter from Dr. Send and learn a bit more about his work and I have thought of him (and you) often over these last few months. I imagine that you have been very busy with work and more school and friends and the birds. I too have been very busy with work and school and have neglected the blog for WAY too long. I’m not sure if you follow Tom Phillips over at Daedelus’ Notebook, but he has been on hiatus also. We both know that these wearable bird suits can happen, but are still unable to persuade someone with venture capital to take a chance on us. The interesting part is that there are at least nine persons I’ve connected with that really are confident that this can happen in the short term if proper financial investments are made. I believe that Dr. Send has perhaps the highest credibility on this list of believers, but each of us has a slightly different vision.
When I manage to get out a ride an old road bike for 14 Kms or so, I meditate on these ideas and have come to understand that if this is going to happen, I need to count on myself only and push the idea around until someone hears me and gets out their checkbook. When Jarno Smeets pulled his prank in the Netherlands a few years ago, I had been content to let him accept the prize for taking the next bold step in aviation. If I wait much longer, some other bio-inspired dreamer will stand up and get it. The longer I dwell on it, the more I become convinced that learning to fly like birds is one part of our human journey away from a changing climate. I can’t see how we can continue to drive cars everywhere and get beyond warming the earth well beyond 4 degrees.
Our school hired a young gentleman to serve as Environmental Studies and Food Justice Chair. He has a great number of talents and is inspired to get our students working on nearby farms. He is also an ordained minister. I recently spent a few nights camping with him and all of our 10th graders at Joshua Tree National Park. He and I walked together after dinner for a couple of nights and I shared my ideas about flight with him, tying the wearable birdsuit I envision to the concept of angels. What I see is a chance for us to make angels of ourselves. It could be that if we closed the gap on the graph below, we might come to see ourselves differently and our toxic relationship with the earth might change. A lightweight wearable birdsuit that enabled precise control of flight would certainly mean that the wearer would bear some striking resemblance to an angel, and this resemblance would grow over time as technology would serve to bring the suit and wearer ever closer together. Did you happen to see the duck wing model made by Seattle artist Bliss Kolb? This design could continue to be worked to display greater and greater aerodynamic efficiency. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lijnngM-TKo
I hope this finds you well and may this be the year that something much heavier than Smartbird gets off the ground!
All the best,
May 18, 2014: I have lots of letters to post here, but for now, this one from the editor of Flapping Wings is helping keep my spirits aloft as I continue to work at building connections and win over naysayers. We simply cannot afford to maintain the infrastructure required for cars indefinitely. Ultimately, we will be forced to face our fears and use our understandings of natural flight to adapt. We are in a time of massive crisis and it is crucial that we become the best version of ourselves that we can imagine.
Yes, we have had some better weather to enjoy this last week.
I wish you luck in your endeavours to generate more momentum towards our ‘inevitable’ goal.
As a personal mode of transport I believe the car and existing fixed wing airplanes are nearing their ‘use by date’. The next fifty years will see us taking to the air in ornithopters as the roads become clogged up, and fixed wing airplanes will no longer be competitive and/or as convenient, since they require large open spaces in order to take-off and land.
Ornithopters have the potential to take-off and land using much smaller spaces on the ground (or even specially adapted roof-tops). They’ll also be easier to drive than cars and easier to fly than fixed wing airplanes. I recently saw on TV two heron chicks in a tree at about 12 meters high. When they eventually take to the air they will immediately fly because their design has been honed by evolution and they can’t not fly. The same will be true for ornithopters once we put our minds to it.
’til then, keep, and spread the faith.
John – Talos Perdix
February 18, 2014:
Thank you and please accept my apology for the delay in responding to your e-mail. Not sure how I missed yours, but I’m glad I found it at last! I’m grateful for your acquaintance and hope that we can continue to communicate in the months and years ahead as we both pursue our shared passion for innovation in flight. I agree that birds have plenty of power to spare and that this poses a unique challenge for those who would emulate them with aircraft design. I will continue to cling to the idea that dynamic wings that can do all of the things birds wings do (extend, retract, twist, delaminate, etc) will one day provide us with the most versatile and enjoyable flying experiences, if purely from a sporting perspective. Nature has provided us with tens of thousands of flying organisms to model and I see a number of different research efforts underway that are exploring radically different aspects of flight. An ‘All of the Above’ approach will yield the most data over time, so I hope you’ll remain open to other ideas as we both move ahead. The heaviest ornithopter I know of that is a robust flier is the 8 pound one assembled under the direction of James DeLaurier in Canada. FESTO seems to be content resting on the laurels of their 500 gram gull for now. I think that it should be possible to get a thirty pounder aloft within a couple of years using existing technologies. Good luck with your efforts and I look forward to hearing more from you soon!
All the best, Karl
Hey, your website said to write… so I have <grin>
The HPA crowd expect different results from the same recipe – I will get back to this point, let me introduce myself…
Born and raised in Durban, South Africa.
I am something of a backstreet aeronautical engineer – can’t help myself.
Have built and flown models most of my life.(Many out of my head – without any plans)
Actually fairly easy to do, as long as the thing balances properly and there is power to spare.
HPAs, on the other hand (being so marginal), require very careful design.
I have worked on Human Powered Flight theory for close on two decades.
I have had discussions (email) with some of the famous names – and learned much from them.
Somewhere in the late eighties I began looking at the history of human powered flight up to the Gossamer series – this is what I observed:
First there were the ignorant loonies who did silly things like fling themselves off of the Eiffel Tower with a pair of hopelessly inadequate (and poorly supported) wings.
Then they began building things that were essentially little different to lightly built sailplanes – with propellers and pedals.
The results were not surprising at all – if they had run the math its was quite simply a case of building an aeroplane around an engine that was not sufficiently powerful to deliver the power to get the plane to perform to any practical level. Yes, they got better and better – but it was futile expecting performance from a too-heavy aircraft using an “engine” of very limited output.
I believe that a light enough aircraft COULD have been built with materials available – even as long ago as in the 40s.
Paul Mc Cready actually DID THE MATH and realised that in order for an HPA to have any useful measure of performance, it was simply not worth building anything whose all-up mass multiplied by its sink rate was any more than the realistically sustainable power available from the pilot! (Hello!)
He ACTIVELY went about building a light airframe with a sufficienly low sink rate, that would WORK with the “engine” power available.
Naturally, this worked. (Once he used a decent propeller and solved some steering issues)
And now we sit, waiting for the Fourth step.
Really, since Gossamer Albatross crossing the channel, there has not been any “step” in the capability of Human Powered Aircraft that can compare with the step made by Mc Cready.
All that they have done since then is trim it down and hone the recipe as “close to the bone” as a conventional design approach can get.
You cannot get significantly better than MIT’s Daedelus without a radically departure from convention – they have taken this one as far as it can go.
What is our problem now?
Next to birds, we are truly pathetic in our power/weight performance.
Birds have POWER TO SPARE – great overflowing buckets of it.
Even a dove can explode from zero to ~50MPH in about the time it takes for a man to get his ass out of a couch.
We must stop thinking in terms of flight in the way that we are accustomed. Powering an aircraft with a human is not too different to putting a tiny chain saw engine in a full-sized formula one racing car.
To consider using a bird-like design approach with a power to weight ratio that is an order of magnitude smaller than what is known to be needed, is going to waste lots of time.
Can a bird (ornithopter) design hope to deliver better performance than a conventional aircraft design?
Actually not at all – simply because a conventional aircraft is purpose-designed for optimum performance in the single act of flying – and a bird is a significant compromise, having to be capable of many other things besides flight.
The reality is that if we wish to really enjoy HPAs, we must come up with a design that is far more efficient than a bird, more efficient than MIT’s Daedelus, something a lot more practical and a great deal cheaper and more accessible to Joe Public. Don’t get me wrong – a great deal is to be learned about low Re No aerodynamics from birds – I love them to bits, and many of the answers I needed actually come from studying bird’s wings. I believe that the only way that MORE performance can be squeezed out of the (fixed power) human “aero-engine”, is by making NEW breakthroughs that make it possible to build HPAs that are SIGNIFICANTLY more efficient.
We need HPAs that are faster, cheaper, stronger, more compact and robust than anything that is currently in existence.
They need to be mass produced too.
It is time to stop following others and come up with a BOLD, outside-of-the-box approach.
What approach will give us a STEP improvement analogous to that brought to us by McCready’s Gossamer Series?
We need to learn something NEW about aerodynamics – which means doing something radically different.
The sort of thing that will meet our HPA needs
Plan around an “average?” healthy male mass of ~175 pounds, requiring ~0.335 HP to cruise at 28 mph with a wingspan of around 26 ft.
Capable of being taxied without assistance. Capable of coasting (gliding), capable of executing tight turns (for an HPA), capable of flying most any typical day (without rain).
Capable of cross-country flights of hundreds of miles (with slope soaring and mild thermalling to supplement pedaling).
Costing about the same as a mid-size motorcycle?
This above is simply IMPOSSIBLE with any existing approach.
But it is what is required for it to become a popular sport.
Initial chuck-gliders with different test wing designs have given very promising indications.
Naturally I am not too keen on broadcasting my ideas
…Because I think that this could be the big one…
Anyhow – there you have it.
A hint of something that MAY bring HPAs to regular sporting events, and to the middle class…
My dream is to nail the Sports and Marathon Kremer Prizes and give a good show at the Icarus Cup FAI event.
Who knows – time will tell…
I am sure that there are others also thinking hard about his.
We live in exciting times for HPAs.
John is happy to share specifics of his design ideas with somebody having the resources to take the concept to a completed aircraft – in exchange for a share in any prize money and mutually agreed terms for a small share in royalties that could come from production runs.
December 14, 2013:
Thanks for the link. Just read it, great text and it gets pretty close to my definition of dreams about flying. Although usually when I dream about flying it’s over big cities or along coasts during the night. It’s a great feeling and always dissapointing when waking up… It’s very nice that Claire wrote this for you and I hope it’s encouraging to continue your project.
I’m sorry I didn’t respond last time on your previous email, I was busy with a trip to Slovenia to present my work in that period. How did the meeting go with Peter Diamandis?
If you still need a bit of text I can write it down for you. Let me know if that would be valuable in this stage.
Next week I will be releasing a new online collaboration project, and will send you a link when it’s there.
Still have to burn the dvd, and send it in your direction.
Good luck with everything and keep up the positive spirit!
This morning after browsing some videos on the TED website, I decided to look for videos related to a dream of mine, and stumbled upon your blog, Great Blue Machine. I think it’s great that you’ve put so much information together, and it’s good to find that other people have a shared passion. I realize that the information you’ve published on the blog is the only information I know of you, but I just wanted to introduce myself and share my vision with you:
- I want humans to be able to fly without using an airport/runway
- I believe that biomimicry indicates that fixed wing or rotary wing aircraft are less efficient
- I believe that an ornithopter should not be powered by a rotary engine
- I believe that the human body can initiate all motions necessary to move like a bird
- I believe that this can be done without supplementary power
- I believe that the human body can initiate all motions necessary to move like a bird
- I believe that an ornithopter should not be powered by a rotary engine
- I believe that biomimicry indicates that fixed wing or rotary wing aircraft are less efficient
Thanks for your permission to post your letter. We’ll be in Bellingham over the holidays. If you are in Seattle by then, perhaps we could meet for a coffee and do some planning. I’ve been meaning to post a playlist of music that inspires me to keep at this difficult goal in a public setting while teaching. There are lots of folks who think I’ve lost it, but I know flying can happen for us and it seems as though you do too. It won’t be easy, but it seems that significant change seldom is. I think that what is missing right now is a large incentive prize with clearly stated objectives to get people motivated to put the pieces together.
I had the honor of meeting Peter for the first time the other day. I’ve used the example of the Ansari X prize and its radical success with my students for many years now. About year ago, I was asked to join Soon-Jo Chung (UIUC) and his team (Linked on GBM) as an ad-hoc educational collaborator on a 1.8 million dollar NSF/STEM grant proposal involving a very sophisticated approach to designing bat-inspired robots. When the funding didn’t come through, I decided to concentrate more on this area of need. As you may be able to surmise from reading on GBM, I’m hoping to enlist Peter’s help with the development of some sort of incentive prize to promote the development of more massive ornithopters.
On Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 9:33 PM, Robert Love wrote:
Karl,Please feel free to share my letter if you believe it would be beneficial.Do you know Peter Diamandis? I have been quite inspired by his X-Prize ideas, although I’m more interested in smaller scale prizes.RobertRobert————————-
Ph.D. Aerospace Engineer
November 26, 2012 letter from Robert Love:
In grad school they train us to be critics, so I hope this e-mail does not sound too discouraging, but gives you a realistic view of challenges in this field. I really want to support the dream of manned (flapping) flight and I may even have a concept of how to do so, but Delaurier has shown how difficult it is to design a manned flapping aircraft with current technology. My wife (a biology major with emphasis tending more toward the plant side) often reminds me not to discourage. If I can serve as a consultant for any efforts which address the two limitations above or you do secure a source with some funding please feel free to contact me.
October 19, 2012
For some time now, friends and colleagues have suggested that I somehow wrangle your involvement when I have spoken to them about my wildest dreams for all of us going forward. My wife says that my blog posts all sound the same and that it is time for me to try something different. I cobble these sentences together with great admiration and respect for you and trust they will find their way across the miles and barriers. If they should need help and some pushing, I will summon the requisite courage. As one whose walk is heavily burdened with the knowledge of our expanding impact on natural cycles, I have no other choice but to boldly go forth…
With luck, you will already be aware of the CG caper flown by the Hollander, Mr. Floris Kaayk in March, but in case not, he spun an online story about ‘Jarno Smeets’ and a set of handcrafted Human Birdwings that enabled him to fly quite gracefully above a park in the Hague. The video fooled many news outlets here in the US and generated significant short term interest for my site, GREAT BLUE MACHINE and also a friend’s DAEDELUS’ NOTEBOOK. For several years now, I’ve been writing and collaborating with a team of people who collectively believe that it is time for a period of renewed experimentation with flight. Specifically, we agree that technologies now exist that will permit individuals to learn to fly in the manner of birds. I propose modeling a prototypical ‘birdsuit’ on our common heron in North America –Ardea herodias. Aside from the fact that this is my wife’s favorite bird, it’s flight characteristics are unique. It is a strong flyer with slow, heavy wing beats. Just about any other species of bird would work as well. I believe that the key to power-assisted human flight lies in closely modeling one species all the way down to the barbules of each flight feather.
The author of Daedelus’ Notebook is less interested in flapping flight than I am, but has developed a sophisticated rendering of a vulture-shaped ‘hang glider’. FESTO in Germany has nicely mimicked gull flight with their ‘SmartBird’. Douglas George has his Project Falcon and UIUC Professor Soon-Jo Chung has assembled a talented team of academics to build robotic bats.
Floris Kaayk’s effort remains significant for the amount of attention it generated. A great many web forums contend that it is only a matter of time until we learn to take to the air in the manner of birds. For someone who has held this dream for nearly all of his 43 years, this is an exciting time. Sir Richard, I write to humbly request your assistance with the development of a human-scale model of a heron (or other species, raven?…) suit and a means for safe testing of such a design. If we can use a sky crane to land a curious, mini-cooper-sized rover on Mars, we can certainly pool our learnings to design nimble new flying machines. Through careful data collection and documentation, we will doubtless come to realize that 6,000 pounds of automobile are no longer required for steadily increasing numbers of us to get between points A and B. There is great joy to be found in this work. Let’s talk about it!
Yours in gratitude and sincerity,
- Lion Hearted (karlfrank.wordpress.com)
- Sir Richard Branson dishes business advice at Dreamforce ’12 (zdnet.com)
- Richard Branson: ‘Screw It. Let’s Do It’ (inc.com)
November 6, 2012 letter from Floris Kaayk:
Thanks for your message. Sorry for not responding earlier, it was a hectic time during and after the Human Birdwings project. At this moment it’s a bit more quite and I’m working on new projects. I really appreciated your and Tom’s help, inspiration, motivation and participation during the building of the wings and the story of Jarno Smeets. I still do believe that Human Birdwings are possible and I’m still dreaming about flying quite often.
First I’ll explain a bit more about the project if you want. It started when I was asked by NTR (a dutch public television broadcasting company) to step out of my comfort zone as a filmmaker. They asked this, because they wanted filmmakers to experiment with new directions of storytelling, instead of making traditional shortfilms for television or cinema. I’m always attracted by exploring boundaries of the medium, so was very excited about it.
NTR organised a few meetings with other filmmakers they invited to inspire and stimulate the creation of concepts and ideas. I came up with the idea of realizing my personal dream (flying like a bird). I dreamt about flying very much during my life, and I always wondered why nobody ever succeeded in building ‘working’ flapping wings. Especially now it’s technically possible to build power expanding haptic devices.
During the inspiration sessions of NTR I suddenly realized I wanted to visualize my dream, within the financial possibilities they offered. There wasn’t that much budget, but it was enough for gathering teammembers. I started collaborating with Revolver Media Productions in Rotterdam. Another member of the team was David, an engineer who studied industrial design uit TU Eindhoven. Since I’m a filmmaker and not a technical person I wasn’t able to design the wings myself, so I asked him to design them as close to reality as possible, with open source mechanics and electronics. I was able to pay him for three weeks during the realisation of the wings. so it was very tight. All the materials were gathered in webshops and on ebay. Although it wasn’t our main goal to make these wings really working, I started to believe in it a bit as soon as we started building (David and Me). But I also realized that the schedule was very tight, and the main goal was to tell a story, and not to make these wings really operational. But we did our very best to get as close as possible. I knew it wasn’t possible within our resources. And I had to remember myself: This is a storytelling project, hence fiction. I realized that I, within the financial possibilities, wasn’t able to make the wings really functioning. So I decided to make it look real with computer animation, because the script of my story said: “Jarno eventually will succesfully fly with his own made wings”. So therefore I used my skills as a computer animator and VFX guy.
Finally the story of Jarno Smeets ended up in a big chaotic climax, which I didn’t expect to get that big. I didn’t really expect that everybody would believe Jarno’s succesful testflight. But they did. And also all the news broadcasters over the world. It was a strange and unique experience.
About your confusion:
” “I am happy that a lot of people wanted to dismiss scientific boundaries for a moment and allowed themselves to share the dream with me.” This leads me to the conclusion that you don’t think that human birdwings can be made. ”
The dissmissed scientific boundaries are more in the materials we used then in the idea of flying with flapping wings itself. With the cheap materials we used, it wouldn’t be scientifically possible,because the materials were too heavy and not strong enough to handle those kind of powers. But I hope that some other people, with more technical knowledge and more money, got inspired by my concept. I think you, for example, are much more into science and mathematics then me. Maybe some will take the idea and continue it. Maybe you will? Maybe the U.S. millitary? Maybe the Mythbusters?
I think for now, I prefer dreaming about flying, instead of knowing how it would be in reality. Dreams are often much more interesting and powerful then events in the real world. Maybe it would dissapoint me if I would know how it is to fly for real like a bird. I don’t know.
My apologies if I have dissapointed you with the Human Birdwings project. That wasn’t the intention.. The intention was to visualize my own dream, to experiment with storytelling and to show the relations of modern technology and the human body.
If you would like to know what I did before I started the Human Birdwings project you can watch some of these links:
The Order Electrus (2005) – https://vimeo.com/51200571
Metalosis Maligna (2006) – https://vimeo.com/1192666
The Origin of Creatures (2010) – https://vimeo.com/51198548
Juxtaposis (2011) – https://vimeo.com/31422401
Human Birdwings (2012) – https://vimeo.com/51201126
If you want I can send you a dvd with these films as a gift and a token of appreciation. Let me know.
All the best,
Jan 1, 2012 letter from me to Chris Elvin at CSIRO, developer of Resilin
Dear Dr. Elvin
Happy 2012 to you! When I read about your work on resilin a couple of years ago, I immediately thought about its possible applications in human powered flight efforts. I am a science teacher/Naturalist living in Bellingham Washington, USA and keep a blog on the subject of human powered flight and bio-inspired design at karlfrank.wordpress.com. I am collaborating with a talented team of researchers in the US on bat-inspired robots and STEM education, and a network of other professionals who believe we can embrace new, vastly more efficient approaches to flight in the coming years. I am wondering if you know of any such efforts that involve the use of resilin? Also, do you think that your synthetic version of this protein might be suitable in applications involving flying robots such as the one developed by Festo’s Bionic Learning Network (Smartbird) or Aerovironment’s NAV hummingbird? Lastly, I am wondering if CSIRO is in the habit of providing samples of novel materials (such as resilin) to teachers of foreign nations for use in classrooms?
Thank you for your time and for your hard work in developing an artificial form of the most efficient bioelastomer known!
Bellingham WA USA 98225
September 17 letter from me to Talos Perdix, editor of Flapping Wings
Thanks for your letter. Glad to know that you are the new editor of Flapping Wings. I would love to write something that you could use there.
As for my model ornithopter, I’m afraid that progress has stalled for the time being. The intention had been to make something like Smartbird (modeled on the Great blue heron, a close relative of your Grey heron) but with flight feathers and three joints in the wings. I had not thought of synchronizing head and tail motion. After making two sets of flight feathers, I began to search about for appropriate materials for the shafts. I think that fiberglass is too heavy, and carbon fiber is too expensive (for me, at least). The next step (wing bones and joints) is also technically over my head and budget. Just making the feathers at 2.3 x felt great. I am okay with being stuck for now as I have a long list of letters to write for the blog, am teaching a full spate of courses with one additional class, coaching my son’s soccer team, and serving as technology mentor for the faculty.
On the positive side, the blog has had it’s best two days ever this month. Traffic is up significantly. I am in touch with two engineers at Festo, a German school student, an Irish singer and Jean-Marie Dellis in France (have you seen his work?) and feel more inspired and less crazy than at any time in the last four years. You and I know we can get into the air with flapping wings, so why is there not more money being thrown into this effort?
Hope you are well. I think of you every day and hope that we will get a chance to meet one day in the not too distant future. My wife will take our 8th grade class to London for ten days in the Spring, I may get to go the year following.
All the best,
P.S. Did you see the US National Geographic Cover story this month?
September 17 letter to Kristoff Jebens, Smartbird development team member
Thanks for your reply. I posted a video on your wall that I put together a couple of years ago. I have been a longtime fan of Festo’s work and am familiar with the AirPenguin, Jelly, and Ray. There are many persons doing innovative work on flight and I believe that it is time to combine their efforts to break the existing human powered flight distance record. The Daedalus set this at 119 km 23 years ago. The technical challenges are large, but your work has bolstered many of us who believe that ornithopters represent the way forward.
Jia-Chi Wu and Zoran Popovic wrote a paper on Realistic Modeling of Bird Flight Animation at the University of Washington in 2003. I feature some of their digital models in an earlier video on youtube called Biomimicry of Ardea herodias ( http://www.youtube.com/user/thrushboy#p/u/4/97Jh7AuM68c ). Perhaps code similar to theirs could be used to further improve the deciphering of bird flight?
I look forward to learning more from you in the months ahead.
From: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
To: jonny T
Sent: Monday, August 22, 2011 7:08 AM
Subject: Re: human powered flight
Jonny, Thanks so much for you e-mail and interest. I have thought the very same thing you described and think that you have an excellent point. A certain amount of energy could be imparted to the system while still on the ground to get the flyer aloft and moving forward. There is a group in Australia (CSIRO) that can synthetically create the same super-efficient elastic protein (resilin) that insects use for flight. It returns about 98% of the energy imparted. I could see turning a crank to twist up some long bands of this material along the underside of the bird as I’ve seen done in some ornithopter toys. I’m guessing you’ve seen the work done on the Franklin gull by FESTO in Germany. They are making great strides. I want to know what they are thinking about to make their gull an even stronger flier and if they are pondering a dramatic increase in mass. I hope they have plenty of funds to continue experimenting. Is this you? Jonny Tennant ar Glas Vegas – Sean Nós If not, is there somewhere can I listen to some of your music on the web?
Also, how do you feel about having this communication take place in public?
I was thrilled to be contacted by Bryan Allen who flew the gossamer albatross over the English channel in 1979, but he was skeptical of my assertions and uninterested in continuing with a public discourse. I cling to the idea of human powered flight nonetheless, hopeful for the future of ours and other species. As I see it, we must innovate dramatically or face a heart-wrenching crash. If Henry Ford could help invent the automobile and pave our way around the planet in 100 years, perhaps we can find a safer and more efficient way into the air during the early part of this century. Biomimicry is gaining more and more adherents and momentum. We have more and more extreme athletes spending more and more time in the air as kite surfers, paragliders, hang-gliders and squirrel-suit wearing skydivers. Athletes and biologically inspired scientists are already working together to make this dream a reality. I want to see that old record safely broken in the next year or two, though.
All the best, and I hope to hear back from you!
September 4, 2011
August 31, 2011
Speeding toward the equinox and am refueled with what feels like a full tank of wonder. For starters, how many words will this tank last? Grateful for this gift in the inbox from Johnny Tennant in Ireland.
Going to see if I can find him on itunes….
I saw your video on you tube and thought it was really good-its interesting that the record for human powered flight was set 22 years ago-though i dont have a degree in engineering i am interested in this subject. I’m a musician from Ireland. I was wondering what you thought of an idea i had to combine leverage(provided by body weight to an elasticated gear mechanism so that the pilot could concievably power the craft up before flight(like a wind up toy) to get the initial burst of power needed to take off. After that the amount of energy being released into the propellor mechanism could be constant-you could gauge how much pedalling you needed to do-i realise that this all sounds very heavy and im not sure how much elasticated material weighs but surely with light modern materials it could be possible. Do you think its got a point to it?
Hope youre well. Thanks
Regarding the ALULAE, I have nothing like this on the Avielle. It seems te me that the alulae serve only to augment the lift in takeoff and in touchdown, but don’t serve during cruising flight.
Your idea of articulated and flexible wings is a good thing, but difficult to construct in a first time. Now I am thinking about this, but only after having resolved the problem ” How to flap the wings ”
It is not so easy to find a place to make tries. If I have a large tree in my garden to make my hanging tries, I have not clear space to try takeoff. So I hope to try takeoff at a friend ownership who has larges fields.
Do not hesitate to ask me if there are points on Avielle which you do not understand, either because I badly expressed myself, or because the translation via Internet is poor.
Le 21 mars 11 à 16:58, firstname.lastname@example.org a écrit :
Thank you for your reply. I appreciate this opportunity to correspond with another person who believes we can overcome the challenges associated with flapping winged, human powered flight. I have found the connections I am making with persons such as yourself to be very inspiring and motivating.
Is the ALULAE something you designed and built? I would like to do something similar, with wings that fold, extend, flex, and deform in the way that a bird’s wing does. It looks as though the person in the photos has a terrific location for practice and testing. We have nothing quite like that here in Bellingham. I will have to travel some distance to the dunes on the seacoast to do any testing.
I’m spending some time at your website and reading about the development of Aviel and enjoying it immensely. I have some questions, but will wait to ask them until I have read and studied all that you have done. Thank you again!
it’s always a pleasure to communicate with people working on the solution “ornithopter”.
Of course I’m agree with the elastic solution and more precisely with a solution involving a double elastic system in opposition.
I do not really know the CSRIO company and the Resilin, but it is probably an expensive option materials for just a prototype in first time (?); perhaps later?
Yes I am working on achieving a full size muscular ornithopter.
I post all my work on the following website.
Normally the translator internet (google) should allow you to read it in English, even if the translation is not excellent.
It is with the help of this translator that I write in your language and I hope you can understand me (sorry I’m not very good in English).
My site is regularly updated based on work performed.
It recounts all the reflections and achievement over time and I hope you’ll enjoy to read it.
I am at your disposal if you don’t understand some points.
I wish you success in your own building and am willing to help if needed
As a student of the history of human powered flight, I currently have no plans to build a human powered ornithopter. I am starting small, with a model based on the great blue heron that is 2.3 times its size and this one will be an RC – battery powered flapper. If that works, I may scale up for the next (4x)? and eventually do tests on an appropriately scaled version suspended safely from a bungee under a bridge or crane. I have some rock-climbing experience (and friends) that should come in handy there.
Are you at Rensselaer? I had a friend from high school who went there from 87-91. Not likely that you would know her but Rishlene Mooney was her name.
Enjoy your break next week! I look forward to sharing more and learning more about your dreams.
Douglas George is working on an ornithopter. Project Falcon
Thanks for responding. I emailed Talos Perdix about the free course and
will see what happens with that. Next week is my school’s spring break,
so I hope to use that time to go thru your blog and find out more.
Thank you for mentioning those schools for me to look into. I wish you
the best of luck for your ornithopter. Please just be very careful with
your dynamics equations–I’d hate for you to get injured due to a
miscalculation. Feel free to post my email. The more networking I can
get, the better.
Since you are a teacher, please feel free to pass any advice onto me.
Wow, we share the same dream! Not more than three or four years ago, I
thought I was the only one around with this dream. Now with the blog and
a bit of internet networking, more and more connections with like-minded
folks are forming all the time. I am communicating with a retiree in the
UK who has lots to offer persons interested in this sort of thing. He has
a correspondence course (e-mail) in ornithopter design. All of the
information for contacting him can be found on my blog. The University of
Toronto has a history of work in this area. Virginia Tech is another one
to check out. They have a human powered aircraft group. I am a science
teacher in Washington state and have begun building my own up-scaled
ornithopter. I am aware of others who are also building these or intend
to. I try to post everything I learn about on the blog. To that end, with
your permission, I’d like to post your e-mail in the correspondence
section of my site. No problem if you say ‘no’. It would seem that we are
on the verge of a breakthrough with bio-inspired flight and that the next
few years will bring more impressive advancements.
I hope that you will keep in touch and that we may share ideas as we move
forward with our dreams.
Keep dreaming big flapping ones!
All the best,
—– Original Message —–
Sent: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 8:51:29 AM
Subject: Bio-inspired flight
I saw your Youtube video and then found your blog. I am glad I found
research in this area. My dream is to have a flapping wing aircraft on
the commercial scale. I’d like to get my PhD doing research like this
(I’m getting my Aeronautical Engineering BS now). What schools or
professors or organizations could you get me in contact with so I may
reach them and discuss graduate school and possible future careers?
I’m so glad to have found you and learned a little bit about the work you are doing through your videos on Vimeo.
Thank you for your email and willingness to talk across languages with me.
I have thought for a long time that elastics would be important in developing ornithopters. Do you know about the company CSIRO in Austrailia that has copied the protein that insects use to fly? They call it Resilin.
I am trying to build a flying, flapping model of a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) that is about 2.3 times larger than the adult bird. I hope to be done by late summer.
Are you working on incorporating your designs into a flying model?
Bellingham Washington USA
October 9 2010
My name is Karl. I’m a 41 year old science teacher and father of two up in Bellingham WA. I have been interested in Biomimicry and ornithopter design since college and keep a small blog on the subject: ( https://karlfrank.wordpress.com/ ). About a year ago I received a comment from Talos Perdix and subsequently enrolled in his distance learning course in ornithopter design. Through our e-mail exchanges, I learned of your work and that of Ted Ciamillo with regard to Project Falcon. The sub human project is outright fantastic and I have been making regular visits to your site in hopes of keeping up with your progress. As nothing new has appeared there in the last interval, I am wondering if there is another way to stay current. My students are also curious!
I believe that projects such as yours point in the direction we need to head as a species in order to preserve at least some of the ecological balance of this planet. Thank you for your hard work and dedication and I look forward to hearing more in the next few months!
I am convinced that human powered ornithopter flight is possible having thought long and hard about it over my years, but never having had the time to do anything about it. However, now that I’m retired I realize that I’ll never be able to do it myself; it will require a much younger person to achieve it. This being the case, I’ve decided to make available my ideas in the hope that some of them (if not all) will be useful to a younger generation.
I am enclosing the first article (lesson one), which I hope will whet your appetite. The other articles (lessons) are still being written, although they are currently in draft form, but nearing completion. Those for Module 1 are virtually complete and could be sent to you at short notice.
I’m not a biologist but I *did* get a couple of engineering degrees focused on structural mechanics. Think you could estimate some ardea herodias stats for me? Namely, mass and volume with and without wings, and … Read Morewing dimensions. Start thinking on which smaller birds might be ‘efficient’ too. There are issues of scale involved at the interface between biology and physics and I’d love to explore the question in regards to flight – particularly the scale-up relationship between flap frequency and mass…
Anyway, your vids below got me musing…
Dear Bryan, [Allen] (His responses are italicized)
Thank you for the comment you submitted to the Great Blue Machine website on March 22. The notion that you looked at something I put onto the web is thrilling to me.
All thanks to the wonder of Google Alerts.
The only issue of National Geographic in our home is from November of 79. It is my sincere hope to engage you in an online conversation regarding the possibility of a novel approach to HPF. Your comment prompted me to write and post a couple of other entries, further explaining some, but not nearly all of my thinking on the matter. Though it is true that I endeavor to learn to fly one day soon, I do not choose to pursue this goal through traditional means.
Oftentimes it is wiser to start out with a smaller challenge rather than a larger one. Don’t underestimate how much “traditional means” of flying requires of you.
I look at it this way: On Earth, natural selection and adaptive radiation has produced not less than 9,000 different species of flying birds, somewhere between 1 and 10 million species of insects, and some 980 species of bats. Each family of insect, bird and bat displays a slightly different approach to flight and yet they all manage to go aloft with tiny brains and miniscule energetic requirements, often for marathon distances.
You’re frankly misinformed about the “minuscule” energy requirements unless you’re measuring energy per unit distance traveled. The metabolisms of flying creatures have to burn quite hotly to enable flight. Try this link for a discussion of that:
And about the minuscule brains, current research shows that certain birds have some pretty darned advanced cognitive capabilities. Check out this article about Alex:
This multiplicity of body plans suggests to me that flight may not be as difficult as we once imagined.
You might notice that a LOT of small insects fly but the number of flying birds is much smaller and the number of flying mammals smaller still. Birds are particularly instructive: small birds can hover (hummingbird), medium-sized birds (but still only a few ounces!) can climb steeply (mockingbird), larger birds like hawks and ravens can take off from level ground but can’t climb under power very fast and use updrafts whenever possible, Wandering Albatrosses and Condors can barely climb at all and must use updrafts or dynamic soaring for nearly all their flight time; somewhat larger birds can’t fly sustained distances (turkey), and the largest birds like Emus, Cassowarys, and Ostriches (the last group weighing in the range of what children to adult humans weigh) can’t fly at all. Same relationship for bats.Further, a growing number of extreme athletes regularly take to the skies in ‘unpowered’ craft of increasing diversity. I believe that time for collaborative experimentation with bio-imitative, electronically assisted flapping designs is right now.
Well, flapping-wing flight is surely interesting and being actively pursued by several groups including Dr. MacCready’s company Aerovironment, but notice that all those groups are trying to come up with relatively small-mass flapping-wing flyers.
I have a lot of hang gliding and ultralight airplane flying hours. Flight is a problem which in certain aspects has been solved, but it appears there will NEVER be solutions to certain intractable problems of flight. Birds very much avoid flying in more extreme conditions; if the wind/turbulence becomes too strong, birds land and sit it out (though there’s a bit of an exception for sea-birds like the albatross, but even they will not fly over LAND in extreme winds.)
It may be true that flying under one’s own power can never be a serious substitute for other forms of transportation like cars, motorcycles, or bicycles, but 100 years ago, would persons believe in the notion of Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity accomplishing all that they have?
Not much of an analogy there. You might notice how few kilometers Spirit and Opportunity have traveled over four-odd years, too.
The internal combustion engine has played a significant role in the build up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and we simply must transition away from it as a species if we and some remnant of wild nature are to persist on this planet.
The internal combustion engine is very much a minority contributor to CO2 load in the atmosphere. The two biggest carbon sources are electrical generation and agriculture. From figures I’ve seen, global cement production contributes more carbon to our atmosphere than all the cars in the USA. That’s not to say that cars don’t put a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere; they do. But as you may have noticed, gasoline prices are on a fairly steep uptick; the underlying reason for that is that we’re at peak oil production right now. A very smart guy at Caltech, Dave Rutledge, is quite sure we’ll be running out of fossil fuels long before we’ll have an opportunity to raise the global CO2 concentration to anything like levels seen in prior geological epochs. Wonder what those concentrations were like, and how much they’ve varied? Here’s but one example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azolla_Event
(from that article: “The event coincides precisely with a catastrophic decline in carbon dioxide levels, which fell from 3500 ppm in the early Eocene to 650 ppm during this event.”)
Very good site, as hinted at above: http://rutledge.caltech.edu/
Your blogged lament over the extra pounds of co2 generated by driving the Saturn into Mineral King instead of the motorcycle reveals a shared concern about individual carbon footprints.
Part of that comment was drenched in irony. I was trying to make the point that short-term self-preservation trumps issues like global warming. I ride my pedal-bike to and from work fairly often, but am very careful not to ride my bike when I’d be more likely to be struck by a car (wintertime when it’s dark, mostly.) Riding my motorcycle to work allows me to wear much better protective gear, be much more visible, get to off-lab appointments, and all for a cost of only $10 or $15 worth of gasoline per month
Things are different right now than they ever have been in the past, or ever will be in the future. According to James Hansen, we have less than eight years to drastically change our collective CO2 output.
Read Rutledge’s stuff for some alternative views. And please note that Hansen is an egregious self-promoter.
James Lovelock says we passed the point of no return 15 years ago and that within 100 years, our species will number around 200 million huddled close to the poles, the rest of the Earth resembling Mars more and more.
Lovelock is indeed very pessimistic.
With the arrival of the world peak of oil production, planetary crisis looms ever larger on the horizon. We must undergo a radical transformation in terms in energy usage.
Well, things will certainly change whether we want them to or not.
Perhaps the birds offer us a way out of our current predicament.
That is a pretty huge conceptual leap. I don’t see how birds have much to offer that they haven’t yet already. And bats are much better in several ways to try to emulate, which is what flexi-wing hang gliders probably are most similar to, both having a stick-and-membrane wing. The reason why flapping wings are useful is NOT efficiency – it’s maneuverability, both in the air and on the ground. There have been several times in my hang gliding career that I’ve really REALLY wanted to be able to partially furl my wings and reduce my lifting area to get out of cloudsuck or other precarious positions. Trust me, if flapping wings were better for efficiency we ABSOLUTELY WOULD HAVE used them on the Gossamer aircraft. MacCready knew a lot about flapping-wing flight and made lots of model ornithopters during his life and well understood their limitations.
Would you be willing to collaborate with me in a public space on this? To succeed at these challenges, I believe we must be brave and take risks together.
As you may see from this letter, I certainly have opinions on these matters but don’t necessarily share viewpoints which you seem to be promoting. Unless you’re looking for someone who is skeptical about what you’re advocating, I doubt I’d be a very good collaborator, not to mention that, contrary to the length of my reply (but consistent with the delay in replying) I’ve got too many other things going on to be very timely in my contributions.
Thank you sincerely for your time. All the very best to you and your dear ones.
former JH science teacher, Campbell Hall School, North Hollywood CA, now stay at home father of two.
Thank you for watching the two videos and for responding to my query. I can appreciate how difficult it is to keep up with e-mail of late. Those videos represent a somewhat crude attempt to illustrate my strong desire to see human powered flight reach some new milestones, including more widespread adoption. Proponents of biomimicry or, bio-inspired design, suggest that we can realize tremendous gains in efficiency by copying from nature’s ‘best’ body plans. I believe that we possess the technology to precisely mimic birds and create increasingly efficient flapping-winged ornithopters, whose power may be supplied by twitching human muscle tissue alone or perhaps with a solar-powered battery assist. Further, I am convinced that these machines need not be manufactured through traditional, ‘heat, beat and treat’ methods of assembly but instead may eventually largely be ‘cultured’ in much the same way as a container of yogurt. While at least one research group has focused their biomimetic efforts on a generic swift, I aspire to laboriously copy Ardea herodias, the great blue heron because it flies relatively slowly over water, often at very low altitude. As we gain proficiency with modeling individual species, others such as the white pelican or magnificent frigatebird may prove more practical for different applications.
I have no training in engineering. I come at this from the limited perspective of a naturalist / science teacher. I believe careful application of the principles of biomimicry will result in a reduction of energy required for sustained human powered flight. Engineers at Hobie kayaks have just demonstrated a similar advance with their mirage drive system which mimics penguin wings underwater. When Bryan Allen crossed the English Channel in 1979, he was pedaling furiously to generate something close to 0.3 hp. We can generate 1.2 hp for short durations. Further, traditional pedaling may not be the most efficient means we have for energy generation. In February 2006, Neil Gershenfeld at MIT gave a TED talk where he discussed the beckoning promise of personal fabrication, essentially claiming that anyone with access to a fab lab can now make or model absolutely anything. In 2003, Jia-chi Wu and Zoran Popovic at the University of Washington presented a paper which described a means for creating sophisticated physics-based bird flight animations. Their models could provide the code for electrically controlled take-off, landing, and level flight under a wide array of environmental conditions. Not far from the town of my maternal grandmothers birth, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Goteburg Sweden demonstrated in 2002 that they could get a real robot to ‘learn’ to fly through evolution.
In July 2006, Dr. James DeLaurier at the University of Toronto succeeded in getting the first piloted ornithopter off the ground. CSIRO in Australia can culture the protein that insects use for flight, called an elastic energy store, in a lab. They have also developed a plastic from wheat starch that degrades in a compost pile in as little as forty days. Anthony Colozza at IEEE Spectrum is part of a research team working on a biomimetic solid state aircraft out of a new material called ionic polymer metal composite (IPMC). This material can be made to deform or flap when exposed to an electric field.
Each of these developments (and likely a vast number of others) could, I am convinced be brought together under one framework to greatly increase the prospects for human powered flight in the short term. I have been thinking about this since 1993 or so. I am being told that we are living at the peak of world oil production and it certainly feels that way. With carbon dioxide levels shooting skyward, it is time for us to try something new. Paul MacCready’s broad shoulders offer us the chance to jump even higher.
Thank you again for getting back to me. I look forward to future communication. Also, I hope that you will have a great time with Mr. Gil at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. I have some great memories from that spot.
All the best,
Robin and Karl Frank wrote:
> Hi there Paul,
> I am the science teacher from Campbell Hall school who had hoped to
> work with you to get wind turbines atop one of the buildings. After
> a terrific four years there, Robin and I moved our small family to
> Bellingham, Washington last summer in order to go directly after my
> lifelong dream. This is where you come in. I am hoping that you
> will take a few minutes to visit my website, watch the two short
> videos I’ve put there and offer me some guidance. The idea I have
> involves human powered flight and biomimicry of one particular
> species. It keeps me awake at night. I believe that you are
> uniquely qualified to help move this idea out of my mind and into
> reality. Thank you in advance for any assistance you may be
> inclined to offer.
> To life!
> Karl Frank
Hello Karl,I’ve searched through our database and have the following websites to offer regarding others who are working on ornithopters or related flight details based on bird (sometimes bat) flight.http://invention.smithsonian.org/centerpieces/ilives/maccready/maccready.htmlhttp://www.winggrid.ch/http://news.sawf.org/Health/36371.aspxhttp://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2005/oct/HQ_05335_Soaring_UAVs.htmlhttp://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn4484Another suggestion I have is to check out the Biomimicry Institute. You can sign up for the quarterly BioInspired! newsletter which is an excellent resources for learning about what others are doing in the field of biomimicry. We always welcome new contributors so I’m sure that if you wanted to write up a story describing what you’re doing, it could be included. This may be a good way for you to attract others to your work, as well.My co-worker suggested doing a Google search for ‘biorobotics,’ as ornithopters are a related field. Along those lines, you may also find the PolyPedal Lab at Berkeley interesting: http://polypedal.berkeley.edu/twiki/bin/view/PolyPEDAL/WebHome. I hope you find this information useful and interesting. Best of luck to you.Life!RoseRose TockeBiologist at the Design Table Biomimicry Guild, LLC PO Box 575 Helena, MT 59624United States+1 406 495 email@example.com“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller
- Peter Diamandis: The World We Dream (urbantimes.co)
- Aerodynamic Lift (flightschoolnation.com)
- Engineer looks to dragonflies, bats for flight lessons (sciencedaily.com)
- The “father of aerodynamics” was born today in 1773. Now WE know em (carl-leonard.com)