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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Human-powered flight

Todd Reichert lead a team of engineers from the University of Toronto in designing and building the world’s first human-powered flying machine. The craft, an ‘ornithopter’ with flapping wings spanning 105 feet, was dubbed the Snowbird.

It is the flapping wings that distinguish ornithopters from gliders or other types of aircraft. And of course, the Snowbird is powered by human muscle, rather than by wind or some other means. As the pilot of the Snowbird, Reichert was responsible not only for steering, but also for using his leg power to flap those giant wings.

Despite its wingspan, the Snowbird weighed in at only 94 lbs. Even without the 18 lbs. Reichert lost in an attempt to lighten the load, the aircraft weighed less than the pilot.

Although the team used a truck to get the craft into the air, from then on it was all muscle power. The Snowbird and its wing-flapping pilot stayed aloft for 19.3 seconds, covering 145 meters, and maintaining an average speed of 25.6 km/hour, establishing an official air record.

HPO MVI 0052 from U of T Engineering on Vimeo.

You can see more videos here.

Or, see how far the engineers have come in developing flying machines:

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