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The Ornithopter - RC Flying Spy Machine

Updated on May 2, 2012

Ornithopter Models

photo by 9794550@N04 on Flickr
photo by 9794550@N04 on Flickr

Ornithopters: Blueprints Of The Birds

Certain guilds of nanotechnology researchers have been pursuing knowledge on how to build ever smaller robots such as micromechanical flying insects. While I am not aware of any such initiative that has successfully built such a bot that is practically invisible to the naked eye (although the chemtrails conspiracy theorists might argue otherwise and leave a comment please if you know of one), there is publicly released information on micromechanical bots with wingspans in the ~3cm range and weighing in at 3 grams or less. Such application and mimicry of biological systems present in nature to the modern design of engineering and technology is a futuristic art called bionics. Current research seems to be aimed at micromechanical flying insects (MFI) that have similar properties to the common housefly and can have added capabilities such as integrated camera and recording features. The perfect size to spy on Iran nanodiamond scientists or any other such nefarious purpose.

While the current Earth civilization may yet be a distance away from true intelligent and self-learning nanobots with artificial evolution programmed inside (one such future that was fictionalized in Michael Crichton's novel Prey), that future may not be quite as far off or far-fetched as you might imagine. And if past behavior is any indicator of future actions then it is obvious that those in power will have no qualms using this type of nanotechnology against it's own citizens in much the same way that the administration has set precedent for using predator drone technology to assassinate American citizens without trial. They even handed a drone over to police to search for missing cows of all things. Taxpayer money is surely never wasted under this regime.

But to understand the future it is interesting to look at the past and realize that for many centuries humankind, with the inherent natural wonder for the world around, have sought to mimic the motion of animals and insects long before Jack E. Steele coined the term 'bionic' in 1958. Before man imagined gadgets like the Cybird radio-controlled ornithopter, they actually had visions of flying in ornithopters themselves and have had various levels of success at doing so. It was Leonardo DaVinci, the Renaissance genius, who realized that unlike flies, humans were going to be too heavy and not strong enough (low power-to-weight ratio) to flap wings and fly. This led him to an alternative where hand and foot levers, with the assistance of pulleys, would flap the wings and thus a workable model of the ornithopter was evolved. Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case, current technology in 1485 was not up to the task of building the ornithopter at that time despite Leonardo's blueprints and recordings on how to build an ornithopter. In fact, it would be almost 400 years before the first ornithopter was even able to fly an estimated forty feet.

History is full of many manned glider and manned ornithopter attempts whether they were muscle driven or powered by an engine. Overall, I'd say that the distance and flight time measurements have usually proved to be less than impressive and in fact very dangerous in some cases. In the early 2000s, ornithopter pilot Yves Rousseau was seriously injured when a wind gust caused one of his wings to break up causing him to become a paraplegic. Probably, the unmanned ornithopters have more use in the modern world and certainly those are the ones that can be engineered really small. Maybe nanobot small. Also, they are much more useful in aerial reconnaissance and provide an aspect of deniability should it fail or be captured. That is something in which the drone that was just recently captured in Iran failed miserably at, whether intentional or otherwise.

Aerodynamics and wing design are interesting areas of investigation and with the current technology and economy, the ornithopter is quite an obtainable hobby for those interested in designing, building, or flying one themselves. Many ornithopter models and kits are available to provide parts and assist in building simple toy versions up to micro high-tech remote controlled ornithopter versions. Night vision and heat mapping are some more advanced features and there really are endless possibilities for the hobbyist. Competitions are held such as the Science Olympiad Flying Bird Event or the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Nationals as well as other ornithopter contests. So the next time you see a hummingbird, butterfly, or housefly just remember bionics and nanotechnology and consider the possibility that science might be able to mimic such things just a little better than you might imagine.

Wowwee DragonFly Ornithopter Will Scare Your Neighbors


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    • American_Choices profile image

      American_Choices 6 years ago from USA

      This would make a great gift for one of our boys. Fascinating. Thank you for sharing. Voted up and useful. Another article targeting the teenagers as possible gift would be a natural spin-off. Under $40! Parents and grandparents alike need to know about this.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Recommended for any comedian doubters to pull up their pants and do some homework on those objects. Oh, good one there but keep the day job.:)

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 6 years ago from Northern California

      Voted up and interesting. I see a future business opportunity for some enterprising soul. How detectors and zappers for nosy dragonfly ornithopters?

      Better still: anti-ornithopter ornithopters? They detect and ingest flying doped silicon.

      When you're out hiking, and there are no other people around, be sure to moon every dragonfly that you see. But in my part of the country (NorCal), please leave the moths alone. There's a critically endangered species in one river canyon of the Northern Sierra foothills, and it's not found anywhere else in the world.

    • againsttheodds profile image

      againsttheodds 6 years ago

      TY Alastar, I suppose it could be the Wowwee Flytech Dragonfly ornithopter, they have another moth model and various other remote control models as well.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Most intriguing article odds. Any opinion on the "Dragon-fly" Drones people keep seeing and photo/videoing?