Ornithopter Replicates Insect Flight

Mar 25, 2011
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A team at Cornell University's Computational Synthesis Laboratory has developed tiny hovering Ornithopters. These machines were the first type of design for mechanical flight that people began to experiment with. The team at Cornell has been working on the project design for the past few years, but last year they were able to construct a working model using 3D printing techniques. They mimicked the principles of insect flight to design their hovering machine. These little guys flit around like mechanical lacewings.

The 3D printing techniques allowed the students to quickly redesign the wings of their tiny craft. This tiny 'thopter weighs in at less than four grams and has demonstrated 85 seconds of stable untethered flight. The trick to the untethered flight comes in the form of two dampening sails attached to the top and bottom of the wings. The sails even give the 'thopter the ability to right itself by flipping from upside down into a position where lift is produced.

This video posted by the team from Cornell is a compilation of flight demonstrations. It starts by showing the design's tethered flight capabilities, both at a stable altitude and with a climb and descent. Then it has a few videos of various untethered flight tests, including a slow motion demonstration of the self-righting flip and the 85 second endurance test.

The team was composed of Charlie Richter, Floris van Breugel, William Regan, and Zhi Ern Teoh.

[via Cornell CSL]


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