“Up in the air, Junior Birdman!” A Dutch inventor has successfully created a pair of human-scale bird wings that, thanks to a DIY control system using Wiimotes among other things, allowed him to fly around 100m. Enthusiast Jarno Smeets mimicked the wing design of an albatross, with wings crafted from kite fabric and the flyer’s own flapping efforts amplified by motors.
It’s that amplification and control system that is the real magic here. Smeets took the accelerometers from an HTC Wildfire S and, with two Wii remotes, uses them to control the output from battery-powered Turnigy motors. Together, they flap the 17 m2 wings – stiffened using carbon windsurf masts – and provide the roughly 2,000W of power needed continuously to keep the engineer’s body up.
Designing, building and testing the wings took around eight months, with the help of a neuromechanics expert, Bert Otten.
A roughly minute-long flight was squeezed from the system, and Smeets is unsurprisingly jubilant. You can see the end results in the video below, filmed using a GoPro camera mounted to the birdman’s helmet.