We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is an Ornithopter?

Michael Anissimov
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
InfoBloom is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At InfoBloom, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An ornithopter is a machine that flies like a bird, by flapping its wings. Most orithopters are about the size of small birds. Larger, man-carrying models have been attempted, but so far without proven success. Airplane-sized ornithopters have accelerated to takeoff speed on a runaway, but full takeoff has never really been successful. The ornithopter was popularized in Frank Herbert's Dune book series, as well as in the recent movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Bird-sized model ornithopters are cheaply available and used by hobbyists worldwide. The ornithopter was first designed by Leonardo da Vinci and drawn in some detail in his notebooks. In lieu of feathers, it used a membrane, showing that da Vinci had some basic understanding of the mechanism of flight. It was meant to be man-powered, but did not produce enough lift to take off. The da Vinci ornithopter was likely never built.

The closest we have come to a large ornithopter is a project run by the University of Toronto, called Project Ornithopter. The ornithopter resembles a propeller prop plane, but lacks a propeller and instead has flapping wings. As stated before, it has been accelerated at takeoff speed down a runaway, but has not yet attempted full flight.

The first ornithopter was possibly built in Germany by Karl Friederich Meerwein in 1781 as a proof-of-concept for heavier-than-air flight. It is claimed to have flown, but more likely glided after being launched from a high place. When the aerodynamic principles of flight were elucidated mathematically in 1799 by George Cayley, it became obvious that gliders were more convenient than ornithopters, so much research in this direction was abandoned.

Some interesting projects have used chemically powered artificial muscles to flap the wings of small ornithopters. One day, robots like these might be used as imitation birds for surveillance. A benefit of chemically powered ornithopters is that they do not necessarily use combustion for power and thereby spare the sky from pollution.

InfoBloom is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated InfoBloom contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
By anon71804 — On Mar 20, 2010

i'm greatly interested in this project.

By anon28657 — On Mar 19, 2009

I would be interested in your idea.

By alexfly — On May 20, 2008

I have an idea for building a man power flying plane, who will be interested in talking about this project?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated InfoBloom contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology,...
Learn more
InfoBloom, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

InfoBloom, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.