Throughout history, people have dreamed of flying and it’s only recently that we achieved that ability. To do it though, we have to take advantage of subtle tricks of physics to glide through the air; we’ve never been able to achieve what the birds can do, to fly by their own power with the flapping of their wings.
Wait, did I say we’ve never been able to do it? I meant until now.
Todd Reichert, an engineering student at the University of Toronto in Canada, made world history on August 2nd, 2010 by piloting an ornithoper named Snowbird for 19.3 seconds over 475.72 feet. An ornithopter is a type of aircraft designed to mimic the flight of birds, with wings that flap. It is incredibly light, made of balsa wood, foam, and carbon fiber, and took Reichert’s team 4 years to construct.
There is no engine in Snowbird; Reichert himself had to provide the power by pedaling and flapping, and doing it fast enough to fly. That ordeal required him to take on a year-long exercise program prior to the flight, both to get his weight down as much as possible and to increase his strength for the task.
Check out the video of the flight below; the takeoff is assisted by a plane with an engine, but then the cable is cut and the remainder of the flight is accomplished under the pilot’s own body power. See also Cali’s segment on this story in GeekBeat.TV Episode 41!