Oh My! Ornithopters!

In Steampunk fiction, there’s no aerial vehicle that is more adored than the airship. Coming in at a close second, however, may be all those various crafts that fall under the term of an ornithopter, an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings. The concept of achieving flight through the flapping of wings has probably enchanted humanity from the first time we gazed up at birds and watched them sailing, seemingly effortlessly, through the sky. Ancients dreamed of it. Leonardo da Vinci even drafted up a concept ornithopter, posted below:

Attempts at building an ornithopter that actually succeeds in flying like a bird have been largely hit or miss throughout the centuries, but we may have gotten just one step closer. A recent TED talk features Markus Fischer and his team at Festo built SmartBird, a large, lightweight robot, modeled on a seagull, that flies by flapping its wings. Watch the video clip here!

And if you happen to be unfamiliar with TED, today’s post is doubly full of win. TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. On TED.com, they make the best talks and performances from TED and partners available to the world, for free.  If you’ve got some free time on the interwebs and want to feel enlightened by how amazing our world is and the research being done within it, TED is an awesome place to check out. It’s definitely time well spent.