By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Technology
On Sunday, Dutch inventor Jarno Smeets officially became "the first man in history to fly like a bird with self-built wings."
Author's Note: [1:35 PM E.T.] Some of the commentors and other reports around the web have suggested that Jarno Smeets' video is a fake. A subsequent analysis by the original source (Wired) concludes that the physics is plausible and special effects expert Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters concurs. This story will be updated as new information is released.
Update: [4:23 PM E.T.] Smeets has yet to respond to the claims that his achievement is a hoax, but he recently tweeted that he plans to address the matter. I also requested an interview, but it seems like he might be a little inundated at the moment. Stay tuned! Here's the message that appeared on his Twitter account :
@rafweverbergh @wired that was a reply on your mail where you used the word 'project'. I just replied saying I would come back to you on it
Update: [3/22/12 @ 12:00 PM E.T.] I just got a reply from Jarno Smeets via e-mail stating that he will answer some of my questions pertaining to the Birdwings project. The interview will be posted as soon as I receive his responses.
Updated:[3/22/12 @ 3 PM E.T.] Finally, He speaks! Here's my exclusive interview with Jarno Smeets about the accusations that his seemingly incredible video is a hoax. Would love to hear your opinion on the matter.
Update: [3/22/12 - 3:45 PM E.T.] Mere minutes after I posted this interview, it's claimed that another video emerged. This time it shows Jarno Smeets, which is not even his real name, admit to faking the flying video, according to a user on Twitter. Apparently, he had used animation tricks to hoodwink almost everyone into believing he actually flew. Although he neither confirmed or denied to me that it was a rouse all along, I think you can read between the lines. Read the details on Gizmodo.
Update:[3/22/12 - 4:15 PM E.T.] Here's his confession on Dutch TV via Wired.
Since time immemorial, man has glanced up at the sky and watched with great envy as those magnificent winged creatures above flew circles around him. And although we now have airplanes, deep down inside, we still secretly want to experience what it's like to soar like an eagle (as cliche as that sounds).
Well, I'm here to tell you that it looks like man's day has come. That's because on Sunday a Dutch inventor by the name of Jarno Smeets did the unthinkable when he strapped on a pair of homemade wings and flapped toward the heavens, officially becoming the first man in history to fly like a bird with self-built wings, as reported by Wired.com.
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The custom-made wings were built using -- get this -- two Wii controllers, the accelerometers from a HTC Wildfire S smartphone and Turnigy motors. The actual wing structure consists of lightweight fabric taken from a kite and carbon windsurf masts (as flightpins), which Smeets stiched together himself. Altogether the material weighed a mere 37 ounces.
“It’s important to sew the seams carefully, and give the wing shape extra strength without making it too heavy. The top part of the kite will be folded around the ribs to create an aerodynamic shape. For extra lift and control I’ll stretch a piece of kite fabric between the legs, as some sort of tail wing,” Smeets wrote on his blog.
While flapping his arms generated about 5 percent of the necessary power to achieve lift, the other 95 percent came from motors that provided 2,000 Watts of continuous power. The entire system is a wireless (haptic) concept, meaning that with the addition of video game controllers and smartphone technology, he was able to use his arms to control the contraption and navigate a flight that lasted about 60 seconds, according to a press release.
Although Smeets only began researching his Human Bird Wings project about six months ago, the idea itself had been a lifelong dream.
“Ever since I was a little boy I have been inspired by pioneers like Otto Lilienthal, Leonardo da Vinci and also my own grandfather,” Smeets said.
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Mar 20, 2012
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If it's too good to be true... via AvWeb: Bird-Man Video Formally Resolved More than three million views later, the video that became a media magnet for showing a man flying under homemade flapping wings has been identified by its creator as a fabrication. Bird-Man Jarno Smeets said on a Dutch television show that he is in fact Floris Kaayk, a filmmaker and animator -- and not the inventor of a physically real and functional man-machine-powered ornithopter as presented in his viral videos. Translations of his admission included the phrases "online storytelling" and "an experiment about online media." Kaayk's project included blogs and video that followed his character Jarno Smeets through the process of building and ultimately flying a personal set of flapping wings. The videos were widely perceived as an apparent claim that the project was real and a successful flight had actually been made. As such, they ultimately prompted CGI, hang gliding, and certificated pilot community experts to dig into the task of attempting to verify or (mostly) contest that claim. Emails sent to Smeets by AVweb seeking comment went unanswered, as did those from Wired magazine, which published an article questioning Smeets' resume after finding "nobody knows him." One early player that presented the video as real, tech blog Gizmodo.com, later sought comment from Hollywood CGI experts who rather universally identified the video as well-crafted computer-manipulated imagery. But, until Kaayk's TV appearance, the admission was still missing. Kaayk's project was produced in collaboration with Revolver, a media production company, and Omroep NTL, according to FoxNews.com, which spoke with "sources in the Netherlands who have spoken to the filmmaker."
He's using 2 turnigy RC airplane motors which are amazingly powerful for their size,but are nowhere near the approx 20 HP minium required to lift 160 pounds (estimated). I used to own a Gemini powered hang glider which consisted of two 10 HP chainsaw motors turning 28" propellers mounted to a state-of-the-art hang glider. It was a much more efficient system than flapping wings, but was marginal at best. Also, pitch control is a serious roadblock that was obviously not addressed in this video (no tail or swept back wings or washout at the wingtips. These issues plagued early hang glider design, and resulted in many deaths before they were solved. The modern hang gliders are as safe as any modern aircraft when flown appropriately. The video showing the guy standing on the roof of a building expecting to land in the parking lot below is crazy!
Sorry, but this video is a hoax. In video 13 of 14, the right wing graphics change between the time the camera points down to the grass and refocuses on the wings (about 1:40), with a black box above the circle. In the final video, his body rises on a wing upstroke, and all shots of fabric shows surface tension far below anything needed to generate sufficient lift. See: http://thenextweb.com/insider/2012/03/21/human-birdwings-and-beyond-5-of-the-latest-hoaxes-the-web-has-to-offer/
"flapping his arms generated about 5 percent of the necessary power to achieve lift, the other 95 percent came from motors " If 95 percent of the lift comes from motors, no matter how unique, it is still powered. Is this very different for the light personal aircraft that were not much more than a kite, chair and motorized propeller? This was not in any way disreguarding all the work and research to do this. Certainly he is flapping his arms, but motors do the actual flying. Interesting video.
Having checked out your link, I'll simply quote it's last line: "This may not have been proved as an online hoax just yet, but its safe to assume that it will soon find itself at the top of the list, hence its appearance on ours." While sceptics may be sceptical, just as I am, since it's not yet proven as a hoax, you cannot yet assert that it is a hoax. That would be an unscientific assertion. I'll add some of my own comments. Yes,the video is fishy. However, the wing surface is similar to that of an ultra-light or hang glider, just in a different configuration. Also, because it's motorized, it doesn't count as human-powered flight, but that was never the point. From a sceptical point of view, could such a thing fly? From the point of view of aerodynamics, it could certainly glide. After that, it's purely speculative. As for your assertion about the fabric tension, the fabric tension on the leading edge, where it counts, is quite sufficient. On the trailing edge where it has less of an impact, it's essentially irrelevant. Actual lift off occurs on a down stroke but is not easily apparent because the cycle time and amplitude are so short. But that's irrelevant for the reason I'll state below. Actual flight mechanics of this device do not mimic a bird's flight mechanics. A bird's wings have a cross-section similar to an airplane wing, thick on the leading edge but thin at the trailing edge. Also, during flight and especially at take-off, a bird uses a long amplitude cycle (i.e. they flap from near maximum back reach to near maximum front reach.) This thing does not do that. The wings barely flap at all. And they flap too quickly. The up strokes start before the wing tip has finished reaching the previous upstroke. What you're seeing is not so much as flapping as waves travelling down the frame of the wings giving it a flapping-like appearance. This thing is more like a kite. If I were the one creating this hoax, it would be easy. I'd make the suit you see, and then have myself pulled by a motorcycle which the camera can't see in order to fly up like a kite. That would make it a hang glider with a bunch of SPFX as opposed to an ultra-light orinthopter. However, the big issue here is whether the high frequency flapping can produce enough thrust for this kite to sustain lift. With him running along the ground into a headwind with this kite, he'd be sure to get off the ground for a few seconds, but he'd need sufficient thrust generated by the wings to climb as he's shown and fly for as long as he did. I've seen very small balsa models which do this, sending waves down wings to produce thrust, but at the scale, mass, surface area, and so forth we're seeing, it's a boundary area of physics. Given that, I can't say for certain it's a hoax, but I also can't say for certain that it isn't. If it's not a hoax, then it's similar to Kittyhawk. Everyone initially thought that was a hoax too. They weren't airborne then for very long either.
I agree. Just about one of the wildest things I've ever seen, but you certainly can't call this "human powered flight". Unique method, though not as efficient or useful as an ultra light. Then there's the real danger of flying over a house with a Wii on a conflicting frequency! Oh no! I wonder what DaVinci would have been able to create with the same tools?
...you'd expect that they'd be more clear about how it actually works. Alas, they seem to go out of their way to obscure that.