Over an eight month period, Dutch mechanical engineer Jarno Smeets developed a set of wings equipped with a special motion mechanism that will allow him to fly simply by flapping his arms like a bird. He created a harness out of aircraft grade aluminum and then equipped it with lightweight wings and an Android smartphone, which processes the pilot’s arm acceleration and determines the corresponding motor output. The phone is connected to a Seeduino ADK microcontroller, which, in turn, is connected to two Wii Motion Plus and a Wii Nunchuck. Together these devices measure the acceleration, motion and various parameters required for making the calculations for the flapping motion.
Jarno has already had a successful test which carried him over 328 feet, however, many pilots have come forward claiming that the video is fake based on observations that the wings aren’t under load during the flight, that Jarno is able to suspend his feet behind him without the necessary harness and that there is a lack of required roll and pitch stability mechanisms.
Despite the use of motors, it’s interesting to think that flapping of the arms could be used at all in sustaining flight. Author, pilot, builder and designer Harry Combs noted that it would require 50 times the strength of a man to sustain himself in the air with flapping wings. He went on to say that in order for birds to obtain the energy necessary to actuate their wings for flight, they must eat roughly their own body weight in food daily, and have pulse rates of roughly 500 to 700 beats per minute. When compared to a human’s 70 beats per minute, the difference in energy generation is roughly 10 to 1. The drastically reduced power to weight ratio and ease of construction is the reason early experimenters went with rigid wings that mimic soaring bird flight.
I’m not saying the video below isn’t legit, but it’s hard not to be skeptical.