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Birdish Flying Suit

Feathers, Flapping Wings, and Everything
  [vote for,

Humans in general are not able to continually push their weight in air downward, and those who can can't do so for very long. However, there is still something to be said for the flying suit. It's smaller, more flexible, and in the event of crash less likely to injure many people than an airplane, and it is 'personal', as in 'more readily available for ownership to the layperson'.

This suit would be designed after the natural airplanes all around us, the birds. Natural or synthetic feathers would provide flying surface and insulation, being effective at both and being lightweight at the same time. Wingspan would be 10-16 feet (3-5 m). It would have high-performance, high-efficiency motors on a carbon-fiber bone structure, said motors and bones being patterned closely after birds' wings and linked to the user's appropriate individual muscles and joints. Biofeedback sensors would convey the user's arm motion to the motors (amplifying the power greatly), and would convey movement of select individual flight feathers from such things as wind to the appropriate parts of the arms, to give the user approximately the same information as a bird would receive from nerve endings at the base of those feathers. Same in general goes for the tail, which would be controlled by the legs/feet. The user would be notified by a slight prick in the appropriate place if a feather came out.

There would be a helmet equipped with GPS, airspeed, altitude, etc., on a HUD. The helmet would have to provide a wide field of vision.

A parachute would be vital.

The power could be supplied by one or more of the following: fuel cell, lithium-polymer batteries, a small engine, or anything lightweight that can provide several hundred watts for a few hours.

Now, no one has really made a device that flap-flies very well, but this suit overcomes that limitation by having the 'pilot' learn how to fly. People are much better-suited to learn to fly this way than computers are. There would probably be places you could learn to fly it.

The suit could have a loudspeaker/radio with which one could communicate with others. It would also have a selection of 'horns' to choose from, including eagle, crow, hawk, parakeet and chickadee. Telescopic vision optional.

This suit, if made and made inexpensively enough, could be the first practical 'urban personal flying car'.

galukalock, Jun 17 2003

Squirrelish Flying Suits http://news.bbc.co..../uk_news/830210.stm
(As noted elsewhere, the inventor died in one, so take heed.) [DrCurry, Oct 05 2004]

Turboproppish Flying Suit http://www.technolo...dreas__project.html
(Not sure I'd call a couple of metal tubes a suit, though.) [DrCurry, Oct 05 2004]

Ornithopters http://indev.hypermart.net/
Flapping flight. No man power yet though. [2 fries shy of a happy meal, Oct 05 2004]

Human Powered Flapping Flight http://patricktimon...ven.com/photo3.html
see bad drawing entitled "spiral sring wings" [JesusHChrist, Jan 09 2005]

Spring Wings http://patricktimon...en.com/catalog.html
See pictures of mathematical cornucopias as basis for design of 4-wing flying suit [JesusHChrist, Jan 09 2005]


       Probably it would work, weren't some of the flying dinosaurs like the Quetzalcoatlus more or less our weight? But I think you might need much bigger wings.   

       A more salient issue is one of efficiency-Is wing flapping the most efficient way of flying? I don't think so, a combination of fixed wing+prop would probably be a better use of energy.   

       And so the Microlight is (re)invented...
cevilthedevil, Jun 17 2003

       Devices to mimic the flight of birds are so Baked - before the Wright brothers, everyone and their uncle tried that approach to flying. None of them worked, of course, so permit me some large degree of scepticism about your approach.   

       But, "flying suits" (actually, gliding suits) are both practical and Baked. Stick some feathers on one of those, if it doesn't mess the aerodynamics too much.
DrCurry, Jun 17 2003

       //Is wing flapping the most efficient way of flying?//   

       Actually, it probably is, given nature's history of having the best design first.   

       //How is this not just a powered hang glider?//   

       Well, firstly, it's a suit. Your arms are actually inside the wings. Secondly, it has moving parts, many of them. Thirdly, it is a powered-flight vehicle, unlike any hang glider I've ever seen. And finally, biofeedback, which is a very important component of this, as it allows the user to become one with the suit.   

       [DrCurry] You are quite right to be skeptical. However, said devices were being developed nearly 100 years ago, and the advents of such technologies as computers, carbon-fiber, high-capacity batteries, and high-power compact motors, as well as a lot more knowledge of how flight works, have not only made this possible, they may make it even more desirable than ultralights, as this would be far less noisy, and more 'birdlike'.
galukalock, Jun 17 2003

       like the no doubt many other people who have had similar ideas, i think this would be wonderful *pokes tongue out at naysayers*. it's not about "efficiency" or "gliding", but about recreating the experience of flight as if you were a bird. i really wish some eccentric billionaire would fund its development (far more imaginative than say blowing $30 million in one night at the casino, and think of the spin-off benefits for paraplegics etc). forget the parachute, and i'd even be prepared to have my shoulders surgically modified to allow my arms to rotate right behind my back - although that kinda defeats the purpose of a suit that can be worn as desired
philmckraken, Jun 07 2004

       If you added leg wings so each appendage had a wing it would be much easier to translate all of a person's energy efficiently into the air. The wing design should be based on mathematical cornucopias (see link) and each wing should wrap around its appendage until it is unfurreled by the flyer doing a crawl-like stroke with enough energy. If the material was really springy and adaptive foam you wouldn't need to develop artificial feathers or use motors. The point is to build adaptive wings that allow every muscle in the body to output what it is capable and translate that energy efficiently into the air.
JesusHChrist, Jan 09 2005

       >>Humans in general are not able to continually push their weight in air downward   

       Not true -- haven't been so far because of inefficient adaptivity to the air. This is like the ton of feathers ton of lead thing. Humans can push their weight downward in anything given the right material and the right shape.
JesusHChrist, Feb 17 2005


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