abstract musings

abstract (adj.): Considered apart from concrete existence: an abstract concept.
musings (n.): A product of contemplation; a thought.


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Friday, December 03, 2004

The Future of Flight?

First it was Space Ship One winning the X Prize, then came NASA's historic flight of the X-43A aircraft. Now comes the ornithopter?

Come spring, a group of Canadian researchers will try to realize an age-old dream advanced by both science and mythology: to fly like a bird.

With help from his graduate students, James DeLaurier, a professor at the University of Toronto's Institute for Aerospace Studies, has created an ornithopter--a full-size plane designed to get off the ground when its wings flap. Pilot Jack Sanderson will attempt to fly the contraption a few thousand feet next April.

If it succeeds, the flight will fulfill a dream that has foiled Icarus, Leonardo da Vinci and other, more modern aviation pioneers--that is, to achieve flight by means of undulating wings. In standard planes, an engine pushes the plane forward, and the lift is generated under a fixed wing. By contrast, the ornithopter is like a bird: The engine causes the wings to beat, which, in turn, creates the conditions for a lift.

As the article makes clear the goal isn't to revolutionize commercial flight, but to attempt the age old dream of flying like a bird. The project has potential military applications, as well.