By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Jarno Smeets, a mechanical engineer from the Netherlands, has posted a video at his blog showing what he says is a successful test flight that took place in a park in the Hague last Sunday with a flapping-wing harness device. In the video, Smeets flaps his arms, which are connected to a mechanism that drives the motion in a pair of large fabric-covered wings. He launches by foot, flies briefly not far above the treetops, soars for a moment, and makes a safe landing in a grassy field. Altogether the flight spans about 300 feet. The launch looks unbelievable to most pilots we've shown it to, yet the effort has been covered widely in the European press over the last few months. Here's the video; let us know what you think.
Smeets said his design was inspired by studying the flight techniques of birds, especially the albatross. He built his flapping mechanism using accelerometers from a HTC Wildfire S smartphone, two Wii controllers, and Turnigy motors. He has posted all of his work in a blog and documented the research in a series of videos. In a news release posted online, Smeets said he has "proven that modern technology and robotica can create realistic futures from seemingly impossible engineering dreams -- to fly like a bird." In the video, Smeets says that "at one moment, you see the ground moving away
and then suddenly you're free, a really intense feeling of freedom. A magical moment! The best feeling I have felt in my life."