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Leonardo da Vinci's dream of the Flying Machine.

Updated: Jan 9, 2019

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci or simply Leonardo da Vinci (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519) was a genius, he was a marvel of the humanity who was too creative to develop the logic to fruit the impossible. He is the creator of a ton of great inventions like the flying machine, anemometer, aerial screw, parachute etc. He had a brain that was capable of believing and creating the unbelievable.

He was not only an inventor but a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, writer, anatomist, geologist, astronomist, botanist, historian, and a cartographer. But here in this blog we are talking only about his engineering inventions.

da Vinci was an amazing observer and a thinker, and whatever he observed or thought he used to write it. He used to write lot about his thoughts and his inventions but maybe out of laziness and lack of resources most of da Vinci's inventions never actually came out from his papers to reach the real grounds, atleast not from him.

So a lots of his greatest inventions that we are going to talk about are just calculated ideas with all the technical details included by him.

Today we are going to discuss about flying machine that da Vinci made. He was always fascinated by the possibility of human flying in the air. That is why most of the da Vinci's inventions were dedicated to the same purpose. da Vinci's love for making human flight possible as pure as his love for making good art.

Pardon, but i guess its in my blood to praise the genius of the great humans, so without wasting any time now lets jump to the topic and discuss everything about da Vinci's FLYING MACHINE in detail.

The flying machine is one of the most famous invention of da Vinci. It is a clear demonstration of his powerful observation and incredible imagination, as it was very clear that he tried to mimic the flying animals around him. The design of this invention is clearly inspired by the flight of winged animals, which da Vinci tried to replicate. In fact, in his papers he mentions bats, kites and birds as his sources of inspiration. And I personally believe that great inventions are always inspired by beauty of the nature, take gravity for an instance.


Design Inspiration

Now lets us discuss about the design of flying machine that this genius created. The design of flying machine was clearly inspired by the bats as the two wings of this device were pointed from the ends just like this winged creature, even the mechanism and the structure was quite similar to the wings of bats.


Working and Pilot’s Position


The position of the pilot is as such that he lies with his face down in the middle of his invention. The device has a wingspan of more than 33 feet. To operate these wings there is a rope attached to the wings near to the pilot, the rope is then allowed to pass through a pulley which goes straight to the other end of the device near the toes of the pilot. The end of the rope has loop and a straight wooden piece that supports the feet of the pilot to increase the ease of pedaling the device.


Leonardo da Vinci's painting/drawing of his invention, the flying machine
Here is the original Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of his flying machine. Notice it carefully to understand the working of this invention better

Picture Credits.

So to hook his feet in the pedal of da Vinci’s flying machine the pilot had to fold his legs as the pedal is near his toes. After hooking it in as the pilot will push his leg to spread them straight, the rope will automatically get pulled and this will cause the wing flap down, and as the pilot will release his legs to unstretch it he will push the wings up. In that way he will be flapping wings the way a bird does and this will cause him to fly. The inspirations of nature is apparent in the way the wings were designed to twist as flapped.

Basically it’s the span and the structure of the wings that make the flight of da Vinci’s kite inspired machine possible.


The Limitations


The Ornithopeter was never build during the whole lifetime of da Vinci maybe because it has a lots of safety risks and impracticality. The flying machine was mostly made up of pine wood and was large enough to keep. We all know that wood is not a very strong material and it cannot ensure the level of safety a man flying at the height of hundreds of feets above the ground would need. Although the device was geometrically stable the presence of high velocity wind could disbalance it and if the pilot is not too skilled then there is a huge of probability of him falling down to kiss the grass. In my opinion safety is the biggest issue with da Vinci’s flying machine, it was a very basic structure with almost no significant safety, obviously I am not expecting air bags in an invention of 15th century but expect it to be more safe by having some belts and a wider support for the pilot.

The invention of da Vinci is not recognized as a milestone in the human flight for its design and practicality(which obviously it isn’t) but for other two things, the courage da Vinci had to take the thought of the possibility of human flight seriously, and to be an idea centuries beyond its time of origin. Basically it was not the invention itself that was great, but the time during which da Vinci invented it. There is still no evidence that da Vinci ever tried to made this machine.


Real Life da Vinci Ornithopters

We all know that the da Vinci's Flying Machine is impractical but after a few changes into the structure of this invention, it is possible to make it fly and keep ot safe for the humans also. Smaller, remote-controlled ornithopters have been successfully flown. Even toy makers have figured out how to make a flapping, flying plastic bird.

In 2003, James DeLaurier, inventor and professor emeritus of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, and his collaborators finished building a "mechanical hummingbird," called Mentor, for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Mentor was the world's first hovering ornithopter.




James DeLaurier, is a leader in design and analysis of lighter than air vehicles and flapping winged aircraft. DeLaurier and his team of young researchers at the University of Toronto have a full scale Ornithopeter, called the "Flapper", that they believe will be the first to take humanity into the sky. Testing of the "Flapper" on the runway began in 1996, but there have been several setbacks, including problems with the drive train and excessive bouncing when the wings flapped.

To read more about the "Flapper", Ornothopter: Click Here

To make your own Ornithopter: Click Here

To buy an Ornithopter Kit online: Click Here


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