Make an ornithopter/chirothopter

this instructable shows how to create an ornithopter or chirothopter (mechanical bird/bat)

this is my first instructable and i decided to make this page after i had finished the project so bear with me

some facts:
ornithopters were originally designed by the great Leonard da vinci.
the word ornithopter opter comes from the latin and/or greek root words Orni meaning: bird and thopter meaning: mechanical flapping wing, chiro means: hand
though many small working models have been constructed, no life sized, motor powered machines, have ever been able to achieve sustained flight
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Step 1: Gather your parts

you will need :

balsa wood
wood glue
tape/hole reinforcer

(optional) to make life easier
super glue
some kind of wing membrane
electric motor
small gear
large gear
battery snaps
9v battery
spst switch
660 resistor


exacto knife
soldering iron

total cost: $30+
________w/o any tools or suplies

Step 2: Tail

Picture of tail
begin the project by cutting a tail for your machine. make sure it is not too long or heavy!!!

add an upright dorsal fin to the end of the tail. make sure to leave room for a motor.

cut a small triangle out of the main tail piece at about 5/8" away from the beginning of the dorsal fin

make two long and somewhat thin strips of wood, fit the corners of the pieces into the cut-out rectangle and glue them at your desired angle.

if you want you can put a wing membrane on these as show

ignore the top two fins and clips, those are for later
martzsam3 years ago
The biggest problem you are probably having is a wing to body ratio... Your wings aren't nearly big enough to lift that body, plus your motor and battery is way too heavy. From the looks of it, you are just using a DC motor you salvaged, and those can be useful, but not for flight. You should try looking into RC aircraft motors, they are much lighter as they are meant to fly.

An easy way to get one would be to buy a cheap RC helicopter, and just take out the electronics. That way, you would have one motor to power the wings, and one to steer. (And a remote to control it.)

Your mechanics are impressive for a beginner, and you should keep up the good work!

(FYI I fly model airplanes in a club. They are a bit different, but same basic principle)
Emsaid5 years ago
This is good but try making one that flies
budsiskos (author)  Emsaid5 years ago
i have several times, but its much harder than you would think
i know i have to...
Kiteman6 years ago life-sized machines have ever been able to achieve sustained flight...

Except for these ones.

Still, it's a good project.
budsiskos (author)  Kiteman6 years ago
first of all wikipedia cannot be trusted because it can be edited by anyone. second of all, no they didn't. only one actually got a foot off the ground before crashing while the others simply got up to take off speed. but thanks for the compliment
Ah ornithopters are such a reality you can buy a toy that flies. take your pick parrot or dragon Fly. the technology is well understood - Yes no man carrying ornithopter exists but the models fly well.
no there have been life sized ornithopers that worked.
budsiskos (author)  budsiskos6 years ago
oh and another thing, the 1942 ornithopter was technically not an ornithopter because along with moving wings, it had too use fixed wings. and the 2006 flight required a jet engine at the back. the others are man powered but i will still change the quote to say

no life sized, motor powered machines, have ever been able to achieve sustained flight
If it's pushed by a flapping action, it's an ornithopter, but I'll let you argue that one out with the ornithopter-building community:

With a 3 hp Sachs motorcycle engine, and presumably wheels added, the ornithopter was able to take off unassisted from the ground. It made a quiet 15-minute flight at about 60 kilometers per hour. Then a 6 hp engine was installed, increasing the speed to 80 kph. After these historic accomplishments, Schmid's work was interrupted by the war.

By 1947, however, Schmid had constructed a second ornithopter. This one, a modified Grunau-Baby IIa sailplane, was constructed with flapping outer wing sections. Using a 10 hp engine, this double-seater was capable of speeds estimated at 100 to 120 kilometers per hour.

Yves Rousseau attempted his first human-powered flight with flapping wings in 1995. On 20 April 2006, at his 212th attempt, he succeeded in flying a distance of 64 metres, observed by officials of the Aero Club de France. Unfortunately, on his 213th flight attempt, a gust of wind led to a wing breaking up, causing the pilot to be gravely injured (paraplegic). M. Rousseau deserves international recognition for his 13 years of work on human-powered ornithopter flight.

budsiskos (author)  Kiteman6 years ago
as i said before, a combination of wings does not count, and if it did, it would be more of a very strange enomopter (mechanical bug)

i also already said that i was changing the quote to say motor powered, but either way, human power is quite impratical. first off youd have to be in top shape for a single flight, and once airborn, your body would tire easily from a mixture of bouncing in and out of altitudes and the lack of oxygen from being higher up. besides, i would like to see you try to get a 747 off the ground on man power alone,
... a combination of wings does not count ...

If it counts for the main ornithopter-makers' site, it counts for me.

...motor powered...

You didn't read my first quote, did you?

Or don't you consider a 10hp engine to be motor powered? And that's with the main lift-providing wings flapping, not a secondary set, so it satisfies all your criteria. Or does 15min+ at 120kph not count as "sustained" in your dictionary?
Kiteman Kiteman6 years ago
There weren't so many video cameras around in 1910, so this modern replica of a full-sized flying original will have to do:

budsiskos (author)  Kiteman6 years ago
did you not see how at the beginning the wings did absolutely nothing but as soon as the propeller kicked on, it sped off. i also believe that it could not have flown without the top wings. now that i see a propeller, i can tell you that its neither an ornithopter,entomopter or airplane. its some unnamed contraption.
Idk about the whole issue at hand, but the video had a propeller. Secondly they have made a full sized ornithopter (Or whatever) thirdly, you'd have to define wings then, Your version has tail fins, those look like fixed wings. The real full sized one looks like a regular airplane, but the wings are raised up higher. a piston behind the cab makes both wings move up and down. Just putting it out there
budsiskos (author)  Kiteman6 years ago
well if you had read the quote that you quoted me on then yes it would appear that i did read the other quote. also, i have already contacted ornithopter. org asking why they simply call all their posts ornithopters and not entomopters and chirothopters. they replied saying that they do this because they believe most people aren't literate enough to understand ornithopter, let alone entomopter and chirothopter. so they just use the broad term. but just for you i will post the exact reply...

Most people have favored a broad definition of the term "ornithopter" which
encompasses all flapping-wing aircraft. I realize not everyone agrees on
this. I'm just going with the majority of previous authors, when I say that
the flapping motion (as opposed to a rotary propeller or wing) seems to be
the essential feature of bird flight that these machines embody in order to
earn the term "ornithopter" (Greek for "bird wing"). If I were to consider
your position that they do not actually have feathers, then I would also
have to consider that they might not qualify as true "entomopters" either
since they do not have a deformable chitinous shell driving the wings, etc.
Calling them all "ornithopters" gives a convenient term for all aircraft
sharing in common the fact that they were inspired by natural flight. I do
not think it is a good idea to divide up these various machines into other
technical terms such as "entomopter" "chiropter" etc. This only makes it
more complicated for people outside the field, for whom a single technical
term such as "ornithopter" is often difficult to pronounce, unfamiliar, and
somewhat daunting. The diversity of flapping-wing aircraft types is
stunning, and the features that set them apart from one another have little
to do with the features by which animals are classified. Therefore, it would
create a really difficult job for taxonomists seeking to categorize flying
machines as you propose.
reason why...they were just too darn heavy and not powerful nough
eelco_g5 years ago
Why not use a small stepper motor instead of a geared DC motor ? A stepper has lots of torque at very low speeds, which is what you want when flapping wings. I think a stepper and required electronics weigh less than the DC motor and gearbox do now.
budsiskos (author)  eelco_g5 years ago
probably but i had a dc motor on hand and this is more of a model and proof of concept. ive tried flying moddels before and theyve all failed. but i hope to get better parts for christmas
the whole point of building a flying machine is so that it flies expiriment take risks you wont learn anything about this subject if you leave it on the ground!

i would suggest mounting a thick rubberband to the bottom of the tail as an alternative to a motor

if you want i could draw you up some plans

(no offense intended)
Hi MadScience#1 I have just joined the instructables and am interested in making a flying machine. could you give any pointers to a novice like me? I am fascinated by the range I have seen on you tube but, am perplexed as how the actual mechanism works. Could you possibly give me any pointers.
i am also some what of a novice but i cannot say i didnt build a hangglider that nearly killed me[dramatization]but i guess we could share ideas i am flattered you would ask me for helpemail me at
budsiskos (author)  MadScience#15 years ago
well the whole point of this instructable was to give people basic ornithopter building technics. i have tried adding a rechargeable batter as a power source and its so powerful on the engine its wings move the ornithopter and its stand across the table for a few seconds before the gear mechanism is nearly destroyed. i will try to improve and possibly make it flight worthy soon. but i have found that two AA batteries work as abetter power source then the one 9 volt, at least for display purposes only
budsiskos (author)  budsiskos5 years ago
and it would also be nice if i could see those plans.
get some ideas from someone else's point of view
jackm71276 years ago
(a big ole ornithopter)
jackm71276 years ago
brainspater6 years ago
thats a very cool idea.
bbogusguy6 years ago
The wing goes down and creates lift. The wing goes up and produces a down draft. What keeps them from canceling out?
budsiskos (author)  bbogusguy6 years ago
the wings would cancel eachother out on a solid wing if it were to flap, but if you simple keep the wing membrane loose then when the wing flaps in either direction it creates a backwards thrust that propels it and allows it to remain aloft. the rest is done by the wings natural lift ability like how airplanes use wings.
Kiteman6 years ago
Hang on a minute - does this things actually fly??

The motor and battery seem awfully heavy (unlike the rubber-band powered versions, such as Royalestel's version ).
budsiskos (author)  Kiteman6 years ago
your right to say it looks heavy. this is mainly because i was too cheap to go out an by a rechargeable battery and good motor. the motor I'm using came from an old hot wheels set. but still, all and all it weighs less than an ipod. for the flying part, to be honest, im not really sure. the project is somewhat fragile and it took a lot of hard work to put it all together so im not about to just go through it across the room. but i can tell you that at about half power on a good battery, you can get a pretty good breeze from it and a lot of movement.
royalestel6 years ago
Thanks for sharing! I think better pictures and a few spelling corrections could improve it!
rimar20006 years ago
awoodcarver6 years ago
Very nice work , I need to make one !

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