At last! Man flaps his arms, flies like a bird

On Sunday, Dutch inventor Jarno Smeets officially became "the first man in history to fly like a bird with self-built wings."
Written by Tuan Nguyen, Contributor

Author's Note: [1:35 PM E.T.] Some of the commentors and other reports around the web have suggested that Jarno Smeets' video is a fake. A subsequent analysis by the original source (Wired) concludes that the physics is plausible and special effects expert Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters concurs. This story will be updated as new information is released.

Update: [4:23 PM E.T.] Smeets has yet to respond to the claims that his achievement is a hoax, but he recently tweeted that he plans to address the matter. I also requested an interview, but it seems like he might be a little inundated at the moment. Stay tuned! Here's the message that appeared on his Twitter account :

@rafweverbergh @wired that was a reply on your mail where you used the word 'project'. I just replied saying I would come back to you on it

Update: [3/22/12 @ 12:00 PM E.T.] I just got a reply from Jarno Smeets via e-mail stating that he will answer some of my questions pertaining to the Birdwings project. The interview will be posted as soon as I receive his responses.

Updated:[3/22/12 @ 3 PM E.T.] Finally, He speaks! Here's my exclusive interview with Jarno Smeets about the accusations that his seemingly incredible video is a hoax. Would love to hear your opinion on the matter.

Update: [3/22/12 - 3:45 PM E.T.] Mere minutes after I posted this interview, it's claimed that another video emerged. This time it shows Jarno Smeets, which is not even his real name, admit to faking the flying video, according to a user on Twitter. Apparently, he had used animation tricks to hoodwink almost everyone into believing he actually flew. Although he neither confirmed or denied to me that it was a rouse all along, I think you can read between the lines. Read the details on Gizmodo.

Update:[3/22/12 - 4:15 PM E.T.] Here's his confession on Dutch TV via Wired.


Since time immemorial, man has glanced up at the sky and watched with great envy as those magnificent winged creatures above flew circles around him. And although we now have airplanes, deep down inside, we still secretly want to experience what it's like to soar like an eagle (as cliche as that sounds).

Well, I'm here to tell you that it looks like man's day has come. That's because on Sunday a Dutch inventor by the name of Jarno Smeets did the unthinkable when he strapped on a pair of homemade wings and flapped toward the heavens, officially becoming the first man in history to fly like a bird with self-built wings, as reported by Wired.com.

The custom-made wings were built using -- get this -- two Wii controllers, the accelerometers from a HTC Wildfire S smartphone and Turnigy motors. The actual wing structure consists of lightweight fabric taken from a kite and carbon windsurf masts (as flightpins), which Smeets stiched together himself. Altogether the material weighed a mere 37 ounces.

“It’s important to sew the seams carefully, and give the wing shape extra strength without making it too heavy. The top part of the kite will be folded around the ribs to create an aerodynamic shape. For extra lift and control I’ll stretch a piece of kite fabric between the legs, as some sort of tail wing,” Smeets wrote on his blog.

While flapping his arms generated about 5 percent of the necessary power to achieve lift, the other 95 percent came from motors that provided 2,000 Watts of continuous power. The entire system is a wireless (haptic) concept, meaning that with the addition of video game controllers and smartphone technology, he was able to use his arms to control the contraption and navigate a flight that lasted about 60 seconds, according to a press release.

Although Smeets only began researching his Human Bird Wings project about six months ago, the idea itself had been a lifelong dream.

“Ever since I was a little boy I have been inspired by pioneers like Otto Lilienthal, Leonardo da Vinci and also my own grandfather,” Smeets said.

(via Wired, Press release)


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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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