Is the flying bird man real? [Video]

A video’s been making waves around the web today. It purportedly shows a man achieving flight using nothing but a pair of wings, some muscle-boosting gears, an Android-powered smartphone, and some Wii controllers, but is it real?

The flying device’s supposed inventor is a Dutch chap called Jarno Smeets, who claims to have built the prototype over the course of a year and to have been inspired by his grandfather’s design for a flying bicycle.

In an official press release, Smeets says that his aim was to disprove the assumption “that it was impossible to fly with bird-like wings using human muscle power”.

Smeets claims to have used some fairly basic equipment in building the Human Bird Wings, including “two Wii controllers, the accelerometers from a HTC Wildfire S smartphone and Turnigy motors”.

Putting all this technology together, Smeets claims, provided him with extra power to move his 17m2 wings and “allowed him to move his arms freely without any risk of breaking them”.

If the video is to be believed, Smeets managed to stay in the air for over a minute — which is longer than the Wright Brothers achieved with their first powered flight.

The question remains, however, is the evolution of personal flying, or a carefully crafted fake?

Of course, the dreamer in all of us wants to believe that we can fly like this. There’s a reason the story of Icarus has stuck around for so long and it’s not because he flew too close to the sun.

Unfortunately my inner sceptic is a lot nastier than my inner dreamer is nice. First, the images of Smeets taking off don’t look all that different to the footage you see in documentaries about early attempts at early flight.

Thing is, those blokes didn’t have any of the digital film technology we have now, so their videos tended to end with them either falling off a cliff, or collapsing into an inept heap.

As UK tech site The Register notes, there’s also “no reason for the ground cameras to stay so far away from the intrepid birdman during launch”.

The site also notes that the wings don’t seem to have quite the bearing power required to lift a fully grown human male and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of battery pack for the hardware.

Another blog seems to have taken a detailed look at the equipment pictures on Smeets’ blog and note, among other things, that batteries are lithium-ion and that “This is all appropriate”.

None of this, of course, disproves the video entirely. Any aeronautical engineers, feel free to comment.

Oh, one more thing. To my mind Smeets’ wing motion doesn’t really resemble that of any bird. In fact, they look more like a bat’s wings. Holy crap, if this guy really can fly, and it turns out his parents were killed in a tragic mugging outside the back of a theatre, the Dutch might just have a new masked vigilante on their hands.

Cowled crime fighter or not, Batman’s way cooler than Birdman. Besides, the last guy to call himself Birdman crashed into Table Mountain.



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.