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(ôr`nəthŏp'tər): see flightflight,
sustained, self-powered motion through the air, as accomplished by an animal, aircraft, or rocket. Animal Flight

Adaptation for flight is highly developed in birds and insects. The bat is the only mammal that accomplishes true flight.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a heavier-than-air craft with flapping wings. A flapping motion of wings is used in flight by various living beings, such as birds.

Studies show that the ratio of a bird’s weight to the power of its muscles is about the same as in humans—(1,350 ± 675) newtons per kilowatt, or (100 ± 50) kilograms-force per horsepower—but the considerable additional weight of the ornithopter structure itself makes takeoff in this type of aircraft virtually impossible for humans. However, if a muscle-powered ornithopter is first accelerated or is launched from an elevated position, it can take off and fly a distance of 1–2 km. Experimental flights in the simplest type of ornithopter (called an orthopter) were made as early as the early 20th century (in 1921 by the Soviet aircraft designer B. I. Cheranovskii and in 1929 by the German aircraft designer H. Krause). The design and construction of ornithopters equipped with an engine and with a complex transmission for the flapping wings are of interest mainly from the viewpoint of developing a theory of the dynamics of a flapping wing.


Tikhonravov, M. K. Polet ptits i mashiny s mashushchimi kryl’iami, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1949.
Alexander, R. Biomekhanika. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from English.)
Shestakova, G. S. Stroenie kryl’ev i mekhanika poleta ptits. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


An aircraft that derives its lift by the flapping of wings or oscillating about any axis but not by rotating.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
References in periodicals archive ?
His models for the ornithopter were birds, and he wrote, "A bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law.
Da Vinci's prediction of a flying machine, the ornithopter. Others have been less successful in their predictions
It is apparent that his attempt has open up the door to the study of aviation whilst revealing the ornithopter concept as a vital aircraft component in maintaining stability when landing.
In 1891 he designed and built a heavier-than-air, model ornithopter whose flapping wings, activated by a rapid succession of cartridge explosions, enabled it to make an unprecedented flight of 80 metres.
Ken Spence of Bend researched 500-year-old drawings of Leonardo da Vinci's "ornithopter," a full-scale, birdlike flying machine the Italian genius drew up on paper but apparently never constructed.
A clever ornithopter requires cereal box, paper towel tube, toothpicks, and chopstick.
These were the creation of an ornithopter, which flew by imitating the movements of birds; a helicopter, which ascended by propellers; and what the French called an aeroplane, which was composed of flat or semi-concave planes and was driven by propellers.
The plane with the name that can't be spoken - the Ornithopter.
For the ultimate head-turner it has to be the plane with the name that can't be spoken with a mouthful of crisps - the Ornithopter.
The MicroBat, a Caltech-AeroVironment collaboration, has the goal of being the first battery-powered, wing-flapping, ornithopter. The MicroBat uses titanium-alloy micro-electromechanical-systems wing technology to achieve flight durations of 5 to 20 sec.
100 years ago a flying machine called an ornithopter, with enormous oscillating wings was constructed at John Shaw's cycle forks works near Priory Street.
Da Vinci himself was studying human physiology and anatomy and the flight of birds, and -- although his own work directly on the topic of human-powered flight, ornithopter design, was essentially meritless beyond its decorative qualities --the apparently tangential work was, in the long run, pertinent to the technologies that would eventually enable the Gossamer Condor to be constructed.