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Man Supposedly Flies With Custom-Built Bird Wings (wired.com)
360 points by dym on March 21, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 154 comments

Things that make this video implausible:

1) You have the engineering fortitude to come up with something that has never been done before, and you choose to attach it to your body with a consumer grade backback? And not even a full hiking one with multiple points of attachment? No rock-climbing harness?

2) Fabric is waaay too loose on the wings to be effective in any kind of aerodynamic sense. At best this is a kite

3) He would "only be able to come up with 5% of the power needed", so he used a bunch of Turnigy motors and some magical super-compact power supply to provide the necessary lift? Not to mention, motors aren't exactly built for rapid oscillation back and forth, and I see no complex mechanisms to turn rotations into a very strong/rapid oscillating force

4) There are ZERO control surfaces on those wings to be able to pull up for a landing like he does. No, that pillow case between his legs doesn't count.

5) An Android operated system, that dynamically reads two separate wii remotes, and converts that accelerometer input into wing movements would not be that responsive.

6) No continuous shot from take-off to landing

7) No shot of the gear used to accomplish this, whether it be the motors/batteries/wiring/pulleys

The disregard for the physics of the situation is actually quite insulting. The "demonstration" is so far from realistic its not even worth a debunking.

Here is an example of what this man is claiming to have done, actually being done, by a team of engineers working for years:


Great video. Notice the difference in the motion of the wings? So much more fluid and natural than the flat and rigid motion of the video from the Wired article.

It's an entirely different mechanism, hence the difference in movement. Note also that the wings are powered by peddling, whereas the birdman has accelerometer-controlled wings (individually controlled, rather).

Though in the OP video, there isn't any claim that it's human powered, so it's a bit different even if still implausible.

1) Backpack is clearly attached with better-than-normal strapping in front. Watch preflight carefully. EDIT: Look here (http://www.humanbirdwings.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/IMG...)

2) If it's a kite and gets off the ground, so what? Worked, didn't it? Also, for wings, it just has to be glider plus produce enough thrust off the flapping to keep it aloft, yeah? We're not making an airplane here. EDIT: Looks like there is an internal core wing structure (http://www.humanbirdwings.net/wp-content/gallery/fixingwings...) with the extra fabric functioning somewhat like secondary feathers.

3) Motors alone aren't made for rapid oscillation--that's why we have other mechanical devices such as cams, pistons, etc. If you listen carefully at liftoff you can hear a highpitched whine, perhaps a small IC engine. EDIT: Confirmed as electric motors using battery packs.

4) You probably just need to change the angle of attack, and maybe dick around with Cg and Cp. So, until I see your numbers, I'm not discounting this out of hand.

5) Where in the press release does it say he uses an Android OS? It says he uses accelerometers from an HTC smartphone, sure, but I didn't see anything about running Android. EDIT: Taking my own advice, look here for system diagram: (http://www.humanbirdwings.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/exp...). He uses one phone per wing, plus additional computation power.

6) So what? That alone isn't implausible.

7) That's probably because this is worth good money in patents. EDIT: Check the website here (http://www.humanbirdwings.net/press/).

Why is it so absurd that this might work?

There's much more information on his site (motors, batteries, drawings): http://www.humanbirdwings.net/.

Maybe it's fake but plenty of effort went into it.

Watch a bird take off. Start with some pigeons, then some sea gulls. If you can, watch an albatross - on YouTube if nothing else. As you get larger, you get heavier; as you get heavier you need more lifting force (ie, bigger wings, moving faster). Recall that weight is a function of volume and increases with the cube of your dimensions, while lifting force is a function of surface area and only increases with the square of your dimensions. Very very roughly if you're twice as big, you get four times the surface area but eight times the weight, meaning that as you get larger flying goes from being "difficult" to impossible. And a man is large, and the batteries and motors he was allegedly using just add weight.

All of which is a long way of saying that he runs very slowly, his wings are very small, and they flap very slowly. The first couple seconds of him after take off our patently absurd; you need to be applying - somehow - hundreds of pounds of force to the air to push you off the ground. Yes, fine, he has a wonderful wing design and some amazing motors and (apparently) zero weight batteries. Fantastic! But none of the components in that video are producing hundreds of pounds of force. (A commenter at Wired estimates that the servo motors are theoretically applying enough force to pick up a two ton load, in fraction of a second. If we had this tech, we could fly, although that wing design probably couldn't. We could also make Iron Man-style powered armour. Unfortunately, we don't have this tech.) The whole thing is multiple orders of magnitude off from the realm of "remotely possible".

There are just so many red flags. The bizarre edits, the poor filming, the ridiculous design of the wing, the secrecy, the way nobody in the video acts right, the way the wing magically changes designs in different shots, the fact that the wing is clearly not fully loaded, the weird clothing and gear choices, etc., etc., etc. Wired has been hoaxed hard.

For the record, he's budgeting around 17 m^2 surface area for wing and 100 kg for pilot (http://www.humanbirdwings.net/about/working-on-the-wings/). That's about 5 kg/m^2 wing loading, well within range of something for a microlight(http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=1416&pagetype=90...) if a bit heavy for an unpowered glider.

EDIT: The wing surface (that kite he mentions sacrificing) is from one of these ( http://ride.slingshotsports.com/2012-Fuel# ) which is intended for exactly this sort of thing--supporting a human in flight.

Note that in the design blog the motors are being run through a 25:1 planetary gear. The family of motors in question can put out in excess of 2kw ( http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__17986__Turnigy_Ro... or http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewItem.asp?idProdu... ). So, no, the power plant is quite capable.

It's not the power output of the motors I was questioning, but the overall strength of the system. A back of the envelope calculation (from a commentator at Wired) suggests we're seeing a lever ratio of around 30:1; simplifying greatly that implies each side is moving a 1.5 ton weight back and forth multiple times per second. This is challenging for far more than the motor.

Mind you, 2000w does sound low. The Festo SmartBird weighs less than 500g, and uses around 25w to fly. If you scale it up linearly, that says 2000w would be enough for 40kg, which is less than half what we need. But the Festo SmartBird is a vastly more sophisticated design, and among other things actually flaps its wings in a way which generates lift, unlike this guys design. (Very useful, that.) It's going to be much more efficient than this wing design, so we're actually looking at a much larger power deficit.

Incidentally, the Festo SmartBird is a pretty amazing project; anyone who found this wing design interesting would probably be interested in it. Check out this writeup with a brief video of the bird in flight[1] or this much longer video of the design process[2].

The second link, in particular, underscores just how impossible the idea of some guy on his own throwing together some wings and managing to fly is. Bird flight is an amazingly hard problem to solve, even for a bird sized model.

[1]: http://www.robaid.com/bionics/festo-smartbird-mechanical-bir...

[2]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA7PNQiHT1Q

Finally someone pulled out meaningful fact about flying. How funny people keep saying about video without taking into account any engineering or physical requirements to make this real.

Annoying as hell, isn't it?


More usefully, I don't mind if this turns out to be a fake--but this off-the-cuff "no it is not possible ever" is so narrowminded when not combined with credible facts and analysis.

I agree. It is good to be skeptical - as they say extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Experts are trained to be skeptical. I am not saying that video may not be a fake but I am also equally skeptical about all the expert opinion on the impossibility of it all. And that is because experts have a long tradition of often being dead wrong about what is possible. Lord Kelvin - who was England's top scientist and President of the Royal Society flatly stated in 1895 that "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible" - just a decade before he was proven wrong. There are many more similar examples in the history of progress. It is a good thing inventors also have a long tradition - of ignoring experts and just trying to achieve what has been claimed as impossible.

That approximate wing loading calculation is assuming there is sufficient force to fully load the wing. He's not going to get that load on the wing by jogging a few feet and flapping those things at 1hz.

Birds don't fly by flapping up and down - they flap down and back, then fold the wing and pull it forward and up.

If you just flap and up and down you move up and down, but you don't fly. You need motion to cause forward acceleration, not just up and down bobbing.

Fake, it's simply impossible for the shown flapping method to cause him to fly.

See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSikfcJezy4#t=180s and notice how the bird folds the wings as it pulls them up, then spreads them as it pushes down. The folded wings give less resistance to the air than the spread ones, and that difference lets it fly. Without that you can't fly by flapping. To move forward it also has a front back motion that is harder to see in the video, but is still visible.

As someone has pointed out elsewhere, you can see in one of their other videos that they have major inconsistencies in the videos that they post. For instance, in this picture, http://i.imgur.com/3Fgct.jpg you can see that there is no black square above the "S" logo. Then, the camera points downward, then upward again, and there is a black square above the "S" logo.

This video is very fake.

That's the most annoying inconsistency for me. I think that could be a patch to the wing applied after they managed to pull out the cloth from the spar (if you look at the blog a bit, there are some posts showing that issue). I think the shitty cut around 1:20ish could be them looking down during a screwed launch attempt, and splicing back in after adding the patch. You'll notice in the following video the patch is there from the start.

There is a Dutch news clipping from about a week after video 13 that shows the dude without the patch, which is puzzling. Again, easily explained as using an old photo from before 13, but still.

I also expected to see more up-down, up-down movement from the on-board video (with respect to ground) to coincide with the power strokes.

I think we are all focusing on the wrong issue - that is whether this is real or fake. Who cares! What matters here is that this guy has come up with the idea of using robotic extensions of our limbs, powered by electric motors, to help us in achieving flight.

If we now switch to this mindset, the engineering and tools that we have today should allow us to achieve the desired goal.

So thanks for the hoax, Flying Dutchman - you have started something new here, and your name will not be remembered by what you did, but rather by what you did not and how others used your idea to achieve it.

Oh look he even has a animated model of this thing in Maya ;) He conveniently shows it of while "explaing" his wings. Here @20sec : http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=T...!

As a followup, note that the creator of the hoax has admitted it[1]. What a surprise!

[1]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3740972

Franky My Dear, I don't care how the video was shot or how the wings were designed. I just know now, that it is Efiing Possible!!!!

Incredibly skeptical. Red flags:

1. He's received criticism about his videos before, but still insists on filming in random parks, only releasing to press after the event, and using blurry/shaky footage.

2. When he takes off, the camera shakes heavily. When he lands, someone steps in front to block the view.

3. At 0:35, his legs lift up so that his body is parallel to the ground (necessary for flight.) If he had been placing his legs on some sort of device for flight, why would the liftup be that smooth?

This would be awesome if it were real, but... just seems fishy.

Also, birds don't generate lift from merely flapping their wings up and down, they generate lift due to the angle of attack of the wing during the upstroke and downstroke. The wings in this video don't address this issue.

Depends on the bird and mode of flight. Large birds like condors basically glide like fixed-wing aircraft, flapping every few minutes; hummingbirds flap at 200 Hz and use various aerodynamic tricks to stay aloft. The flight in the video looks similar to the that of those toy flapping birds powered by a rubber band. It's possible to flap & fly without fully articulated twisting wings, just not as efficient.

True, however those toy birds generate forward thrust and rely on the tail to move upwards or downwards since they're so simplistic. There is no tail on the device in the video, so there's no mechanism driving it upward.

Why don't you read his dev blog?


It would seem that arguments about the system instead of the filming might, you know, be more productive.

Went through a number of his videos. Fake. 100%. Once you know when the CGI switch happens, it's just painful to watch.

In this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0tKFOcHyrI#t=101s The switch happens in a moment of blur at 1:53.

Here's some damning evidence: http://i.imgur.com/LODDp.jpg

Top screenshots: Before CGI switch. Below images are after CGI switch.

When seeing a video they point the camera down, so you "forget" the exact details of the wing. But when you put them next to each other, it's a dead giveaway.

What are the damning parts specifically?

The color saturation is a little different, but the camera is at a slightly different angle to the sun too.

The black square is a bit suspicious.

I was looking at that video too and thinking it doesn't look or feel natural. It's a good trick and actually a good demo. I think the physics are kind of off in the final video though.

What's off about your screenshots? It looks pretty consistent to me, e.g. the shadows and the marking of the wings.

I definitely noticed that they didn't show the landing clearly. I expected him to fall if he had any kind of velocity going but it wasn't clear, and that seemed fishy.

1) Missing square element in real footage. 2) What bothers me more is that shadow properties are not consistent. In CGI it is more diffuse and changes properties like if the Sun is positioned 10m above.

Here's the 'missing' bit on the wing: http://imgur.com/PlEI7

It could be the camera being wonky, legitimate post-production work, auto gain adjustment, etc.

So, no, look at the equipment used, look at the mechanisms involved, and tell me that it is completely infeasible. Don't rely on analysis of some cheap Youtube video.

As for the black square, I'm willing to chalk that up to being under the fabric until its stretch taught.

EDIT: Black square is not under the wing--probably a patch if its real.

That project timeline raises even more red flags. Prelim sketches to build in little over a month?

I've worked in the visual effects industry and I don't think this is CGI, at least not in the sense that most commenters mean, a digital rendering of the dude and the wings. If it is, there's a lot of small details that they got right. It could be, and the poor quality of the video makes it hard to tell for sure, but I think that's misdirection.

My guess is that the wings are not mechanical at all beyond being flexible, and he's just pulling on them to flap, and they pulled the guy from an ATV or something. His motion looks like a kite, when he's flapping wildly the front of his chest stays pretty stable and looks like it's anchored. The wings look like they could be modified versions of those kite-surfing things people use.

It's a hell of a lot easier to paint out a wire and a vehicle than it is to put in a synthetic flying dude. and that would get you the helmet-cam footage without having to do extra work.

Also there's tire tracks on the ground from previous takes.

edit: for example:



It might not even be the wings providing the lift, he could have a whole chute behind it like in these videos.


Look at the left tip on the mechanism as it moves slowly as the woman holds it.

I know it's supposed to be light, but it appears to jitter as if it's massless.

The lighting on the mecanism doesn't seem so right either. This looks a little like the early Star Wars' to me.

Agreed. The editing and camera angles make it seem fake, but it doesn't look rendered. And, honestly...I think it's too bad to be rendered. The motion is just too artificial.

My money is on this being done with wires and some basic rotoscoping, not CGI. Everything fits.

Here's a much rougher version (skip to 1.45) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0tKFOcHyrI&feature=relmf...

Notice the camera pans down as it transitions to what is clearly an animation.

Interesting that Jamie Hyneman of the MythBusters fame Doesn't think it was faked. According him to the science checks out ! http://www.tested.com/articles/43440-thoughts-on-the-mechani...

OK but where are the batteries that Jamie mentions? I didn't see any in the video or the videos that came before it in the series about how they made it.

In earlier videos a guy even walks in with a cardboard box full of batteries. I think they're zip-tied low on the backboard.

Conceptually plausible: the cyclic motion of articulated wings (flapping) seems understood in models e.g. http://www.ornithopter.de/english/clips.htm Jarno's idea of a powered exoskeleton wing to provide x20 power is right in principle, but needs light batteries: Prof Otten http://www.humanbirdwings.net/about/interview-with-bert-otte...

As comparison, a human-powered articulated wing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E77j1imdhQ A non-articulated wing http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1638710914506519616 (18km) And the famous Gossamer Albatross flew from England to France http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gossamer_Albatross Also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ornithopter#Manned_flight

To the downvoters: haters gonna hate, hackers gonna hack

There is simply not enough air being moved by those airfoils to lift a 150+ lb object off the ground. He'd need much more speed than that. Or much more wing area. Or much faster articulation. And in any of those cases, the pathetic "wings" would deform horribly and ruin any aerodynamic properties they might possibly possess.

*edit Now that I've actually watched the video, there's something I'd like to add to the list of red flags others have already pointed out: His landing trajectory. It's way too steep and forward. He'd have to enjoy a near 1:1 thrust ratio to land at that angle, and he'd have to have been pitched up and back to apply all of that thrust against gravity and his forward motion.

I made this for a nested comment, I'll bring it up a level. Think this looks real? http://i.imgur.com/YtPMI.png

The grass in the second one (suspected CGI) isn't even the same color or saturation level.

My biggest issue is with a piece of the machine that suddenly appears 2 seconds latter: http://i.imgur.com/xZCAu.jpg

That doesn't look off to me. There is a dark spot in the first frame -- it's just masked by the much larger shadow going across the whole wing.

It seems fake to me, but I have yet to be convinced there's CGI. If it were CGI, within 2-3 hours someone will post a statistical analysis of the images. That would be extremely obvious, whereas most people in this thread are pointing out things that are ambiguous.

I mean they if they got the trees, the shadows, and the grass right, then I have a hard time believing they forgot to remove a dot somewhere on the wing. Those aren't the kinds of mistakes you would expect if someone was trying to match CGI to real footage.

I believe this could be real, but the wings are powered by 4 electric motors. He uses an HTC Android phone and a WiiMote to read the movements of his arms, and that readings are used to control the wings.

There are many more details on his blog http://www.humanbirdwings.net/project-timeline/

Edit: JoeCortopassi raised some good points in his comment. I'm not so sure this is plausible, even with the 4 motors.

If it's written on a blog, it's certainly true, then?

No, it's not. I'm just pointing out the 4 electric motors because they're not directly visible in the video, and their use makes the whole flying thing a bit more plausible.

You can see a pic of said motors here: http://www.humanbirdwings.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Tim...

why are you posting so many skeptical comments?

Because I am skeptical that the video is real.

yes, we get that, but there's no need to reply to every comment about your skepticism.

There's no need for you to position yourself as a gatekeeper for HN comments, either, but you're doing it anyway. Who elected you to quota individual comments? When you went after me, I had left three comments on this entry. There were more than a dozen by the time you said something, and I had made my point and was willing to back out.

If you've identified a noise problem in the signal -- the only possible reason to go directly after another commenter and expect that you're improving HN at all -- how does spamming yet more about the noise problem improve the situation for anybody?

Thanks for reminding me why I don't contribute to HN, by the way. I'll show myself back out.

Other confirmed man powered flight tests:

Snowbird ornithopter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E77j1imdhQ

MIT Daedalus http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Photo/Daedalus/HTML/

Disclosure: I fell for this. That said here is another red flag:

The guys reaction at the end of the video is not one of triumph and excitement. Here are some videos of what real reactions look like:

First time skydiving:


Breaking a world record:




*Edit - Fixed last link

I haven't done anything ^ extreme or cool on that level, but I'm pretty introverted and don't necessarily get excited externally too much. It could be plausible that he's introverted as well and doesn't go crazy like some people. My parents often were upset with me because they didn't think I liked what they got me for my birthday, christmas, etc. but on the inside I really was happy/excited.

So all that to say, everyone handles events differently and it's hard to have a set guideline for how people act.

My thoughts too. There does just doesn't seem to be enough adrenalin in his system. If it's real, he doesn't understand the risk he just exposed himself too. At those heights, any sort of malfunction would probably see him dead.

My impression from this thread was that he's (allegedly) done this a few times already, so some of the adrenalin has probably worn off.

Not to be a jerk, both those three videos you posted don't seem to encompass exactly what happened here.

I'm not saying it's a real video but everyone's reaction is different towards any event. I don't think this can be counted as proof against the 'realness' of the video.

Maybe the Internet has ruined me too, but this reminds me of that other viral ad campaign of guys running on water.

http://gawker.com/5539222/how-not-to-fall-for-a-viral-market... (Yes it's Gawker but they did have one of the better write-ups :/ ).

A few minutes browsing the project homepage (http://www.humanbirdwings.net) and WHOIS (http://whois.net/whois/humanbirdwings.net) makes it look more legit though...

How does the WHOIS info make it look more legit?

I guess I rather meant that it's subscribed through a GoDaddy-ish service instead of a marketing company that forgot to cover its tracks... :-/

I've thought about whether we'll start to see things like this soon with composites and nanofibers. I'd love to see the math taken apart, I assume we're still a ways away from it.

The first person to really fly like this may well be a double amputee or other person generally thought of as "disabled". Someone like Bob Wieland would have an enormous advantage on paper over someone like the guy in the video.

In the part 14 video, at 0:34 it cuts to another camera on the right much closer to the point of liftoff. It's not a long range shot because the angle seems to sweep up to 45 degrees quickly. A camera at this position should be visible in the shot before, but there's not one.

Edit: OK at 0:23 you catch a glimpse of someone by the lake that might be in position for that shot.

This is the beginning of an ad campaign. My old agency used to do these things all the time. Here's one we created to make Japan look more intimidating leading up to an A-League match, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9G89gGJayA

Hint: It's fake.

Just to be clear, the power is coming from electric motors, and he is flapping his arms just because that is how the control system was designed, right?

If this actually worked, wouldn't he have done it dozens of times, and have videos of each flight?

They could verify this easily. Just get a couple of news crews down there to film another trial.

The fact that they haven't makes me think it's fake.

I wish it were real though.

I'm just a beginning hang glider pilot - but everybody at the largest national hang gliding site (http://hanggliding.org) calls fake. The main clue from a hang glider's perspective is that the wings absolutely don't look loaded. Assuming power source, batteries, etc all were available there's no way those flapping trailing edges are actually bearing weight by pushing against the air.

Yes the dream of human flight is alive - but it looks like this - http://vimeo.com/20775072

my bets...

1. GoPro-camera viral ad... 20% 2. funny joke... 10% 3. this is real ... 70%

damn... the track record of incredible, but fake videos in the recent past makes me feel skeptical, but I wish it was real

btw 0:57 the tracks on the grass.. look suspicious ;)

Ad: 90%, funny joke: 20%, real: 5%

Why does it add up to 115%? Because apparently basic physics is bullshit so why not math?

I'm going with #1.

This is obviously a spoof of art.

I am sure since we are only 10 days away from April 1st, that will be the reveal.

There is simply not enough surface area, not enough motor power and not enough battery power for it to be real.

I really wish this were real.

The only part that really ruins it for me is, where is the battery powering the electric motors?

I mean, since I am ignorant about aerodynamics and a bunch of stuff, I can suspend my disbelief about the wing actually providing enough lift, and suppose that there exist incredibly powerful motors that could operate in that way.

I would even like to believe that there is an ultrapowerful battery that would be able to provide enough juice for these incredible motors. But where is it?

Man I hope Mythbusters does this one!

He is just flying for 30 seconds, you don't need much battery for that. 500gram LiPo should have more than enough juice for that.

Look at your laptop battery, they are around 50Wh which should be able to provide 2kW for almost 2 minutes, disregarding the maximum current it can pump out.

This is what makes me doubt if it really is fake or not. "Why has nobody done this before"? Because light weight power storage and motors has not been available until now. But the videos smell CG so I'm still calling fake on this one.

So I did a little poking around:

I can't find any reliable mention of Jarno Smeets on the web before May 2011.

His blog, his domain, his Twitter and YouTube accounts all seem to have started about June of last year.

His Linkedin lists some plausible employment for a mechanical engineer, but comparing his userid to mine, that account hasn't been around too long either.

The Biomechanics professor he interviews in the video seems legit: http://www.kalons.nl/otten/ http://www.rug.nl/corporate/nieuws/opinie/2011/opinie29_2011... But the professor only speaks in general terms about the requirements for flight and is never seen again in the building or the testing videos.

Perhaps someone could check his Facebook. Does FB say when he signed up for that?

None of this is completely incriminating of course but sadly it does fit the pattern of an ad agency project.

So, no one noticed the crushed grass in the shape of tire tracks along the path of flight? Looks fake.

Skeptical. Camera angles coming from the helmet are different in two shots and his head isn't moving at all. Stationary. You would think when flying, your head would be moving slightly, but his is not.

I also see a bit of CGI in his legs when he is shown to be flapping in the air.

Very Skeptical.

I call fake, if you watch his previous test video you can see it's CG/Composited, they point the camera at the ground to swap clips with/without the real man/wings.

This one seems to be much better however when he lifts his legs you can see it's too smooth.

Agreed with others that it's probably fake, but there I disagree that it's impossible. One of the slightly counter-intuitive things you learn when becoming a pilot is that you take off into the wind rather than with a tailwind. The wings don't care what your ground speed is when creating lift, they care about your airspeed. Given a big enough "kite" and a nice headwind and of course you can do this. Kitesurfers, kiteboarders, and hangliders do this all the time. The flapping may or may not assist, but it's certainly not doing the brunt of the work.

I initially thought it was real but after all the negative posts I have looked at the video closely. The GoPro camera take of the landing is what gives it away. Note how low the camera goes next to the ground, while we see the pilot always standing as he lands it. The flight was probably filmed with an RC and that is why see the camera go so low as it lands. But whether this is fake or not, it's irrelevant. This is a great idea and with the proper brains behind it, one should be able to make it work.

I am sorry if someone already pointed that out but i just realized how fake this is. Watch that video. http://youtube.com/watch?v=Q0tKFOcHyrI while guy is about to take off(1:49), everyone including cameraman runs for some reason and we can not see the guy with the wings for a second. Then when we see the guy again and there is a black squaure box next to big s logo this time. You can see that video is edited at 1:52

Hey, for all you people that are pulling things out from their collective asses, at least criticize from the damned website and press release:


Closeup of backpack here:


No, on the chance that they are getting paid by the amount of traffic they/you generate.

So maybe the white blocks wrapped in blue are batteries?

But now I don't see any motors.

Just above the blue batteries you'll see two little walky-talkie looking things. Those are motor controllers (note the thick wires coming off of them). Those are mounted on a plate. The motors are farther up, under the plate.

OK.. great..

Now I have a new problem. Someone else mentioned this: watch how the leaves on the ground change at 1:50 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0tKFOcHyrI

The thing you should also be complaining about is the sudden appearance of a black square on the wing.

I think our friend may have damaged the wing, patched it, and the cut there is them trying to edit out a fuckup launch attempt.

why is it powered by a 9 volt battery?

Hope he doesn't fly too high, lest they melt.

Well, no, it's quite obviously fake... Does no-one else see that?

(Not for any logical reasons, but the video just looks fake!)

What is that trace we see on the grass?(1:00) Looks like they us some type of vehicle to pull the helmet-camera up

I noticed that track too but didn't put that together. So maybe that was a 2nd take with the track left from the first take?

Isn't it a little early for April fools?

Here is a less polished version of the thing 'flying': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0tKFOcHyrI&feature=relmf... Skip to 1.45 and tell me that is not CGI.

Has anyone pointed out that wind direction makes a hell of a lot of difference to this - if he was running into a strong headwind I'd say this is almost possible. Ever try holding onto a big kite like that in a strong wind?

Its real guys: Jamie Hyneman (Mythbusters) says so ... http://www.tested.com/articles/43440-thoughts-on-the-mechani...


And when will this be on kickstarter so i can donate for a promised set in return?

It's quite obviously fake -- given that we are 11 days from April Fools, it's probably either an April Fools joke discovered prematurely, or set-up for a bigger one. Maybe something similar to the tale of icarus.

Incredible! They should try another flight to address people's doubts.

For me, the biggest red flag was "done in 8 months time". Nice CG though, and additional points for flying a RC plane with a camera on it on the path of the bird.

If it's fake then you have to admit this guy can act. That was quite the performance especially when he's describing how it felt to fly for the first time.

Earlier attempt with same tech (ca 800s AD)


This is absurd (and I can't believe its at the top of hacker news).

The article insinuates this is human powered flight.

Any realistic attempt at a solely human powered flying machine would utilize leg power, not arms which pale in comparison in terms of power output.

Also seems a bit fishy a buzzing sound, much like that of an engine, starts the same time as the wing flapping.

Interesting engineering feat but definitely not the holy grail of man powered flight. This is Turnigy powered flight, big deal.

"The design is based on mechanics used in robotic prosthetics."

Where does it "insinuate this is human powered flight"? The article is quite up-front about the fact that human power would fall 95% short and that in reality the arms were only being used as controls, not for power.

I think you're barking up the wrong fake tree.

I would pay so much for one of these

painfully fake. i'm surprised that there is even any discussion as the whether it is fake. putting aside the breaking of the laws of physics the actual cgi shots are c-grade at best. Look a the linked wired video between 0:35 - 0:40 the cgi is laughable.

incredible. i never really thought how jarring and jerky flapping wings would be...

i can't wait for the fine-tuning and improvements to the wing design and mechanical assistance system to reach flying finesse. with all respect though, he really looks like a giant bird taking off and then gliding. on another note, it'd be so cool to watch human flying sports to spawn from this à la track or polo.

Come on guys. Just believe it ;) it would be so superb ... I believe I can fly ...

obviously faked ... but i hope i'm wrong!! at least thanks for the short moment before i started doubting :-)!

Since all the videos are numbered n of 14 - how did he know in advance that he would need exactly 14 videos for documenting his flight?

You can edit video titles...

... or wait and upload them all in a batch.

They were not uploaded in a batch - the first of the 14 videos was uploaded on Aug 5, 2011 [1]

So either a) he planned to make only 14 videos in advance - culminating in the flight video OR b) he went back and edited all of the titles.

So I checked the cached version of the previous videos - and it does appear that it is (b) - he edited all the titles adding the 14 after the fact.

[1] [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cocLpRzZnvk&feature=chann...]

Where was the camera operator at 0:35?

Good thought, but there is actually someone standing in that vantage point. You can see him off to the right in the footage leading up to that.

I'd be amazed if this is real, because it would be far easier to fake than to really pull off.

At about 0:24, I can convince myself that I see someone in a black and white shirt on the very right hand side of the frame.

this has got to be a thinkmodo campaign for the sail brand used for the wings in the ad.

a lot of people in the wired comments are posting about how it's fake... huh?


This makes me wonder what Leonardo da Vinci could've accomplished given some base robotics technology to work off of.

An April 1st reveal, anyone?

Hey did you guys see the video of the guy flying on YouTube?

This video is fake, that has been established beyond doubt. But CGI, even "prosumer" CGI like this, is really getting better. Even at this level, people are relying on "hints" that a CGI transition has taken place - camera looks away, is obscured, or the picture is blurry.

Give it a couple of years and those distracting-from-transition tricks probably won't be necessary any more. Then what?

"If the US could create Avatar, it could fake 9/11" http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/if-us-could-create-avata...

Probably, we won't believe anything.

Could be great material for Mike Daisy's next show.

That's not the interesting part. Interesting is when you can do indistinguishable CGI replacement in real time. And then from there, when you can do it in the camera (or on a smartphone). Then what, indeed.

- How about broadcasting this image to the entire world?

- There is not point in that, images don't have value as evidence anymore, it'd just end up as an entertaining image that came from an unknown source at an opportune time.

(from "Ghost in the Shell")

I'm skeptical. Am I the only one that noticed what appeared to be the plethora of CGI in the video?

You're not the only one. If this is real, they seem to have gone out of their way with editing to make it look like a fakery. I would have been far, far more convinced by simple, unedited HD footage. For what it's worth, a friend of mine who is a Boeing engineer saw it and cried "fake." I think I need more information.

It reeks of "Liquid Mountaineering." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe3St1GgoHQ Especially the cheesy editing.

If this is an attempt at viral marketing, it's worth remembering how many people got pissed at the shoe company that commissioned the Liquid Mountaineering ad - Hi-Tec I think it was.

Edit: If you watch his previous video, at 1:53 here you can clearly see the leaves changing as it blurs and cuts to another shot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0tKFOcHyrI&t=1m50s Debating this is a waste of time, it's another hoax.

Liquid Mountaineering looks to be the exact opposite of this.

That was clearly a platform just under the surface of the water. The actual footage was genuine, they just weren't doing what they claimed to be doing, whereas this certainly looks to be a total fake job.

Stage magic vs cut-rate Michael Bay

Different techniques, same effect and goal... it's not the opposite of this at all.

it's definitely fake - check the previous video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0tKFOcHyrI&t=1m30s

Sooooo fakity fakely fake!

It's oh so convenient that the cameraman "happens" to look down and the camera happens to blur (what is it refocusing on?) between the time when the wings are resting on the ground and when they are picked up and ready for the test flight. Then the camera is conveniently moving and keeping things just a tad blurry while the wings start up. If you compare the appearance of the wings before and after the cut you'll notice some slight differences.

You tell me, does this look real or fake? http://i.imgur.com/YtPMI.png

Definitely fake as there is a black square on the right wing in the later (CGI, after the camera has looked up again) images that doesn't exist in the earlier (real) footage. You can clearly see this in the video and your screengrab.

From the video it is also obvious that there is no way someone could have stuck that there in the time it took for the camera to turn away and back again.

Not saying it isn't fake, but the black squares look like silhouettes of some structure underneath. It could easily change as the fabric moves.

Wow, thanks. That clinches it for me.

Unfortunately they crash land in the uncanny valley at 1:56

Well, I'm optimistic and having just a second of feeling like a kid again seeing magic is a nice change of pace. I hope it's not fake.

The internet has ruined us. :-) I also immediately though "fake" or some kind of viral video, but my desire to try those out makes me hopeful..

I'll also go on record here calling shenanigans. There are a lot of things that look mighty fishy about that video. I hate to rain on the parade, but I'll be surprised if it turns out to be legit.

I'd hesitate to call myself "ruined" simply because I question everything presented as fact.

Can you point out the CGI? Not disagreeing or anything, I just know where to look for the CGI.

Which parts seemed to be cgi? There was edited footage, but it doesn't seem wrong. I don't know why someone would go through all that trouble with the other 14 videos to create 1 fake one.

I didn't suspect it at first, but the headcam had the helmet in the frame in one shot, but not so in the second shot. Suspicious

I just can't figure out why they had the guy in the middle run straight toward the camera as he begins his "taxi".

Have you ever tried to video kids trying to launch a kite or a glider?

They really do act just like that. The camera person stops to video and everybody runs in front of him. The camera person needs to change position quickly so you tape the grass whirling for a few seconds.

Believe it or not.


to infinity and beyond

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