For millennia man has dreamed of flying. The development of the different mechanisms of flight can be traced back to the following milestones:
- 19th October, 1783: The first manned flight in a tethered balloon by the Montgolfier brothers in Paris.
- 17th December, 1903: The first sustained, controlled and heavier-than-air manned flight by the Wright Brothers in North Carolina.
- 26th June, 1935: The first flight of the a rotary wing helicopter called the Gyroplane Laboratoire by Frenchman Maurice Claisse.
Since then, all these designs have been refined and developed into the range of aircraft we have today, but in essence the basic principle of how they operate are based on these historic precedents.
The Arrival of the UAVs
In order for an aircraft to fly without a human pilot, complex control and communications systems are required. Advances in computing power and communications technology have enabled the widespread adoption of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The design of these devices is based on the same principles as manned aircraft, either fixed wing or rotary aerofoil.
UAVs by definition do not need to be able to carry a man and so it has been possible to make them smaller. As UAVs have reduced in size and cost, the demand for them has surged becuase the range of tasks they can be used for increases. The continuation of this trend will produce smaller and smaller UAVs, but as the size goes down, the traditional means of creating lift becomes less effective and the craft becomes much more susceptible to gusts and wind.
Inspired by Nature
To find solutions to these problems at a small scale, researchers have turned to nature for inspiration.
Nature has been working on these issues for quite some time, and the solution has been flapping wings. This has been recognised by researchers looking to develop very small UAVs and there are a number of well funded teams globally trying to develop a mechanism to power and control a small flapping wing craft.
MapleBird has developed an elegant but practical solution to this problem and have made a breakthrough in producing a new mechanism for flight.