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Take to the skies with the Da Vinci Classic Ornithopter

Evolutionary aeronautics meet new school electronics with the Da Vinci Classic Ornithopter.

The University of Maryland's Morpheus Laboratory has been tinkering with flapping wing flight for almost a decade. Now Da Vinci Classic Ornithopters (DCO) has partnered up with Morpheus Lab to offer a device that bears the fruits this research and design, a remote controlled small unmanned air vehicle (SUAV) that'd make its namesake proud. The Da Vinci Classic Ornithopter (funding through June 17th) is bringing affordable robotic birds to the hobbyist crowd.

Ornithopters are aircraft whose forward momentum is generated by a flap of wings. Though they're best known as a theoretical design dreamt up by a Renaissance man, the Classic isn't quite large enough to carry people. This fowl-styled vehicle instead exists solely for those seeking to relish in the concept of bio-inspired flight.

A flat, 1/16-inch, carbon fiber slat cut to resemble an avian body serves as the platform. On it rests a pair of wings whose 42-inch span flap at 4Hz to 6Hz. Their 1.18 square feet of fabric carry the .94-pound machine at speeds of nine to 30 feet per second. Flight time is estimated to be around half an hour, depending on how hard you push.

Do-it-yourself kits, which include everything necessary for the bird except motors and servos, will run you $380, while more complete packages require a $445 investment. Neither of these include batteries, speed controllers, receivers, or transmitters. If you'd rather not collect the rest of the equipment you'll need to fly your ornithopter elsewhere, the full package require a $570 expense and very little work to assemble. The team was approaching the half way mark of its $20,000 goal with about two and half weeks to go. If all goes well, expect a October delivery.

Confidence level: Could be good

While the Morpheus Lab is well known, the group organizing this campaign appears to have been formed for this endeavor alone. Still, DCO is building on a solid foundation and appears to know its way around a project.

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