Updated A Dutch bloke has taken to the air by flapping his arms, proving that humans can fly with the right technology, plenty of time and friends to help with the build.
Jarno Smeets flew using wings of his own design, built over the course of a year, and managed to spend a decent minute in the air – longer than the Wright Brothers managed – by flapping his arms like a nutter.
Smeets was, apparently, inspired by sketches his grandfather drew which inspired a lifelong ambition to build a flying machine. Those sketches, which he shares on the project blog, show a cycle-driven helicopter, but it's the flying which matters, not the shape of the wings.
"Until now people had assumed that it was impossible to fly with bird-like wings using human muscle power," says the press release, and pedants might argue that the assumption is still valid. Smeets' flying machine augments human muscle power with a couple of electric motors, as humans just can't do it alone, but it still looks like a marvellous way to fly.
A Wii controller in each hand picks up the movements, paired over Bluetooth to an HTC Wildfire S handset, which in turn directs the two electric motors which flap the wings. Those wings are made from windsurfing masts and kite parts.
Despite the electric assistance the fandroid still has to run along flapping his arms before taking to the sky. It might not be entirely human-powered but it's still an admirable achievement. ®
Updated to Add
[You may well be asking yourselves, having viewed the vid above, "is this a fake?"
We're not saying absolutely for sure that it is. We do note that there seems no reason for the ground cameras to stay so far away from the intrepid birdman during launch, and that the wings show no signs of the loading they would be under during such a flight. Furthermore the hardware doesn't appear to contain a battery of the sort which would be required - bearing in mind that this would be a very large battery even for a flight technology more efficient than an ornithopter.
We strongly suspect that this has no more validity than certain other exotic personal-flight inventions which have been known to entrap journalists in the past.
However we would stand by our statements above "it still looks like a marvellous way to fly" and "it's still an admirable achievement".
We would also point out that there's nothing intrinsically impossible about entirely human-powered ornithopters: it's been done for real. -Ed.]