After eight months of building and testing, this weekend, Jarno Smeets flew 100 meters using a set of self-made, flapping wings. The moment he lifts off the ground is pretty amazing. [Thanks, Katie Wilson!]

Update: See the follow up post, about this most likely being a hoax, here.

Human Birdwings

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy person’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

  • Jeff

    Clearly fake.

  • Mils Yobtaf

    i could be wrong, but it seems like he would need the chest and arms of lou ferrigno and the bone structure of calista flockhart for this to even come close to working.

    • Kevin Roof (@roofuskit)

      It’s assisted by the backpack motors and controlled with a Wii controller and an Android phone with attached ADK.

      • bill beaty

        Fancy and perhaps feasible mechanism, check. Stirring music, check. No reason for such an elaborate hoax, check.

        So, where’s the cloud of plastic balls hovering under the scrapyard magnet? We SO want it to be real.

        But seriously: fabric doesn’t inflate upwards when he leaves the ground, it just flutters around (should be 200lbs of upward pressure on fabric. Imagine forces on a tiny parachute.) Wing lacks swept angle or long counterweight below (or tail elevators on a rear boom), yet never nosedives. Now go look at Snowbird ornithopter on youtube: basic level flight needs much, much higher airspeed with much longer wingspan.

  • cmpfreek7

    He’s being towed. In each of his videos, you can see the tracks of a vehicle beneath him. He’s basically parasailing with a really fancy wing. It’s neat that it flaps, but I’m sure it doesn’t do anything to help him actually fly.
    An impressive mechanism, and I’m sure it’s super fun.

    • ahmet turan

      Definitely right. The tracks are just “surprisingly” fresh and in the direction of the flight…

  • James Patrick

    I can’t say I’m convinced that this is legitimate. The flapping mechanism on the website seems like it would require a lot of power to achieve flight. I don’t think a battery would be light enough or last long enough.

  • Sego Bego


  • jihgo

    If you read more about it you will see that it is not human powered.
    It has a couple of motors to flap the wings as your arms move

  • Peter

    My first thought was this must be fake. Humans do not have the strength to do this. If you do some searching on the website you find the wings are powered by some LiPo batteries and a couple of 2KW electric motors.

    • Kevin Roof (@roofuskit)

      And it looks like it’s running on an HTC cell phone with Chipkit running the Android ADK. He uses the cell phone and a Wiimote for controlling the motors.

      • Kevin Roof (@roofuskit)

        Correction, it’s a Seeeduino ADK.

  • Donald Boscoe

    It’s motorized… read his blog. The arm flapping controls the mechanism, it doesn’t power it. Still very cool, but unfortunately not human powered.

  • Michael Curran (@SBBurzmali)

    He just doesn’t seem to be displacing sufficient air rise at the rate he is. He doesn’t have the speed to generate much lift, so it must be entirely due to “flapping”. I’d expect the grass to be swaying and the mics on the cameras to be popping a lot more than they are.

  • Michael Fusion

    from concept to working prototype in 8 months, i call shenanigans.

    also a perfect takeoff and landing on first attempt? never

  • John Radi

    If there were an Academy Award for Makers, this guy would deserve it.

  • Friv

    Arms of lou ferrigno and the bone structure of calista flockhart for this to even come close to working.

  • Ken

    He’s obviously being assisted by the uplifting music.

  • magg

    Dont Hate. It was cool looking. I wanna fly.

    • Ken

      critical thinking skills != hate

  • Larry I. Pilkins

    camera always pans away right before and right after flight. Perfect time to switch to cg. Notice the “bones” in the wings right before take off. The the wings at the end of the shot laying on the ground. flat. no bones. It’s a kite attached to him, then edited but really well. Wonder what they are advertising.

    • Chuck

      This is a (fake) viral video posted by the makers of the GoPro video camera. If you think this is real, go search up some of their previous marketing attempts You folks, of all people, should know better than to get suckered in by this.

  • Animator

    Yes it is fake. Video 13/14 “attempted” flight of his is more telling of the video editing / compositing. anyone in video production / animation as I am can tell you it’s fake.

  • Brad

    Nice, you guys are posting fake CGI videos now? Take a second to question the authenticity and you’ll hopefully realize that fluid dynamics doesn’t work this way on that scale. The materials and electronics/power side probably doesn’t either. Physics people…physics.

  • Patrick

    As its totaly clear that this is fake could you pls mark this as a good CGI work and not as a brake through physiks?

    I understand that this is easy to belive cause its realy good cgi work but everyone see that this is obviously fake.

  • Dan O’Brien

    Like most people commenting, we know this is a hoax/fake video.

    I’ve seen the other videos on youtube and the CGI isn’t really that good. Just watch the wings…. This last video was a little better than the others, but it’s still a fake! Granted, it’s better than I could do, but I don’t have any desire to “pull a fast one” on the world a large.

    I feel bad for MAKE, falling for this hoax. MAKE kind of loses some credibility for posting this. I bet it was the “wii-mote” enabled wings premise, at the beginning of the series , wasn’t it…. Those pesky “wii-motes” can make anything seem like a “real hack”…

  • Jeff S.

    I am very disappointed that this is (apparently) a very elaborate fake. But it’s true, those wings just aren’t taut enough to be supporting any weight. They should appear as rigid as a parachute.


  • Dr_Ew

    Don’t believe everything you see on youtube…..

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  • Dr.ProfessorDanger

    Compare to high speed footage of birds taking off and you will see the amount of energy and motion needed for flapping lift on a lightweight animal. Obviously this rig doesn’t even come close.

    • Dr.ProfessorDanger

      Even better, compare to slow motion bat flight. To achieve this flight the operator would have needed a large initial thrust to even get off the ground. Something the video does not provide evidence for.

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  • fang liang

    FAKE. as any hang-glider pilot would probably tell you, you do not have the strength the keep you leg up and parallel to you body in the air, that’s why all hang-gliders have a little leg/bag harness to lift your legs in the air. How this “pilot” did that at 0:38 is beyond me.

  • Arno Brosi

    It is,as many people said on here,a hoax.The person who made this appeared on Dutch tv yesterday stating that it was in fact a research into how the media works.

  • angry birds space online

    Don’t believe everything you see on youtube…..

  • angry birds space games

    Dont Hate. It was cool looking. I wanna fly.

  • jogos do carrossel

    Dont Hate. It was cool looking. I wanna fly.

  • Angry birds star wars online

    He’s obviously being assisted by the uplifting music.

  • Jogos De Friv

    Dont Hate. It was cool looking. I wanna fly.

  • chota bheem games

    that’s why all hang-gliders have a little leg/bag harness to lift your legs in the air. How this “pilot” did that at 0:38 is beyond me.

  • Friv

    The moment lifts off the ground is pretty amazing.

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  • Kizi

    Ridiculous story there. What happened after? Good luck!

  • yepi8x

    this is very good. i like and sharing

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