Can People Fly? Investigating Human Flight Possibilities

In summary, people have flown using arms and legs plus wings, but this is not a viable option for human flight.
  • #1
31
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Stupid question: can people fly? Evidently, one doesn't see people flying around the streets, but is it possible? Has anyone done studies on whether this is possible or not? Any articles on this would be highly appreciated. Has anyone actually done this?

Furthermore, how does physics apply to this? My rudimentary knowledge estimates roughly 800 N is needed for a 70 kg person to fly. Supposing one wanted to fly for 1 km, then this would be 800 000 J or 191 kC. And if one wanted to cover that 1 km in say 3 min, that'd be 64 kC/min, which is 3800 kC/hr, which is a hell of a lot. I believe that fast running takes about 1000 kC/hr. Then again, it'd still be a miracle if one could just fly 100 m. Please correct my physics if I'm wrong. In any case, how viable is this sort of calorie output for small amounts of time (e.g. 30 secs, a few minutes).

I would appreciate extremely any articles on studies done regarding this, and also if it's viable at all.

Thanks,

~sphoenixee~
 
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  • #2
I'm not sure if this is what you mean, but this is pretty much it for human powered flight: http://www.progressiveengineer.com/PEWebBackissues2003/PEWeb%2042%20Sep%2003-2/MacC.htm
 
  • #3
Thanks, russ_watters.

Mmmm...that's really cool. So it has been done before, though he was sort of cheating with that bicycle stuff. Has anyone flown just with arms and legs plus wings (no bicycles, metal rods, gears, etc.) i.e. like Daedalus and Icarus of legend? Any further articles regarding the topic would also be highly appreciated.
 
  • #4
sphoenixee said:
Thanks, russ_watters.

Has anyone flown just with arms and legs plus wings (no bicycles, metal rods, gears, etc.) i.e. like Daedalus and Icarus of legend?

Why don't you try it and let us know how it turns out? :rofl: I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. I remember reading the thing about pedaling across the Channel years ago. I'm not aware of anyone who has flown by strapping wings on. Just hang gliders.
 
  • #5
Actually...maybe I will try it...whether it succeeds or not is another story. This is one of the things I'm thinking of doing for my research project this year.

Can someone give a physics analysis of this? i.e. how much energy and power it would take to maintain flight.
 
  • #6
Research project for which class?
 
  • #7
you need more than physics, you also would need to know a little something about biology. If you are referring to a human using his arms to flap a pair of wings, forget about it. The physics part would require a lift greater than 700 N for a human to reach flight. However, biologically, no human on Earth could flap that hard or fast. I saw somewhere that if birds were of compariable size to humans, they could outrun a ferrari and benchpress thousands of pounds.

Using human powered mechanisms is possible (duh). That is where aero engineering is born. If humans were somehow able to fly by themselves, why would the Wright brothers have even bothered?

carp
http://PropulsionAccess.com [Broken]
 
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  • #8
Research project for science/engineering fair.

Thanks for the info, carp. Which article did you get those bird facts from? Also, how much power exactly can the human body output via arms, legs, etc.?

As for the Wright brothers, flapping arms takes a lot more energy than sitting in a plane ;)
 
  • #9
sphoenixee said:
Research project for science/engineering fair.

Thanks for the info, carp. Which article did you get those bird facts from? Also, how much power exactly can the human body output via arms, legs, etc.?

As for the Wright brothers, flapping arms takes a lot more energy than sitting in a plane ;)


The reason for "that bicycle thing" is that our human legs are much stronger than our arms. and when the dinosaur ancestor of the birds started to evolve wings, they couldn't use them to fly either, but they could run very fast and use the proto-wings as stabilizers. So learning a little biology wouldn't hurt you.

You might also see if you can find an online video of the famous newsreel compilation of failed human flight experiments in the early twentieth century.
 
  • #10
selfAdjoint, that's rather evident that legs are stronger than arms in humans; more common sense than biology (I never actually learned that in biology). My point wasn't to not use legs; it was to not use bicycles. It's, well, much more idealistic to fly without using bicycles, i.e. by flapping your arms/legs.

Mmmmm...it seems somewhat decided that one cannot fly using human power without bicycles...if anyone has anything to the contrary, I'd be really interested. Thanks for all the replies.

~sphoenixee~
 
  • #11
sphoenixee said:
TMmmm...that's really cool. So it has been done before, though he was sort of cheating with that bicycle stuff. Has anyone flown just with arms and legs plus wings (no bicycles, metal rods, gears, etc.) i.e. like Daedalus and Icarus of legend? Any further articles regarding the topic would also be highly appreciated.
No, it isn't possible for a human to propel him/herself efficiently enough by flapping wings.
 
  • #12
sphoenixee said:
Has anyone flown just with arms and legs plus wings (no bicycles, metal rods, gears, etc.)
Yes. History is dotted with many ambitious entrepreneurs who have successfully flown for short distances of a few dozen to a few hundred yards.

Unfortunately, while none of the methods has succeeded in the Holy Grail of human flight: horizontal flight, all of them have succeeded extremely well with the rather easier component of vertical flight.

A mystery remains why history does not recount any subsequent attempts of any of these fliers.

:biggrin:
 
  • #13
I think you should look into a different topic. Maybe something like measuring the drag on bodies.

Your premise for this project is fundamentally wrong and will result in a F.
 
  • #14
without gene splicing, anabolic steroids, cybernetic implants, or rocket thrust caliber flatulance, a human has no chance of flying on their own. All you can hope for is finding a way to fall a little slower than every other roof jumper before you.
 
  • #15
imperium2600 said:
rocket thrust caliber flatulance

Forget that, too. After 16 or 17 beers and a load of nachos last night, I managed to alienate everyone in the bar... but I still couldn't get off the ground. :grumpy:
Maybe a worthwhile project would be to explain why humans can't fly without mechanical aid. I'd suggest starting with body density and relative muscle mass.
 
  • #16
sphoenixee said:
Has anyone flown just with arms and legs plus wings (no bicycles, metal rods, gears, etc.) i.e. like Daedalus and Icarus of legend?

Make sure and take video when and if you try, I suspect it would be quite hillarious to watch :rofl:
 
  • #17
Danger said:
Maybe a worthwhile project would be to explain why humans can't fly without mechanical aid. I'd suggest starting with body density and relative muscle mass.

I don't think its anything to do with body density and muscle mass. If those were the problem, we wouldn't be able to fly WITH mechanical aid because we couldn't generate enough power.

The obvious problem is geometry. Human bodies don't have any parts that can work as a wing.

For comparison, the heaviest bird which regularly flies long distances (i.e. several kilometers without stopping) is the Mute Swan, with a typical mass of 10Kg and a wingspan of 2m.
 
  • #18
AlephZero said:
I don't think its anything to do with body density and muscle mass. If those were the problem, we wouldn't be able to fly WITH mechanical aid because we couldn't generate enough power.

The obvious problem is geometry. Human bodies don't have any parts that can work as a wing.
That's pretty much it. Most of the relevant muscles are the same in birds as they are in humans, but while our leg muscles are many times larger than our chest and back muscles, for birds it is the opposite.
 
  • #19
Sorry, guys; I stated that badly. I meant certain muscles relative to other muscles, as well as to other species. Even with perfect artificial wings attached, I'm pretty sure that a human's chest muscles couldn't develop enough power to overcome the density of the body. I also don't think that a bird with solid bones could either. After all, bats have almost perfect flight adaptation for mammals, and they can't take off from ground level.
 
  • #20
In a way it is related to muscle density because of our skeletal systems. Ours are built like tanks compared to a bird's. That also decreases our range of motion and types of motions we can perform.
 
  • #21
One commercial enterprise seeks to build a hotel on the moon for rich folks. The planned entertainment includes a large enclosure where, due to the low gravity, people could be given wings to wear which would allow them to fly like birds. So if you want to fly, it may be as easy as a trip to the moon [or a space station]. :biggrin:
 
  • #22
I guess it's not worth pointing out that they would be more or less like a human super-ball instead of flying.
 
  • #23
FredGarvin said:
I guess it's not worth pointing out that they would be more or less like a human super-ball instead of flying.

Do you mean when on a space station? I was thinking of the concepts for future designs that would produce low gravity using rotation. On the moon or under partial gravity in a space hotel, I would think that a true sense of flight would be possible.
 
  • #24
here on earth, the closest thing we could get to powered by man flight without having pedals and gears and whatnot is a glider due to the size/structure of our deltoids and pecs. we'd have to be on steroids to get off the ground without assistance, and even then you'd have to be stronger than hercules (even if he existed)
 
  • #25
Ivan Seeking said:
Do you mean when on a space station? I was thinking of the concepts for future designs that would produce low gravity using rotation. On the moon or under partial gravity in a space hotel, I would think that a true sense of flight would be possible.
Yeah. That's what I was thinking.
 
  • #26
You know, if flying on the Moon in an enclosed area counts, then this should count too:

What if you created a dome here on Earth and kept the air pressure high? A high enough air pressure should allow enough lifting force to gain some human-powered flight.
 
  • #27
DaveC426913 said:
What if you created a dome here on Earth and kept the air pressure high? A high enough air pressure should allow enough lifting force to gain some human-powered flight.

One small problem - after 10 minutes flight you might have to spend 10 hours in a decompression chamber recovering. Google "diving" for more info on the problems of breathing high pressure air.
 
  • #28
AlephZero said:
One small problem - after 10 minutes flight you might have to spend 10 hours in a decompression chamber recovering. Google "diving" for more info on the problems of breathing high pressure air.
As an experienced diver, I don't need to Google to know that. But I'm not sure it's as black and white as you suggest.
 
  • #29
DaveC426913 said:
You know, if flying on the Moon in an enclosed area counts, then this should count too:

What if you created a dome here on Earth and kept the air pressure high? A high enough air pressure should allow enough lifting force to gain some human-powered flight.

The work for the flyer is the same less the slight increase in bouyancy.
 
  • #30
Ivan Seeking said:
The work for the flyer is the same less the slight increase in bouyancy.

Why do you say that? The wings would be more efficient. More lift on downstroke and you can still minimize drag on upstroke.
 
  • #31
sphoenixee said:
Stupid question: can people fly? Evidently, one doesn't see people flying around the streets, but is it possible? Has anyone done studies on whether this is possible or not? Any articles on this would be highly appreciated. Has anyone actually done this?

Furthermore, how does physics apply to this? My rudimentary knowledge estimates roughly 800 N is needed for a 70 kg person to fly. Supposing one wanted to fly for 1 km, then this would be 800 000 J or 191 kC. And if one wanted to cover that 1 km in say 3 min, that'd be 64 kC/min, which is 3800 kC/hr, which is a hell of a lot. I believe that fast running takes about 1000 kC/hr. Then again, it'd still be a miracle if one could just fly 100 m. Please correct my physics if I'm wrong. In any case, how viable is this sort of calorie output for small amounts of time (e.g. 30 secs, a few minutes).

I would appreciate extremely any articles on studies done regarding this, and also if it's viable at all.

Thanks,

~sphoenixee~
:rofl: :rofl:
I'm not an expert on this but I have heard that one guy also got interested in such things.I think he made even some progress in studying the problem
What was his name hmm..Leonardo ,Leonardo something...
Unfortunatelly,I lost his contact address but if he reads this maybe he will tell you what to do.
 
  • #32
Back to basics - force = rate of change of momentum, so lift (and drag!) should be proportional to density if nothing else changes.

We know swans with mass 10Kg can fly in air with a 2m wingspan (though they need water to use as a "runway" to take off). It seems feasible a human could control 2m wings attached to the arms. So a 70Kg human may be able to generate enough lift at 7 times atmospheric pressure. That's equivalent to a water diving depth of 70m, and Google suggests breathing air at that pressure will have consequences - though I defer to those with first hand experience.

Actually, the civil engineering required to build a structure large enough to do "interesting" flying (and without any internal obstructions) and pressurizing it to 7x atmospheric would also be quite a challenge. The explosion if the building "burst" would be quite impressive.
 
  • #33
tehno said:
:
What was his name hmm..Leonardo ,Leonardo something...
Unfortunatelly,I lost his contact address but if he reads this maybe he will tell you what to do.

Try http://www.danbrown.com/ :rolleyes:
 
  • #34
DaveC426913 said:
Why do you say that? The wings would be more efficient. More lift on downstroke and you can still minimize drag on upstroke.

This only means that you could use smaller wings. You still have to do the same amount of lifting work.
 
  • #35
DaveC426913 said:
Why do you say that? The wings would be more efficient. More lift on downstroke and you can still minimize drag on upstroke.
Lift is a force. More lift means more force that your arms have to provide. With denser air, you could produce more lift with smaller wings, but the lift required to keep you aloft is the same and therefore the torque on your shoulders is the same.
 

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