1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Dragon flight and whether it would be possible

  1. Jul 22, 2008 #1
    I'm wrestling with the question of dragon flight and whether it would be possible/feasible.
    I've read the book "the Flight of Dragons" Peter Dickinson, Harper & row, 1979.

    Dickinson argues that for a full sized dragon, which he puts at 90 feet long, six feet wide and 20,000 pounds, a dragon would need a wingspan of 600 feet (16,000 square feet) which is (according to him) aerodynamically impossible.
    Dickinson theorizes that if dragons existed they would have flown by biologically produced, lighter than air gasses (like a zeppelin).

    I want to know how i could calculate the wing span/area required for a 20ft 200lb dragon without gasses.


    what would be the maximum feasible dimensions for a purely wing powered dragon?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2008 #2
    Re: Dragons

    I don't see anything that fundamentally prevents you taking an old design for a two-passenger glider, and replacing wood and canvas with bone and leather, for an idea of what a biologically engineered dragon might be like. That weight-estimate sounds excessive to me, don't birds tend to have light bodies (compared to their size and fierceness)?
  4. Jul 22, 2008 #3
    Re: Dragons

    Depends on your dragon...if you're looking into it as a reptilian dragon, then your design should be somewhat different from that of an airplane.
  5. Jul 22, 2008 #4
    Re: Dragons

    a reptilian dragon.

    the design would differ from that of a plane because the wings are the means of propulsion as well as lift, and there needs to be a degree of maneuverability, and many myths refer to an ability to hover.

    and both weight estimates seem pretty spot on to me (except mine might be a bit light, seriously, it's 20ft long, include internal organs, giant talons, a huge armoured head and flight muscles, as well as the scaly, armoured hide, thats a lot of weight, maybe it should be adjusted to 300lb...)
  6. Jul 22, 2008 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Dragons

    What's the point? If you are writing about dragons then your readers obviously are not that stuck on realism. Just make their scales magically force air down, then they can be as large as you want and only need their wings for steering.
  7. Jul 22, 2008 #6
    Re: Dragons

    dude, the point is to try and be realistic (at least, within the realms of physical possibility) i want to actually calculate wing span/area, i looked up some formulas on teh interwebz and it all got too complicated, so i hoped someone nerdy (read: smart/can be bothered/already knows how/is experienced in the field) could just, like pull a formula from their arse and just say; "here, use this" all you guys have given me is ideas i've already had.

    also this is a physics forum, if i could f*ck with the laws of physics (or thought i could) would I be here right now?

    EDIT: if i was being insulting/condescending I'm Sorry: it's because i'm used to gaming forums, where the whole point is to be condescending/call each other n00bs
  8. Jul 22, 2008 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Dragons

    Please don't use offensive language. This is not an adolescent board. We don't allow slang.

    Concerning the OP: what's wrong with *actual* flying reptilian "dragons": pterosaurs ?
  9. Jul 22, 2008 #8
    Re: Dragons

    we need FOUR legged reptiles with wings & teeth, besides all i want is a formula relating wing area to lift in flying animals, thats all i'm asking for, no extra suggestions, just a formula
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook