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I'm not entirely sure if this is the right site for this question, but I recently went on a Greek Myth Binge and came across Daedalus again, and his famous first hanglider, made from feathers. Now, obviously this wouldn't work, even if we ignore using wax as a glue and the heavy structure and short wingspan, the feathers of normal birds are likely to small for human sized wings, and too fragile. And today, we of course have hangliders, but they're made from fabric or similar things, and I was just wondering why we don't use modern technologies to imitate feathers, of course optimized for human use. Would these hangliders be less effective than our ones? Or too expensive/complicated to build and maintain? Is it even possible to build a feather based hanglider? Why or why not?

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  • $\begingroup$ "Is it even possible to build a feather based hanglider?" -- Probably. The cautionary tale you mention seems somehow relevant, be sure to wear a seatbelt and safety goggles. From the point of view of scaling, it might be a little off. The feathers of a 5kg eagle with a 2m wingspan might not be well matched to a 75kg human. You might want the feathers of a larger flying creature, perhaps one that is extinct. Like a pterodactyl. If it had feathers, which is unclear. But it is actually a really interesting question -- what do feathers do to enhance aerodynamic qualities? $\endgroup$ – Pete W Feb 9 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ You can make some pretty fantastic strong and light airfoils from engineered materials -- look at a modern kiteboarding kite (inflated cloth-reinforced balloon skeleton for stiffness, various cloths for the airfoil surface), or a modern windsurfing sail (carbon fiber for the skeleton, polyester monofilm with kevlar or spectra x-ply reinforcement for the airfoil surface) $\endgroup$ – Pete W Feb 9 at 17:02
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Nature created a light structure (hollow bones in birds), materials (feathers) and a precision control system (brain, nerves, muscles and tendons etc) to achieve flight.

Matching that with the tech we have is challenging since hollow tubes do for the bones and hang gliders have that.

The materials used in terms of silks etc are light but any matching of feathers will need precision control and trying to build a detailed control system will need too much mass for the job in hand.

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