National Geographic : 2019 May
Headband Rudder Glass hood Leonardo's drawing 23ft Center of gravity Madrid Manuscript I, f 64r Manuscript B, f 75r Manuscript B, f 79r Manuscript B, f 80r 2or4wings Codex Atlanticus, f 749r MobileMobileRigid Codex Atlanticus, f 846v Stroke Flightsof Imagination Leonardo often found inspiration in nature. His observations of birds and bats helped refine his attempts, some more successful than others, to engineer flying machines. His quest to achieve manned flight occupied him for over two decades. AERIAL ADVANCEMENTS Horizontal flier, ca 1487-1490 The pilot’s position is a close imitation of birds in flight. Many of Leonardo’s designs were focused on a central element for wing movement. Horizontal pilot, ca 1488 Almost all body parts had a job. Hands and feet oper- ated the wings; the pilot’s rigged-up headband controlled the tail. Flying vessel, ca 1488-89 Many of his designs weren’t at first drawn to scale. He sketched this bowl-shaped vessel, later providing dimen- sions for a larger version. When one leg is extended, it lowers one pair of wings; the hand crank raises the other. Landing system Leonardo devised a system for the takeoff and landing of this flying bowl-shaped vessel that included retractable ladders and shock-absorbing feet. Parachute, ca 1485 A British skydiver successfully tested Leonardo’s parachute in 2000 but cut free before land- ing to avoid being crushed by the 187-pound design. Aerial screw, ca 1489 He knew that when air is com- pressed it grows more dense. He designed this for festival entertainment; the concept was later used in helicopters. Inclinometer, ca 1485 When the ball is in the middle, the pilot knows he’s horizontal to the ground. The bell jar blocks wind from moving the ball. Glider, ca 1495-96 The central section of the wings, close to the pilot, was rigid. Flexible outer parts of the wings, controlled with cables, aided in pitch, navigation, and banking. Vertical pilot, ca 1495 In this design he experimented with standing positions: “Man is also possessed of a greater amount of strength in his legs than is required by his weight.” He noted that membra- nous, bony bat wings required less energy than feathered wings. Flaps, ca 1489 To minimize resistance and maximize thrust, “skin” flaps allowed air through the wings on the upstroke but closed on the downstroke. This design leverages powerful leg muscles to flap the wings via a system of pulleys oper- ated by foot brackets. His original sketch doesn’t specify what the arms should do. Glider, ca 1495 He correctly identified the relationship between the cen- ter of gravity and the center of pressure in a glider, but his design needed a tail to work. Flapping Leonardo’s early flying machines were mostly designed with wings, to be controlled by a pilot. But he found that humans can’t flap hard enough to sustain flight. These machines wouldn’t have worked. Gliding Suspecting that humans lacked the power-to-weight ratio of birds, he shifted his studies to gliding, instead of flapping. These two designs, tested in modern times, worked with modifications.