Edwin Van Ruymbeke has been working in flight research and development his whole life. His grandfather created the flying mechanical bird TIM in the 1960s and Edwin studied aeronautical engineering and biomimicry. After crowdfunding the Bionic Bird in 2014 Edwin and his team at BionicBird developed MetaFly, a remote controlled ornithopter, and are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first production run.
MetaFly might fall into the category of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle but the campaign page is quick to point out that it is not a drone. The design constraints for the project dictated that the craft be light and flexible with the ability to glide and curve in the air. The goal was to give the user enjoyment and the feeling of flying like a biological creature flies, not to take pictures from the air. The FAQ section also explains that the wing flapping method of flight causes too much oscillation for a camera to take stable pictures from the MetaFly.
The aircraft is controlled with a two channel remote control, and a range of 100 meters. Speeds up to 18 kilometers per hour can be reached, and the 55 milliAmpere hour hybrid lithium polymer battery gives eight minutes of flight from a twelve minute charge. An upgrade kit available through the campaign lets users bring a powerbank along during flights for even longer flying times. Using four AA batteries will also power the copter but the battery flight time isn’t specified. MetaFly has a wingspan of 29 centimeters, a length of 19 centimeters, and weighs less than 10 grams. The 0.8 Watt coreless motor drives a gearbox with a 1/36 reduction. The remote is 10 centimeters tall by 15 centimeters wide. The wings are built from carbon fiber and liquid crystal polymer and the tail can be moved up or down to give the user more control or more speed during flight.
MetaFly is a great addition to the world of hobby unmanned aerial vehicles. The campaign has blown past its modest funding goal and amassed 88 comments from aerial enthusiasts. As engineers it’s hard not to marvel after something designed by Leonardo da Vinci, and I’ll be watching in the next year to see if ornithopters or biomimicry drones are branches of remote flight that take off. The campaign ends on May 2, 2019.Learn More On Kickstarter