DARPA <3 Dune: miniature ornithopter in development

Paul Raven @ 03-07-2009

Chalk yet another one up to Frank Herbert; the DARPA people have just awarded a Phase II contract extension (whatever that means) to a company called AeroVironment so that they can continue developing their ‘Mercury’ Nano Air Vehicle ornithopter prototype. [via Hack-A-Day]

Ornithopters – which feature heavily in the Dune series – are aircraft that are propelled by flapping their wings like a bird rather than using rotors, propellors or jets. Check out the Mercury prototype in action:

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3 Responses to “DARPA <3 Dune: miniature ornithopter in development”

  1. Robert Koslover says:

    FYI, the “Phase II contract extension” probably refers to an extension to a DARPA SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) contract. SBIR contracts start as Phase I R&D programs (typically about $100k) and, if the work is considered successful by the government reviewers, can lead to the award of Phase II R&D programs (typically about $750K). Receiving a follow-on award of $2.1M strongly suggests that DARPA was very pleased with AeroVironment’s work in the earlier Phase I and II efforts. So let us congratulate them and wish them good luck in advancing their technology further.

  2. Rick York says:

    Great project.

    Just curious: has anyone ever compared the overall efficiency of flapped versus propelled(?) flight?

  3. Robert Koslover says:

    Here’s more about ornithopters: http://www.ornithopter.org
    My kids had one of those rubberband-powered flapping-birds some years ago. It actually worked rather well.