The Hague, Netherlands, 20th March 2012


Dutch engineer is the first man in history to fly like a bird with self- built wings

Engineer Jarno Smeets (31) is the first man in history to have made a successful short flight with his self-built wings modeled on the movement and structure of real bird wings. Assisted by an electronic system of his own design, Smeets took off from the ground in a park in The Hague last sunday 18th of March 2012. The flight of an estimated hundred meters lasted about a minute, after which Smeets landed safely.

Until now people had assumed that it was impossible to fly with bird-like wings using human muscle power. Smeets designed his own system to solve this problem, using two Wii controllers, the accelerometers from a HTC Wildfire S smartphone and Turnigy motors. This combined mechanism provided Smeets with extra power to move his 17m2 wings and allowed him to move his arms freely without any risk of breaking them. The system is a wireless (haptic) concept. The wing itself was built out of a kite and carbon windsurf masts (as flightpins).

Human Bird Wings is an independent project initiated from the personal ambition and vision of Dutch engineer Jarno Smeets. “Ever since I was a little boy I have been inspired by pioneers like Otto Lilienthal, Leonardo da Vinci and also my own grandfather”. Six months ago Smeets started researching. Smeets has developed and realized his wings with support from an independent team assembled under the Human Bird Wings project, sharing his progress through a well documented blog and YouTube channel. He has offered his followers an open source concept in building bird wings. Aided by helpful suggestions of his audience he was able to successfully finish his bird wings concept.

With this project Smeets has proven that modern technology and robotica can create realistic futures from seemingly impossible engineering dreams to fly like a bird


If you'd like more information about the project or contact Jarno Smeets directly you can call this phonenumber +31 618369328 or send an e-mail to

For photo's and background information, please consult my projectwebsite: Website:

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  • Developer

    This is so fake it makes me angry that people are so gullible. Just look at the convenient video cuts, and you'll know it's fake. Every bit of science says it's fake. Look at the tiny rc brushless motors apparently putting hundreds of pounds of load on the wings for flapping and tell me it's not fake. That's right, his arms are not connected to the wings and are not powering them. Those two rc motors are doing all that work. Bullshit.

  • 100% sure the guy is a bad windsurfer; His sails are badly rigged ;  tension at the tack is too big, and the battens are absolutely not fastened, with no boom installed nor rigged either.. rendering the sail's geometry 0% effective, unusable, even for simple windsurfing ; The rest is bad cgi

  • I'm lean more towards hoax now.  Given that he really did not test the wings for aerodynamics and load bearing, it would have been foolish for him to actually fly at the height he was at.    He didn't seem like he had a death wish from his other videos.  Most likely will turn out to be an viral video attempt, by HTC.

  • My friends the ducks near my house can't take off as easily as that guy , i cannot believe its true.

    You know what ? if this video is a kind of viral pitch for investors to phone in and help realise the core good idea : a wiimote for flapping big wings effortless.. like that mecanical dog by Darpa mixed up with an exoskeleton

    and APM on top off all this ..  this is the best way to go marketingly speaking =)

  • look at the 2 guys behind him .. they are indeed nearly all the time in the scene, but the weird thing happen just right at take off.. and at that moment, precisely, no more people in background for reference .. there you go for the overlay insert on a empty field view

    the sounds and the alternate helmet view looks really funny too

  • Wow people are really slamming Wired for putting this apparent hoax online as real science. I wonder what our Editor in Chief has got to say about it.

  • Developer

    Creating CG video like that is very hard, so I'd say there is no CG in it. But if he is actually flying... don't know... it can be crane set with some wires that been removed in post.

  • Yup, we all want to see some successfull Icarus :)

  • Well, I'm not 100% convinced either.  But if it's real, I'm sure we'll hear more about it in the news, and science journals.

  • Mysterious . A classic 90% carbon windsurfing mast weights between 2 and 4+ kg , depending on the sail's size. You need two of them. then you need everything around to keep the sail rigid .. cambers, booms (heavy too)

    Wing example : Look at the specs.;

    all the need stuff around you can find info about it in other section of the site

    I can tell that you need serious arm strength to flap 2 sails like that. Otherwise you would need a helper but that again adds more to overall weight, because that helper will have to flap really hard, hydrolic power style

    Ellison, i bet you jump from a mountain you can probably glide down to the valley, provided you sustain the force needed to maintain your wings spread. But flapping on over that, i dont believe it, and i am a real optimist in general :)

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