While there have been a robot simulating a bird, could be there also an exoskeleton wing system for a human?

Main design considerations:

a) only human powered

b) using an additional, or exclusive source of power

I consider b) is more trivial because it's near to more or less attaching a human to a big bionic bird similar to mentioned above.

So we concentrate here on a).

  • $\begingroup$ Human powered or not ? $\endgroup$ – Antzi Aug 21 '19 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Antzi thanks for your question, I think only human powered is more challenging to explore, or? I have added this consideration to the question. $\endgroup$ – J. Doe Aug 21 '19 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ Flapping or not? Note that human powered flight has been attempted extensively and the most recent results point to a fit human being able to sustain slow flight in a highly optimized propeller-driven craft, and not for long $\endgroup$ – AEhere supports Monica Aug 21 '19 at 7:50

Yes, and it has been done.
In 2010, the first human-powered ornithopter recorded its first flight.

It took a very light aircraft and a lot of power from the pilot, about 650 W, so the flight only lasted 20 seconds. It only sustained level flight, requiring assistance to take off.

To put this into perspective, a good power target for cyclists is 250 W. A top competitor will put out 300 W over a race and 400 W over 10-15 minutes, and over 1000 W for 10-20 seconds. So it's possible (not certain) that a top Tour de France cyclist could hold it in the air for a couple minutes, or even have the stamina for a takeoff. But it's still more power than any human can sustain long enough to cover a mile.

Meanwhile, the record for propeller-driven human powered aircraft, without flapping wings, currently holds at 115 km. This was achieved with autonomous launch.

The ornithopter in question isn't exactly an "exoskeleton", though, because an exoskeleton is not optimal for the job. Human arms are unsuitable for flying or sustaining high power output in general, so all successful human-powered aircraft derive power from the pilot's legs. Typically it's a cycling motion, but a straight leg press machine motion is used in this particular case.

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    $\begingroup$ You may add a date as "9 year ago" won't be valid in few years while the rest of the answer still remain valid. $\endgroup$ – Manu H Aug 22 '19 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Camille Goudeseune: Some good points in the edits, but the qualifiers in the post were important. E.g. I expect that a champion athlete could hold it for a couple minutes, but it's uncertain. I've incorporated those of your edit suggestions that I agree with. $\endgroup$ – Therac Aug 22 '19 at 19:16

Speaking about mechanically amplified wing that follows the movement of the human hand (something along the lines of hydraulic amplifiers that move control surfaces of large aircraft), most likely should not be any significant problem. Large birds beat wings somewhat 3 times per second (source), wings for the human may require even less. A human hand can beat up and down in such a frequency given exoskeleton provides the power.

It may be possible to imagine a machine where pilot waves hands freely in the cockpit with only sensors attached to them, and the moving wings are separate. This movement would be more complex than just up and down. Without tail surfaces, this would be more like a bat flies, and bats use they very long fingers to give the wings always the required shape. Probably the sensors should track the pilot fingers, palm position, adjusting the shape of the wing.

A bat can fly into cave and mount on the ceiling chassis up. Probably no helicopter (or some small model of it) could do.

I think this would be an amazing device to fly. Maybe someone could try to build at least a simulator - fly like a dragon!

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For b), doubtful. Not if exoskeleton has its conventional meaning, augmenting the wearer's gestures rather than performing gestures commanded by something like buttons on a joystick.

Uninterruptedly flapping anything bigger than your hands becomes tiring after just a few minutes, even with straps to counter the weight of your hands or arms or whatever.

Although the Kinect supported a few flap-your-arms games, that audience has completely returned to its keyboards and gamepads. Button mashing corresponds to finger flapping.

Guitarists and drummers and pianists can play for an hour nonstop, but their motions are again minimal: fingerwork; twisting the forearm (strumming); little elbow and shoulder motion.

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