Recently, an unmanned ornithopter, developed independently by the research group led by Prof. Jiao Zongxia, associate researcher Zhao Longfei and Prof. Shang Yaoxing from the Research Institute for Frontier Science of Beihang University, has set a Guinness record for the longest flight duration, flying continuously for one hour 31 minutes and 4.98 seconds.
Ornithopters have potential applications in many fields, such as Mars exploration, airport bird repelling and near-space aircraft study. The previous flying durations of ornithopters worldwide were short, most of which could last just around half an hour, which was significantly behind other types of conventional aircraft, so the world record had been unoccupied. In order to establish the record, Guinness has conducted a full investigation on the existing unmanned ornithopters, and finally believes that if an ornithopter can fly for 1 hour, it will form an absolute flight duration advantage and will have better practical application prospects.
The ornithopter's mechanism is complicated, requiring demanding mechanical systems, and it is difficult for an artificial flapping wing to achieve flying. In the early 19th century, George Cayley invented the prototype fixed-wing aircraft. After the Wright brothers completed the first successful manned powered flight, fixed-wing and helicopters became the mainstream air transportation platform, and the exploration of flapping wing flight has been dormant for a long time. Over the past 100 years, aviation technology has developed rapidly. Researchers have gradually found that even the most advanced aircraft are far from birds, insects and other flying creatures in many ways. Therefore, flapping wing research has become a hot topic again in recent years.
During previous flight tests in 2021, this record-breaking ornithopter lasted just 53 minutes. After optimizing its power system and wing dynamics, its performance soared, reaching the best possible condition to create the world record on July 21st, 2022.