Saturday, July 9, 2016
Leonardo Da Vinci's Great Kite
From the instructions"
Da Vinci was a prolific inventor; he designed hundreds of war machines for work, but also for theatre and the world of music. Of all the machines he invented, the flying machines were the most incredible, and not a single book on the world of aviation fails to recognize Leonardo Da Vinci as the forerunner in studies of human flight.
The Codex of Flight, preserved in the Royal Library of Turin represents the most advanced and organic state of Da Vinci's studies on flight. The genius of Da Vinci drew inspiration for his work from his direct observation of the flight of a bird; the Kite. By analyzing the Turin notebook carefully, the Leonardo3 Research centre discovered that the design for the "Codex of Flight flying machine" is described with extreme precision.
Da Vinci described its dimensions, the materials with which it is to be built, its shape and how it works; the whole notebook revolves precisely around the construction and use of the machine. The piloting must have been complex. He would use his hands and feet that could activate ropes and rotate, move and open and close the wings with his own movements. Da Vinci's design is not drawn in its entirety. We must therefore reconstruct the indispensable parts. These include; the canvas to cover the wings, some articulations and pulleys, and the tail, which Da Vinci knew was indispensable for controlling the machine. Da Vinci's instructions for building the machine are extremely precise and even regard the materials to be used. He also advised which ones to avoid.
On folio 7r of the Codex of flight he wrote: ... not one single piece of metal must be used in the construction, because this material breaks or wears away under stress, so there is no need to complicate the job.
Da Vinci suggested using resistant leather for the joints and silk for the ropes. The canvas would be taffeta, a very thick silk, or linen canvas that is starched so any holes are sealed to prevent any air from passing through. Also with regards to the canvas that would cover the wings he suggested referring to the wing membrane of a bat since, unlike bird feathers, air does not pass through it...
"Remember that your bird must only copy the bat because the membranes act as a framework, Connecting the major articulations. If you wanted to copy the wings of feathered birds you would would have to remember that they have stronger bones and quills because they are permeable; the feathers are divided and the air passes through them. On the other hand, the bat is held up by its membranes, which connect everything together and are not permeable.
We can presume the rest of the machine was to be made of wood, using different species based on their properties: ash wood for the wings, because it's flexible; beech wood for the pulleys, since it's easy to polish; and walnut wood or something else more resistant for the structural parts. The Great Kite, described and drawn in the Codex of Flight, is one of the most complex flying machines that Da Vinci designed. It's likely that Da Vinci never finished building it, but he profoundly believed that his project was worthwhile and fervently desired to test it, launching it, with a pilot (some poor sap), on the edge of a mountain top. In fact, in one of the most famous phrases from the Codex of Flight, Da Vinci wrote:
"The first Great Bird will make its first flight, launched from the peak of Mount Cecero and will fill the universe with amazement and all the reports of its great fame will confer eternal glory upon the places where it was conceived".