Arthur Cordell’s mention of “flapping wings” in passing during a Comment on my “Schumpeter is going to be right” posting yesterday, reminds us that we’ll probably have flapping wing aircraft one day.
Vehicles — such as birds, bats or butterflies — with flapping wings are much more energy-efficient than fixed wing aircraft. Also, they can fly in all sorts of weather conditions and can travel for enormous distances on relatively modest amounts of fuel.
Although man’s very first endeavours in flying involved flapping wings — or attempts at them — we simply didn’t have the materials that were light enough or strong enough to sustain the repeated stresses involved. Considering the massive amount of funding now going into genetic research, it will not be terribly long before varieties of synthetic DNA will be able to make exotic carbon-based organic materials with properties far beyond the existing crop of inorganic materials.