Leonardo was particularly fascinated with flight. He invented a conceptual flying machine after hours of studying birds and bats in flight.
Modern science tells us that among creatures in flight, the dragonfly is possibly one of the most advanced flying insects, and so, deriving on Da Vinci’s initial desire to create a flying machine based on the natural flight of birds, my schematic is based on imitating the natural flight of the dragonflies.
Following Leonardo’s principles, I studied the movements of the dragonflies at the botanic gardens in Singapore, capturing images of them at several angles to understand their wing structures and perching dynamics.
The notes taken were written down in a cursive font similar to the original Leonardo’s font to make the overall theme as authentic as possible. While Leonardo did usually prefer “mirror writing”, starting at the right side of the page and moving to the left side, there were instances when he wrote in the normal direction, particularly when the work was intended for someone else. This schematic has its information written in normal direction since it was intended for other audiences.
Using the dragonfly as a theme was also inspired from personal captivation with the insect, having chased around and photographing it on numerous occasions. Dragonflies have been around since the age of the dinosaurs and continue to show incredible maneuverability, using their two pairs of wings to significantly increase acceleration and climb, with less energy expended. Some dragonflies can even achieve a maximum speed of 25-30mph, and their general speed is around 10mph
The schematic was divided into different parts according to the golden rectangle for visual appeal and to ideally separate the information into their own segments.
The notes taken are a mixture of facts, figures, and scientific information referenced from two academic journals
While the schematic may appear to be a knock-off of the Vitruvian man, quite the contrary, it isn’t. It is a general mathematical calculation to measure the ratio of wingspan vs the body of the dragonfly.
One of the key factors behind the flight of a dragonfly is its proportions in terms of size and wingspan. By using a simple geometrical calculation, the schematic shows an analysis of the dragonfly’s wingspan and body proportion. The mechanical construct was duplicated using the same dimensional ratios.
The end result was a conceptual mechanical harness with a 5.2m wingspan with two pairs of wings, with three divisions on each wing to compensate for the weight of an average human being. Maneuverability closely mimics the dragonfly by using a torso and hip joints, allowing the pilot to arch their bodies in order to turn, climb or dive. By using, a gearbox with bearings on the lower set of wings would work as a cantilever allowing more lift at a lesser energy expended, similar in function to the scales of the dragonfly’s wings.
Concerning color, the schematic sticks to a faded brown color often seen in the existing Leonardo’s notes. The schematic avoided using pastel colours to simulate the authenticity of the image, as the goal was to make it appear as if Leonardo created this schematic himself.
There is also a canvas paper pattern overlaid to simulate the original notes and the design was printed out on canvas to even roll it up in a manner Leonardo maintained his notes.
In clockwise order, the first larger section consists of a proportional comparison between a dragonfly and the conceptual flying machine. It also included small notes about the wing structures of both, the insect and the construct. Next was an individual sketch of the various segments of the machine. Below that were sketches of an observational study based on the behaviour and flight patterns of the dragonfly, understanding how the angle of movement and speed varies according to the inclination of the body.
In conclusion, engineering a method to soar the skies paired with the mechanics of reality was the peak of imagination during Leonardo’s time.
For Da Vinci it was the desire to see the world from a wider perspective, and letting his imagination soar. For me personally, this assignment originated from my own curiosity of flight, with the idea refined through the mindset of Da Vinci, allowing me to not just pay homage to the Renaissance Man, but also briefly live and see the world through his perspective.
Done as part of my Sociology of Design assignment (Masters of Design)