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The Glider

Leonardo da Vinci’s Glider

Leonardo da Vinci’s Glider was sketched along with many other flying machines and mechanisms that would power and control them. In the following pages i will recreate them from his original drawings and examine and animate them. First i will have a look at his plans for a glider. This is probably one of his most debated drawings, because at the time he sketched it, it might have been possible to build.
Before i go on to explain both the Glider and powered Flying Machine, please note that two kits are available from Amazon.com Here – Leonardo da Vinci’s Glider & Leonardo da Vinci’s Flying Machine








The image below shows one of the drawings he created while studying a Kite, a small, agile bird. He attempted to converted the Kites skeletal structure into a flying machine –

leonardos glider sketch

leonardos glider sketch

Although modern materials like aluminum and synthetic cloths were not available to him at the time, historians have recently attempted to build it using materials he would have had available and found that it could actually fly with a couple of small modifications. The main modification to his glider design being the addition of a rudder to stabilize the yaw, or left and right movement of the glider.

Here are his original sketches that led to the development of the glider, you can almost see his train of thought, this image shows and outstretched bat wing with its proportions noted –

leonardo da vinci bat wing with proportions

leonardo da vinci bat wing with proportions

He would often buy birds in local markets and study their wing structure, motion and shape, after studying he would set them free.

This next sketch is of a birds wing but this time he investigates the possibility of adding some mechanics to it which would allow it to move like a bird wing –

leonardo da vinci - bird wing with mechanical connections

leonardo da vinci – bird wing with mechanical connections

The following shows his sketch for the actual glider, you can see how he was inspired by the by wings above –

Da-Vinci- glider

Da-Vinci- glider

The device above shows where a man could actually lie into the machine. His waist would be inside the ring just below the wings,his hands would hold the two sticks coming down from the wings for directional control and a flapping motion would be powered by the man forcing his legs downwards with his feet inside the two spurs. You can see this in the small insert to the left of the main picture.


Leonardo's Glider Model from rear

Leonardo’s Glider from rear



Here are my sketches of his original drawing, obviously they’re not quite as good as the original, but then again, i’m not Leonardo da Vinci :)



Leonardo da Vinci's Glider 2

Leonardo da Vinci’s Glider 2


Leonardo da Vinci's Glider 3

Leonardo da Vinci’s Glider 3

Leonardo da Vincis Glider 4

Leonardo da Vincis Glider 4

Although it is highly unlikely that he built this machine, it does leave a few things unanswered and some historians believe that he may have built it, watch the video below to see why they might think this


Leonardo Da Vinci’s Simple Glider design

Another design of his for a simpler glider has since been shown to work with the simple addition of a rudder. As you can see from the sketch below it is  much simpler machine and therefore more likely to work , and as the man himself is quoted as saying  “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” –

Leonardo da vinci glider

Leonardo da vinci glider – simple desgn

The video below is taken from a was a BBC documentary showing how Leonardo da Vinci’s Glider could actually work while being built with materials and tools Leonardo would have had access to. The only addition to the original design is a rudder, as during previous attempts at flight the glider would try to turn sideways, the rudder stops this for happening –


Leonardo’s sketches and the principles he discovered while developing his glider set down some of the most basic principles of flight, many engineers and Leonardo lovers tend to agree that he is one of the founding fathers of the branch of physics which is now known as aerodynamics. Models of two gliders are available from Amazon.com Here – Leonardo da Vinci’s Glider & Leonardo da Vinci’s Flying Machine.