Ornithopters, or 'thopters, as they are sometimes abbreviated, are aerial vehicles which achieve motion through the flapping action of two or more wings, in the manner of a bird. The first design was developed by the Italian master engineer and artist, Leonardo d'Vinci. Unfortunatley, Master d'Vinci lacked modern technology for power and lift, so his design was limited to gliding.
With the advent of lightweight steam plants for power and the discovery of unobtainite for the cancellation of the effects of gravity upon an object, modern engineers have been able to resurrect d'Vinci's dream. The modern 'thopter is a small aircraft with incredible maneuverability and the ability to take off and land vertically. It is easily distinguished by the high-pitched humming or buzzing sound of the wings as they beat against the air, reminiscent of a giant bumblebee. Two companies are currently producing ornithopters for military and civilian use: Tobsen 77 of Germany and Shapeways of America.
The Shapeways model was designed by a Mister Afrodri.
This model (the Mark I) is armed with a Maxim gun in the nose.
It is designed to go with 15mm troops.
The design from Tobsen77 is significantly larger than the Shapeways model, designed to accompany 28mm troops. I believe that the French Aeronautique plans to purchase some for evaluation of its suitability as a scouting platform with light combat capability. It is armed with both a pair of water-cooled machineguns for aerial attack and a light bomb load for surface attack.
The "Libelle," testbed in neutral paint scheme.
One final form of 'thopter technology is in development by the British Royal Artillery Research and Design Works in Bedfordshire: the Individual Ornithopter Mount. The size of a horse, it utilizes cutting edge handwavium steam turbines to provide an aerial platform for individual operators. These operators are armed with torpedo lances and galvanic rifles. Able to make use of the extreme maneuverability and speed offered by the IOM, the concept is to use IOMs in a manner similar to lancers in attacks against armored aerial vehicles. One hit from a torpedo lance can cripple or destroy most light aerial vehicles (of, say the Aphid-class), while an entire troop's lances should bring down any conceivable aerial juggernaught.
Unfortunately, at the time of this article's release, our photostatic crew have been unable to capture an image of the IOM in flight. However, we have managed to obtain this image of one at rest for your enlightenment. The handwavium reaction tanks at the front of the IOM are clearly visible, as are the wings, landing gear, and saddle. Cooling vanes for the galvanic generator adorn the 'head' as well, and a flexible tail-like rudder assembly assists in sharp turns.
Pictured on the tarmac floor of the Design Works aerodrome.
[Editor's Note: I own neither the Shapeways nor the Tobsen, yet. Both are on the 'buy it someday' list. The photos are taken from the makers' websites, without permission, and are used here only as reference and not for commercial purposes (other than possibly as advertising for their manufacturers). If you would prefer I remove them from this site, as always, please let me know. the IOM is a Mage Knight Soaring Gunner's mechanical dragonfly. I am awaiting a shipment of riders from Australia, a la Victoria Miniatures, to provide riders.]