Would there be any ways to theoretically have powered flight before the invention of an engine?
I am trying to design some way to power a plane before the invention of the engine. I need the plane to be fast enough that it can keep itself aloft, but I do not have access to engines (at least, none which are efficient or light enough for use on a plane). Speed isn’t as necessary, but flight time is fairly important. The plane can be a lumbering beast as long as it can get where it’s going.
I have an artificer who gets information on future technologies from a patron, and could eventually build an engine for planes, but it will take quite some time to industrialize and I need something that can be made now (or at least, made decently quickly) with as few resources as possible.
The solution can be magic based (DnD 5e). To supplement any possible magic I have access to a material called Damestear, which is a magical battery mixed with a scroll, allowing anyone to use magic as long as they know how to activate the spell infused to the Damestear. If it is a magical solution then the lower the spell slot level required the better, as for every spell level the time to infuse the magic increases exponentially, and the number of people capable of infusing it lowers significantly.
Possible solutions don’t need to be rock solid, this is a fantasy setting, so numbers can be fudged a bit to work even if it wouldn’t in real life. My artificer currently has access to basic machine tools, and money/manpower are no limit. I am honestly not sure if there is a solution to this problem, but any input will be greatly appreciated.