Background: Most of the population on earth has wings. Wingspans are normally around 13-19ft long depending on the person. Some have lost wings, but I don’t want them to be 100% crippled and unable to fly. The time is around 2070-80 so some futuristic technology is expected.

Question: What type of substance and shape would be needed to allow a person to glide or achieve short distances on an artificial wing? Full flight is not needed.


You are describing hang gliders.

People don't have the necessary power to weight ratios to support bird-like flight, but by taking advantage of thermals flights can last for hours.

You don't need ultra-strong materials, just a lightweight rigid frame and a sail-cloth.

For stability the "wings" should be above the center of gravity of the person.

As humans, the advantage is to have removable wings so that you don't have the burden of carrying their weight when they are not in use.

Re: crippled wings, each bit of functional loss would reduce the flying ability by a corresponding amount until you simply reach a point that flight is no longer worth the effort and or not possible.

It obvious that you could in theory design a built-in hang gliders made of bones and an thin webbed skin membrane as the material requirements are well within the capabilities of flesh and blood. It would not be as convenient as an artificial hang-glider though. Only a small percentage of the population ever does hang-gliding, so it is hard to image a large majority of the population undergoing the genetic alterations needed to grow a biologic hang-glider. We do not have the genetic understanding sufficient to create biological hand-gliders today though.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1 -- Or paragliders... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 24 '17 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP -- never tried paragliding, but I thought the wing-span was larger than the 13-19 ft range specified in the question. Otherwise, sure, same idea, different implementation $\endgroup$ Nov 24 '17 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ The human anatomy has changed to accommodate their wings, though since the ability to have wings wasn't the subject of the question I didn't think to add it. I didn't even think about hang gliders! That would definitely work, thank you, but wouldn't the problem be they have to find a high spot or something to start gliding? I could make that work but it wouldn't be ideal. $\endgroup$
    – Axolotl
    Nov 24 '17 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ @PinkAxolotl85 -- hang gliders are often launched by simply running, i.e., pretty much the same as a kite. $\endgroup$ Nov 24 '17 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ I was unaware thank you for informing me. So wide open spaces would still be needed? $\endgroup$
    – Axolotl
    Nov 24 '17 at 22:04

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