My inventions : Giant mechanical batwings

Here's a picture of me extending my wings at BurningMan '01 (click the image for a much larger version).

me wearing the wings extended


This page is all about a pair of giant mechanical unfolding batwings I built.

The wings are just costume piece designed to look cool (though they can be used as a weapon quite effectively).

The wings have no useful aerodynamic properties and thus cannot be used to "fly". The wings open and close, but do not "flap" forward and back.

They are very light and comfortable, have an impressive 3.25 meter wingspan, and have proven themselves to be quite durable- withstanding years of use and abuse (even being worn on motorcycles at highway speeds)!

Buying, renting, plans, making, copying, and selling

I don't currently sell or rent wings and don't currently intend to.

Creative Commons License
This wing design is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Please contact me if you wish to obtain permission to produce these wings commercially.


I'm not really sure what made me decide to start making mechanical wings, but I made my fist wooden pair in 1989 after sketching a design in a math class. The initial design was quite simple, cheap to make, and worked amazingly well. That halloween I won three consecutive costume contest using them. I won $100 cash, a $100 dinner at a fine restaurant, a $50 gift certificate for a tatoo, and a bart simpson soap-on-a-rope! Not bad considering it cost me about thirty dollars to make... Unfortunately, later that year, that set became the sad victim of collateral damage from a lovers quarrel that two of my friends were having.

Every year or two since then I would make a new and different pair. They started out as wood, screws, hinges and twine but soon became constructed out of aluminum, steel, diamond plate, chain, foam, and leather. I've tried many different designs and while all the previous designs worked well they didn't quite have the mechanical beauty and aesthetic refinement I was looking for.

When I set out to make this pair of wings I started by listing the things I wanted to accomplish with it...

Aesthetic criteria

Before I started this pair I made sure to do some research into the wing systems of real creatures:

bat wing skeleton diagram

bird wing skeleton diagram

pterosaur wing skeleton diagram

I realized that to have a really good looking wing you would need at least 3 limb elements: one for the upper arm, one for the lower arm, and one for the wingtip. I noticed that the individual elements started out shorter at the base of the wing and got longer toward the tip. I noted that whatever mechanism transfered the forces would have to not distort the shape of these elements unrealistically.

Other criteria

From the experiences of my earlier designs I had several other design criteria:


The aesthetic and engineering criteria led me to the design used here.

I used a scissor like action to transfer forces across the back and used double parallelograms to transfer the forces down the wings themselves. If you look closely at the design you can see the aluminum double parallelograms that make up the structure of the upper two limb elements of the wings.

The wings must be held open and close by gravity alone. When they are closed the wings fold in like a bent arm with the longest element going straight down the wearers back.



The future

I will, of course, create more such wings in the future. When I do I would like extend the current design by:


Here are some links other worn mechanical wings:

If you have any questions, know of any other good wing designs out there, or do something based on my design then please contact me.