Japanese Micro Planes

Some very well engineered micro planes(translated) have been buzzing around the net. The goal here is ultra light weight. These suped-up paper planes have a remarkable target weight of around 10 grams (translated). The lighter the micro plane is the slower and more maneuverable it will be leading to some pretty interesting and scary applications. For controls it looks like many of the planes are using infrared receivers/transmitters (much like you would find in a TV remote hint hint). Getting the lightest plane possible has forced the designers to come up with some pretty ingenious tricks. For example, instead of using packaged servos they use a coil of wire wrapped around a rare earth magnet to control the flaps. You can see these home made “servos” in action after the break.

Some have taken a more classic approach and used rubber band power instead of a li-po/motor combo.

[via Make]

27 thoughts on “Japanese Micro Planes

  1. Those aren’t servos, they are galvos (galvanometers)
    Servos are a DC motor with feedback.
    Galvos are what analog multimeters use, except without a needle attached. They’re very accurate, lightning-fast (they’re also used for laser shows/projectors) and can run open-loop. Oh, and did I mention that they’re damn easy to make?


  2. Science Olympiad has had something like this as an event for almost 6 years now. For the last 3 years, they have had an ornithopter competition, which are supposed to be rubber band powered, they’re almost identical to the rubber band-powered one you liked to.

    Before that it was traditional prop planes, powered by rubber bands. They had a weight limit, I don’t remember it off-hand, but I believe it was around 5-10g, and then they limit you to another 30g of rubber to power the plane. There were competitors that could have those planes flying for more than 10 minutes under those circumstances. I don’t know much about the ornithopters, because that was after my time in Science Olympiad.

    The third image on the first link is of a rubber stripper, which cuts thin strips off of a rubber band, to make it lighter, so you can have a longer band for competition. We used one on my Science Olympiad team.

    Nevertheless, it’s impressive that they’re able to build such small electric planes that light.

  3. Razorconcepts “Buy a micro for $100”. wtf are you doing here if this is your solution. I could make my own with used kids toys for probably less the $10. I’m thinking the micro RC cars that charge on the remote could easily be adapted, i’m sure there are a ton of these floating around.

  4. Those “hacked” servos are called solenoids. You might remember them from physics when you calculated the field strength inside a infinitely long solenoid. However, it is still an ingenious and cheap engineering solution.

  5. I had a chance to meet and talk with these guys at last year’s Tokyo MAKE. Your post really doesn’t do it justice.
    I’ll have to dig up my photos and put them online.
    A few points I found impressive:
    All were powered by custom micro lipo cells. Their receiver boards were again custom, and were about the size of 1/4 a postage stamp. Thats right.the entire pcb was smaller than a typical tqfp. The board handled prop motor control (on off. No throttle that I know of) and three channels of control surface. Some planes made use of the third channel to twist the wings, but most just had tail control.
    One ornothopter had a wing flapping gear system that may have been hand machined.
    Most impressive fliers were the witch on a broom and the wooden warship.

  6. youtub/user/tyoukogatalabo are the Zen Masters of light slow flight!

    They always look like they are having a ball!

    If you have a YouTube account, subscribe!
    They post video of their fly-ins and they are always so cool to watch!

  7. @filespace I wondered the sme thing.
    But imagine it on your wall, with a retro computer build on it.

    Or a hackerspace colab project… like a word chain game… everyone takes a space and builds a random circuit. Then try to interconnect them all.

  8. i’ve always wanted to do something like this with cellphone motors, but idk where to get those magic weightless invisible batteries they’re using. beaming electricity to it would be cool tho. what are they using, zero-point-energy?

  9. looks like havoc heli electronics on it, for the control. as for aileron mechanisms, my guess would be wire tubes with magnet wire and tiny neo mags in there… apply small alternating currents gets your direction worked out.

  10. As Brandano implied, this isn’t so much something new and exciting, as a rather well-established sub-genre of model airplanes that you just hadn’t noticed. The early impressive models had transistor-based radio receivers and motors powered by compressed CO2. ICs and LiPoly batteries have resulted in a near-revolution; “consumer” grade planes are available off the shelf, and world records are under 1g total weight.
    (although, perhaps this sort of thing involves too much skill to be considered a “hack.” I always considered “hacks” to be things that were clever but relatively easily reproducible.)

    hack-wise, I particularly like the idea of shaving off the “unimportant” part of “heavy” electronics components like the typical IR RC receiver:

  11. There are servos based on memory shape alloys, but they are slow, imprecise and use up too much current. Another possible candidate for miniaturized actuators would be piezoelectric plastics of the same type used in some mems devices

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