Magnus-Effect RC Aircraft Is A Lot Harder Than It Looks

Conventional airfoil wings have come out on top for getting flying machines airborne over the last century, but there were a few other interesting designs that have come and gone. One of these is the Magnus effect plane, which makes use of the lift produced by a spinning cylinder. [James Whomsley] from [Project Air] decided to build one as a side project, but it ended up being a lot more challenging than what he initially suspected. (Video, embedded below.)

The Magnus effect achieved a bit of viral fame a few years when [How Ridiculous] dropped a basketball down a dam wall with some backspin. [James] T-shaped Magnus effect plane has a pair of spinning cylinders at the top to create lift, driven by a brushless motor using a belt. A second brushless motor with a propeller is on the center carbon fiber tube provides forward thrust, and a rudder provides yaw control. The battery is attached to the bottom of the tub for stability.

The very first flight looked very promising, but [James] quickly ran into a series of problems related to center of gravity, power, pitch control, and drag. After iterations of the build-crash-rebuild cycle, he ended up with larger motors and rudder, shorter “wings”, and a higher thrust motor position. This resulted in a craft still only marginally controllable, but stayed in the air for quite a while. Since the intention was never to turn it into a long-term project, James] called it a success to avoid more yak shaving, and continue work on his airboat and rocketplane.

If you are interested in building one of your own, he put all the findings of his experimentation in a short report. For more inspiration, check out the other Magnus effect plane we covered that used KFC buckets for the wings.


13 thoughts on “Magnus-Effect RC Aircraft Is A Lot Harder Than It Looks

    1. If you are able to vary the speed so quickly that you implement a cylic control then you are a step or two away from doing the same at low speed and with reversing basically implementing high speed servos and therfore swashplatless/virtual-swashplate rotor which have been in research for some years.

    1. It isn’t a rocket. The body clearly pivots on the axis of the wings. The body stays vertical even with the torque of the rotating wings and the counter torque of the prop being unbalanced.

  1. “It’s working… OH MY GOD!”
    Love that change in voice from surprise to amazement and finally a bit of being terrified.

    >Hahaha it lives!
    >–Dr. Frankenstein

    Thanks to James and Danie for this true hacker project!

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