RC Batwing Actually Flies

Batman is a compelling superhero for enough reasons that he’s been a cultural force for the better part of a century. His story has complex characters, interesting explorations of morality, iconic villains, and of course a human superhero who gets his powers from ingenuity instead of a fantastical magical force. There are a number features of the Batman universe that don’t translate well to the real world, though, such as a costume that would likely be a hindrance in fights, technology that violates the laws of physics, and a billionaire that cares about regular people, but surprisingly enough his legendary Batwing jet airplane actually seems like it might be able to fly.

While this is admittedly a model plane, it flies surprisingly well for its nontraditional shape. [hotlapkyle] crafted it using mostly 3D printed parts, and although it took a few tries to get it working to his standards, now shoots through the air quite well. It uses an internal electric ducted fan (EDF) to get a high amount of thrust, and has elevons for control. There are two small vertical stabilizer fins which not only complete the look, but allow the Batwing to take to the skies without the need for a flight controller.

Not only is the build process documented in the video linked below with some interesting tips about building RC aircraft in general, but the STL files for this specific build are available for anyone wanting to duplicate the build or expand on it. There are plenty of other interesting 3D-printed models on [hotlapkyle]’s page as well that push the envelope of model aircraft. For some other niche RC aircraft designs we’ve seen in the past be sure to check out this F-35 model that can hover or this tilt-rotor Osprey proof-of-concept.

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Putting An Afterburner On An Electric Ducted Fan

Afterburners are commonly agreed to be the coolest feature of military fighter aircraft. Injecting raw fuel into the exhaust stream of a jet engine, afterburners are responsible for that red-hot flaming exhaust and the key to many aircraft achieving supersonic flight. [Integza] wanted to see if the same concept could be applied to an electric ducted fan, and set out to find out.

Of course, building an afterburner for an EDF does add a lot of complication. A flame tube was installed downstream of the EDF, fitted with a brass tube drilled carefully to act as a fuel injector. The flame tube was also fitted with an automotive glow plug in order to ignite the fuel, which was lighter refill gas straight from a can. The whole assembly is wrapped up inside a clear acrylic tube that allows one to easily see what’s happening inside with the combustion.

Results were mixed. While the fuel did combust, but in a rather intermittent fashion. In proper operation, an afterburner would run with smooth, continuous, roaring combustion. Additionally, no thrust measurements were taken and the assembly barely shook the desk.

Thus, if anything, the video serves more as a guide of how to burn a lot of lighter gas with the help of an electric fan. The concept does has merit, and we’ve seen past attempts, too, but we’d love to see a proper set up with thrust readings with and without the afterburner to see that it’s actually creating some useful thrust. Video after the break.  Continue reading “Putting An Afterburner On An Electric Ducted Fan”

Transforming Drone Can Be A Square Or A Dragon

When flying drones in and around structures, the size of the drone is generally limited by the openings you want to fit through. Researchers at the University of Tokyo got around this problem by using an articulating structure for the drone frame, allowing the drone to transform from a large square to a narrow, elongated form to fit through smaller gaps.

The drone is called DRAGON, which is somehow an acronym for the tongue twisting description “Dual-Rotor Embedded Multilink Robot with the Ability of Multi-Degree-of-Freedom Aerial Transformation“. The drone consists of four segments, with a 2-DOF actuated joint between each segment. A pair of ducted fan motors are attached to the middle of each segment with a 2-DOF gimbal that allows it to direct thrust in any direction relative to the segment. For normal flight the segments would be arranged in the square shape, with minimal movement between the segments. When a small gap is encountered, as demonstrated in the video after the break, the segments rearrange into a dragon-like shape, that can pass through a gap in any plane.

Each segment has its own power source and controller, and the control software required to make everything work together is rather complex. The full research paper is unfortunately behind a paywall. The small diameter of the propellers, and all the added components would be a severe limiting factor in terms of lifting capacity and flight time, but the concept is to definitely interesting.

The idea of shape shifting robots has been around for a while, and can become even more interesting when the different segment can detach and reattach themselves to become modular robots. The 2016 Hackaday Grand Prize winner DTTO is a perfect example of this, although it did lack the ability to fly. Continue reading “Transforming Drone Can Be A Square Or A Dragon”