Humans weren’t meant to fly [Day 0]

After getting my amateur radio license with Matt B I knew exactly what I was going to do with it…assist in the weekly operations of Buggy at CMU. I started reporting weekly to the W3VC Buggy Safety net. The net consists of amateur Radio operators helping out by making sure everyone is well informed about what was going on around the buggy course, they maintained a direct line to Emergency Medical Personal when needed, and in general kept everyone off each other’s toes.

But Matt had other ideas; he didn’t have any interest in standing around in the cold and the dark before 7 in the morning shouting a call sign into the void….Matt wanted to fly.

Remote control over radio frequencies isn’t rare, in fact its the most common way to transmit that kind control input across line-of-sight to an RC vehicles…but with a little more power we could drive a vehicle out of line of sight! So we wanted to make a drone. Now when most people think of drones they picture this:

Phantom 3 Quadcoptor Drone

We wanted to build this:

General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/Predator

Well…that’s kind of big and expensive…How about something in between?

AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven

Yeah that thing is cute! It looks like an RC plane and also is scaled to something we could actually make. While I was really excited to start fabricating planes we both needed to wrap up school before really jumping in earnest, but we did find a couple of hours to talk about distributing the labor. Matt would take care of control systems, internal electronics, propulsion, guidance, vision, batteries, base stations, permits….ya know everything that I wasn’t interested in…which was everything except building the physical body of the plane.

I did a bit of research and learned designing airplanes is really hard, I didn’t want to have to calculate the idea surface area to payload ratio of my aircraft and then find the right major axis along the airfoil of the wing….I’m sure a bunch of those words are in the wrong order.

The long and short of it was, at the very least I wanted to piggyback on someone else’s design, in comes: Flite Test and their Tiny Trainer. Flite test was a website for people like me who wanted to attempt to get into RC planes. They were even graciously giving away plans free online!

Look at these things! This one piratically is a RQ-11!

FT Explorer from Flite Test

But it was kinda complicated and I didn’t yet have a motor to fly it with…what do they recommend starting with?

Tiny Trainer from Flite Test

I think this thing was still pretty cool. So I went and got some plans…FT-Mini TinyTrainer-plans

At this time I was still operating as a shop supervisor for the Art Department at Carnegie Mellon so I had access to laser cutters which turned what might have been tedious job of cutting out foam…into an agonizing but brief  fight with the settings on our cutter.

Soon I had this:

2017-03-02 20.51.42

Huge thanks to Flite Test for making this kind of work possible. But I put the plane together and had something reasonable! I re-enforced the leading edge with some tape to give it some character and personality:

2017-03-03 14.24.19
Mk .001

Time to test it:

Ah well, it’s not supposed to fly backwards, better get some weight in the front end. Apparently it’s very important that you have the center of gravity right at the wing when flying planes….

Better….what if we try again?

Hey that was a pretty good flight!! Now we’re getting somewhere I bet we can replicate that!

Ouch. It hurt me to just hear that happen.

Whelp…so much for the Mk .001! Luckily they design this thing to be modular so I printed out another one, but this time I did a little custom design work.


I made this plastic “Air frame” designed to add weight to the front-end and reduce the need for a counterweight, and also re-enforce the nose cone to resist crashes. It sure looked cool!

2017-03-03 17.52.59

Here the plane is in parts…2017-03-03 17.54.39

All together….now for the maiden voyage:

It didn’t make it.
At this point I had to stop playing with Airplanes and refocus onto classwork. These test-flights were dated March 3, 2017 hopefully some time soon Matt B. and I will reconvene to discuss the creation of further ‘paper airplane’ construction. Making things that fly is really cool…but you should be prepared for those things to break regularly…or sometimes get lost in the park, and returned to the lost and found by a good samaritan.

2017-04-08 17.43.16
Found in Blue Slide Park while going on a run.

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