Latest version of PowerUp autopilots paper planes – and more
It was back in 2011 that Israeli inventor Shai Goitein brought us PowerUp, a kit that added an electric propeller to paper airplanes. Well, the latest version of the kit reportedly allows all sorts of things to fly, remotely-controlled by the user's smartphone.
In a nutshell, the various versions of PowerUp have basically consisted of a front module containing the electronics and a battery, which is linked via a carbon fiber shaft to a motor/propeller module in the back. The whole thing gets clipped onto a user-supplied paper airplane, which was folded according to instructions included in the kit.
While the original model simply gave the plane an electric boost, subsequent iterations added a smartphone-controlled rear rudder (allowing users to steer the plane) and even an FPV (first-person view) video camera.
Now on Kickstarter, PowerUp 4.0 doesn't have a camera, but it does feature an accelerometer and a gyroscope in its nose unit, along with two motors/props in the rear. Working in conjunction with an integrated flight-control microprocessor, this setup allows the system to compensate for things like lousy hand-launches, lopsided paper-folding, and crosswinds.
The flight control system is additionally able to detect when the aircraft is starting to stall or dive, independently adjusting the thrust of the two motors in order to keep the plane level. As a result, PowerUp 4.0 can apparently not only be used on sloppily-folded paper airplanes, but also on 20-grams-or-less model aircraft made of lightweight materials such as foam board or balsa wood. In fact, in the video included at the end of this article, it can be seen "flying" an unfolded sheet of paper and a leaf of lettuce.
Another new feature of the 4.0 version is an autopilot function in the app. This lets users simply tap an onscreen button to automatically perform aerobatic maneuvers including a loop, barrel roll and hammerhead. The app now also displays real-time analytics such as heading, thrust level and turning angle, plus it saves profiles of each flight for subsequent analysis.
One 25-minute microUSB charge of the kit's battery should be good for 10 minutes of flight time, during which the plane – or lettuce leaf – can be remotely-controlled up to a range of 230 ft (70 m). The system's top speed is 20 mph (32 km/h).
Should you be interested, the most basic of the PowerUp 4.0 kits can be had for a pledge of US$49 (planned retail $79), assuming it reaches production. At the other end of the scale, a Pro kit that includes landing gear and LED running lights will set you back $79 (retail $129).