PowerUp 3.0 – here's how it works
Earlier this month, we reported on the PowerUp 3.0 – a US$50 kit that lets you control a powered paper airplane via your smartphone. At the time, we were still waiting to hear back from its designer, regarding how a simple add-on motorized propeller could be used to actually steer the plane. Now we know.
To recap our previous article, the PowerUp 3.0 kit consists of a capacitor joined to a propeller by a carbon fiber shaft, that can be attached to a user-supplied folded paper airplane made from regular A4 or 8.5 x 11-inch copier paper. Using an iPhone equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 and PowerUp’s app, the user can then control the flight-path of that plane. But how?
As was suggested by some of our readers, the kit turns the plane via a small tail rudder, and climbs and descends via throttle control – this means that whenever it speeds up, it climbs, and whenever it slows down, it descends. According to creator Shai Goitein, the rudder is controlled simply by tipping the phone left or right.
“The really cool feature is the on-board accelerometer which gives the artificial horizon on the iPhone realtime airplane orientation, you can virtually fly it just by looking at your phone,” he added.
A PowerUp 3.0-enabled paper airplane can be seen in flight in the video below.
Source: PowerUp Toys
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The PowerUp 3.0 is the real deal. I admit I was skeptical at first, but with persistence and determination, this turned out to be a ton of fun.
I talked this up to my boy for days before it arrived. After watching the video, he would ask each morning, “Can we fly the red plane today, Dad?” Finally the perfect Saturday morning arrived: it was warm outside with a very slight breeze, and the local park was empty. I had made sure I watched the tutorial videos beforehand and had it all charged up (took only 15-20 minutes). We cleared the table and went to work. The templates provided with the kit were fantastic. As I am not a perfectionist by nature, I was very careful to fold exactly where the lines indicated. We finished creating the beginner plane (called the Invader, which I would recommend starting with) and attached the PowerUp 3.0. I decided to add a very small piece of tape to the backend just to keep it connected well to the plane (which I would recommend doing). I had also previously downloaded the app on my Galaxy S4 and synced it with the PowerUp (which was a synch).
Then it was finally time for the first launch. We practiced throwing the plane several times without the motor (as recommended), made slight adjustments as needed, then powered it up. I wasn’t expecting perfection from the first flight (nor should you!), so I wasn’t at all disappointed when it didn’t go far the first time. The throttle, tilt of the phone, the angle of the wings, and the small flaps on the plane (pardon my ignorance of aeronautical terms!) all needed to be just right. It was actually incredibly fulfilling launching and adjusting, launching and adjusting, and launching and adjusting some more until we finally got that first long flight. It seems crazy, but it felt like a personal victory somehow! Victory over gravity, victory over impatience, victory over imperfections, who knows. From there, we just ran with it. We experimented with different planes, different launch points, different angles with or against the wind, different launch speeds…and just had a blast! I would feel amiss if I didn’t give props to the app’s air traffic controller audio track. My boy loved it!
I love cool tech gadgets, but I especially love cool tech gadgets that actually work and do cool things. The PowerUp 3.0 is one of those. I don’t mean to be overdramatic, but it really combined my boyhood love of paper airplanes with my boy’s love of planes and smartphones into an awesome experience to be enjoyed over and over again. Props to the designers and creators of this inventive, fun, and sturdy device!