Flapping fixed-wing drone

(Svein Berge ) #1

Flapping fixed-wing drone


Birds manage to fly without the use of propellers. Instead, they flap their wings. Airplanes, on the other hand, are usually not designed to flap their wings. That’s a shame, because it is well known that flapping can be a more efficient form of propulsion than propellers or jets. This is linked to the fact that flapping fliers use the same airfoils for lift and propulsion. Is it possible to use the wings of a normal fixed-wing aircraft to produce propulsion? Well, not without a minor modification…


If you hang a weight under an airplane, from a line connected to a winch inside the airplane, fly like a rollercoaster while winching the weight up and down (and these things have to be about 90 degrees out of phase) it should be possible to use the power of the winch to propel the aircraft forwards. Theoretically. According to high-school physics. Could this be true? Let’s find out!

The plan is to get a remote-controlled glider airplane, fit it with a small winch and try this out!


  • Pilots (actually! particularly model airplane pilots or dextrous gamers)
  • Model airplane/car/train builders
  • Remote-controlled glider
  • Remote control
  • A large hall where we can fly the remote-controlled glider in controlled conditions


Introduction to flapping wing design


  • Svein

Please add constructive feedback, suggestions, offers of equipment or skills, and gestures of wild enthusiasm as replies below. Thanks!

(Nicolai von Kügelgen) #2

Very cool idea!

I remember seeing this video once, which is kind of a similar design, I guess?

(Lucy Patterson) #3

@giu - we would have space, right?

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(Svein Berge ) #4

I remember seeing this video once, which is kind of a similar design, I guess?

Yes, except that one actually flaps its wings! The idea here is to see if we can get any propulsion from normal, fixed wings. Just a normal airplane with a winch and a weight hanging under it!

(Giulia) #5

yes, we have always space @sveinb “high-school physics” (like proving gravity…) experiments… although maybe is smart to bring a thick jacket as well as planes :wink:

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(Lucy Patterson) #6

Hey @sveinb - would be great to see a documentation post about this hack, especially since you’re a prizewinner :wink: If you start a new topic in the #science-hacking-berlin:SHDB17 category now you’ll get a template for the kind of information we need from you.

(Svein Berge ) #7

I’ll get right on it! First thing tomorrow!


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