Crossbow Powered Glider





Introduction: Crossbow Powered Glider

Hello everyone

The current schoolproject where I am working on is a human powered glider. That means that all the energy that the plane uses to fly comes from rubberbands, airpressure, a flyweel,... In a short version: NO ELECTRONICS. My idea was using a crossbow as a launchmechanism. I wanted to be original, so i made a custom crossbow that was only designed to fire my glider. For the glider itself, I started with an aluminum strip and built a body with wings around it.

Step 1: Crossbow: Make a Rough Design

The first step, the basic shape, determines the looks and the functioning of the crossbow. I did the drawing directly on a wooden (ayous) beam that had a width of 3.5 cm and a height of 10 cm. In fact, you are free to choose the form of the body of the crossbow, but you have to mind that the body needs a barrel with a flight groove, a place for the trigger, a stronger part to attach the bow, a groove where the string runs and a stock. You can see the design that i used in the picture.

Step 2: Mill the Grooves

First of al you have to do the milling, because al the edges are still straight in this fase. Start with the groove for the trigger. The cutter has to have a diameter of 1 cm. The groove has to be as deep as possible and has a length of 10 cm. The folowing step is making the flight groove on top of the bow. You can do this with a milling machine or with a tablesaw. I did it with a table saw. Make shure that the groove goes from the front to the groove for the trigger and that it lays just in the middle of the beam. I made a groove with a dept of 3.5 cm and a width of 0.7 cm. The last groove you should make is the groove for the string. The center of the groove lays about 2 cm under the upperside of the beam. The groove should go trough the beam with a width of 43 cm and a height of 1 cm.

Step 3: Cut Out the Basic Shape

Use a jigsaw to cut out the body you designed in the beginning. Make also a smal cut out after the string groove. That cut out is going to be your string lock.

Step 4: The Trigger

For the trigger you need a plastic cutting board. Before you start to cut the trigger you want to be shure that your trigger actualy dous it's job. Therefore you take a piece of cardboard and draw the trigger on it. Use a form that looks like the one in the picture. The task of the trigger is pushing the string out of the cut out so make shure that the shape and the positioning is right. Also search the right place for the axle that goes trough the trigger. When you found the right place for the axle, drill a hole trough the cardbord and troough the body of the crosbow. Now use the cardbord form to draw the shape of the trigger on the plastic and cut it out with a jigsaw. Dril the hole trough the trigger and secure the trigger in the trigger groove with an axle. You can put stoppers before and after the trigger as you can see in the picture but they are not realy necessary.

Step 5: Bow Attachmentpoint

Drill a hole with diameter 1cm in the center of the front end of the body. Then insert a metal plug with M8 thread inside it.

Step 6: The Bow

Start by drilling a hole with a diameter of 0.8cm in the middle of a 75 cm plastic bar. Then attach at both ends of the bar a strip of wood with a thicknes of 2mm a width of 3 cm and a length of 25 cm. Make at both ends cut outs to attach the string. Put a bolt with a washer trough the hole in the plastic bar. The last step is attaching fiberglas rods, I used 3 glasfiber rods from bikeflags. You can easily attach the rods with duct tape.

Step 7: The String

Put a nylon string trough an aluminum tube and make a loop at both ends of the string.

Step 8: Put the Bow Together

Insert the bolt from the bow inside the provided hole in the body. Then atach one loop to one end of the bow, pull the string trough the string groove and attach the other loop to the other end of the bow. You can load the bow by pulling the tube backwards and then locking it in the cut out. Fire the bow with the trigger.

Step 9: The Glider

For the glider you can use all kinds of materials, you should opt for lightweight stuf like balsa, aluminum, polystyrene, etc. I started from a strip of aluminum. The strip is necessary to launch the glider from the crossbow, this strip glides trough the flight groove. I gave the strip a round and smooth shape at the bottom and cut holes at the back end to reduce weight.

Step 10: L-profiles

The folowing step is attaching L-profiles to the upper side of the aluminum body. I attached them with rivets. You should attach profiles from the front to the back of the strip. The best is to attach the rivets mostly in the front to keep the center of gravity at the front.

Step 11: The Wings

To make the wings I used polystyrene. To cut smooth wings, you need a hot wire cutter and two identical molds. First you should place the molds at each side of the piece of polystyrene. Than you go with a long hot wire allong the shape of the two molds. Keep the wire perpendicular with the two molds and try to cut in one smooth curve. Don't worry if it doesn't work the first time, i tried it at least 5 times! When you eventualy have the wings, reinforce and connect them with eachother with the help of a sheet of balsawood (2mm) that you aply under the polystyrene whings. I used hot glue to put it all together. Then sand the whing with fine sandpaper until you become the right shape.

Step 12: Attach the Wings

Attach the wings with hot glue 7cm before the center of the aluminum strip. (in fact you can choose where you want to place the wings but make shure that left and right are in balance)

Step 13: Counterbalance Platform

Attach a wooden platform in the front that acts as a counter balance and where you can ad more weight later on to get the center of gravity in the right place. I attached the platform with 2 smal screws trough the aluminum L-profiles

Step 14: The Tale

Sand a sheet of balsawood as shown in the pictures. Attach it to the back of the plane and make shure that it's perfectly centered.

Step 15: Make a Body

Cut out the desired shape with the hot whire and cut out a space for the wings. Then sand everything down until it has the shape you want. Now reinforce the body with scewers. The last step is is covering the body with shrink film. That last step is not that easy without experience but the principle is: put the foil on the body and heat it. You can do that with the wings as well, but that's your own choice. Now attach the body to the rest of the plane.

Step 16: Balance the Plane

You want the center of gravity at 1/3 of the wing (see picture) , to realise that you can ad counterweight on the platform in the front. My counter weight was a piece of lead and an aluminum nose.

Step 17: THE END

Enjoy your plane!

Excuse me for the moderate English..


Glider IO1:

Step 18:

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    hi this is a cool gift idea my creativity skills aren't up to scratch I was wondering if you can make me one and I will pay you of course, and could you take pictures of each stage of manufacturing and drawing as you do it thank you it's really idea which you invented and my son would enjoy it

    I like this one a lot. I'm planning on making crossbow myself. just for the arrows instead of glider. lol well done.

    Hallo Arnaud,

    Voorlopig bijna 53000 views en een prijs gewonnen. Fantastisch gedaan. En telkens leuke feedback!

    Het vele werk meer dan beloond!

    Wat heb je gewonnen?



    1 reply

    Dag Katrijn,

    Het doet mij plezier dat de docenten nog steeds interesse hebben in onze projecten! Het was een zeer mooi prijzenpaket met een RC vliegtuig, een RC quadcopter en een T-shirt

    Groeten Arnaud


    Totally Awesome! Using medieval weapons for modern day fun...

    Nice job! You might want to embed the video in the steps.

    Cool project!

    Make it out of foam, add some servos and radio gear and ride the thermals!

    1 reply

    Thank you! And yes, someday I will make one with servos

    Initially I thought that cross bow forces would be to great to not destroy the plane due to launch acceleration. However, your crossbow appears to be somewhat weaker from the standard by how easily you "set" it. However, the mass of the plane is much greater than the bow so the acceleration would be proportionally less as depicted by the video.

    That being said, I applaud your execution from the cross bow launcher to the launched. I voted for your project!

    2 replies

    Yeah, I wanted to make it stronger but unfortunately I didn't have enough time to find a carbon or glasfiber bar..

    Thanks for not being too hard on me. My comments were from a layman's point of view. I have no practical knowledge of crossbows or compound bows let lone any bow.

    I like the inventiveness that you displayed here.

    Yes, but make it BIGGER. No sense having a human powered glider if you cant put a human in it, right? Don't think "Crossbow" Think "Balista". Carry on.

    1 reply

    If I can find an investor, I'll start tomorrow with building!

    Great Instructable!

    If I may make a suggestion; You are losing a lot of the stored energy in your crossbow to the wind resistance of the glider wings.

    You could try to put a pivot where the wings meet the fuselage, joining the wings inside the glider with a rubber band and a release mechanism like the one you already have on the cross bow. You "pull the trigger" with a kit string that pulls the holding pin the to wings. The energy you loose by this will be made up for by the energy stored in the rubber band that will be "explosively released" when the wings snap into place. This way, you can launch the glider with the wings folded (less wind resistance and no lift) and snap the wings into place (more wind resistance and lift) when you need it

    1 reply

    The plan was in fact to make such wings, but with the finals coming I didn't have enough time to execute that idea. We had to make a plane, a blog about the design process and an instructable. Maybe I'll make another plane this summer with the foldable wings.

    I'd avoid more of those dry fires at the end of the video. The prod could snap dangerously, since it moves a lot faster without a load against it.

    1 reply

    It was an idea of my classmate and I thought it was a funny ending for my video ;) I know that it isn't that good for my bow.

    Nice job, video link isn't accessible on mobile though.

    2 replies

    It works fine on my mobile phone.. Maybe you should search my youtube channel. It's called "Arnaud D'hont"

    Great instructable. You could also put in a link to your video so that people with mobile devices can click onto the video....I've had to do this with blogs I post.