How to Make an Electric Biplane

Introduction: How to Make an Electric Biplane

As anyone who has seen King Kong wolf know, the biplane is an iconic and important part of history. By definition, a biplane is "an early type of aircraft with two pairs of wings, one above the other." Those who build remote-controlled planes, often spend hundreds of hours building one plane. Since we are huge fans of the film and many do not have the hundreds of hours to dedicate to a flying plane, but still want a accurate movie prop with a moving propeller, and flashing lights; have not had a detailed instructable for their needs, until now. We will teach you how to make your own biplane with working lights and a propeller, with simple, cheap supplies anyone can buy on sites such as eBay or amazon.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

1- The materials for this project are readily available, you will need,

Foam board

Hot glue

Wood Skewers

PropellerSpray paint of your color choice

Wires about 28 gauge

A DC motor

ArduinoRed Led (4x)

9 volt battery

Some tools that will be needed are, Xacto knifeSand paperHot glue gunA computer to program the ArduinoA multimeter for troubleshooting

Step 2: Start to Make the Fuselage

2- Start by cutting a piece of foam board 15 inches long by 9 inches wide. This will be the fuselage, be sure to follow safe handling procedures when using the xacto knife. Next, using a square, mark the width of the foam board in 1.5 inch segments. Next, using the exacto knife, follow the lines you just marked exactly two times. The goal is to cut the top layer of paper, along with the center foam, but not cut deep enough to separate the pieces entirely. Once this has been done, the roll the fuselage such that the cuts you have made will be facing the outside. Hot glue the two edges together. Now you have completed the fuselage.

Step 3: Making the Wings

To start making the wings you want to have two pieces of foam board that are 20" long and 3" wide. You then want to have the top piece have an angled piece of foam board on the top so that you will be able to thread wires under it latter in the design process. Next you want glue the top and bottom wing pieces 2-3" (depending on what style you want your plane to have) from the front of the plane. Make sure that your wings are right over each other, this is important for the wing supports. After the glue has dried and your top and bottom wing are in place now you can start to put in the supporting posts.For our design we put 4 on each side, two in the front and two in the back on each wing.

Step 4: Constructing the Tail Cone

For the biplane, a tail cone is needed to seal off the back end of the plane and finish off the design of the biplane. In order to construct this a circular piece of foam is needed to cover the back end of the fuselage and to create the base for the cone. When cutting out the circular piece of foam, cut a 1" by 1" hole in the piece to allow wires to fit through. Then cut out 6, 11" tall triangles and glue them around the outside edges of the foam piece. This should create a cone shape to finish off the plane's tail.

Step 5: Assembling the Wings

Gather all of the pieces of the biplane that have been constructed so far. This includes the two wings, a fuselage and the tail cone. First glue the wings on parallel to each other on opposite sides of the fuselage. Make sure that each wing is 1" from the front of the plane. Once each wing is in place, glue 4 wooden cylinders in-between the two wings on each side. This will allow the wings to stay evenly spaced out as the glue dries. Keep the tail cone separate from the rest of the biplane so the wiring

Step 6: Adding Tail Wings

To first create the tail wings, you will need to cut out two identical 4" tall by 1 1/2" wide triangles out of the foam. These triangles will be glued on opposite sides of the tail cone to support the wings. Next cut out two identical rectangles that are 7" tall and 4" wide for the wings. Glue each rectangle on the separate triangles to create the wings. Last, cut four wooden rods that are all the same height as the space in-between the two wings.

Step 7: Arduno

Next, the Arduino must be set up. To begin, unpack and connect the Arduino to the computer using the supplied cable. If you do not already have the Arduino software, it can be downloaded, using the link found in the directions of the Arduino. Next, open up the Arduino software and create a new program. To do this, go to file, and click new, name it whatever you would like. Next, copy and paste the code, found at the bottom of this step, into the Arduino software. Finally, click "upload" and the program will be installed and will automatically start running every time the arduino is connected to power. The wires for the led's can be connected to pin 12 and 13, for the positive, and any of the ground (GND) pins, for the negative side of the led's. The Arduino will run off of a 9 volt battery, to connect it, use a wire to connect the positive (+) side of the battery to the "Vin" pin, and the negative (-) side of the battery to any of the ground (GND) pins. The Arduino will turn on and start running the code. If you already connected the led's, they will begin to blink.

void setup(){

pinMode(13, OUTPUT);

pinMode(12, OUTPUT);


void loop(){

digitalWrite(13, HIGH); // Turn on the LED

digitalWrite(12, LOW );

delay(500); // Wait for one second

digitalWrite(13, LOW); // Turn off the LED

digitalWrite(12, HIGH);

delay(500); // Wait for one second


Step 8: Making the Circuts

For this biplane, two different circuits are needed, one to control the motor and the other to control the lights that will be on the ends of the wings. For the motor circuit, a switch, a motor, a 9 volt battery, and three wires are needed. First connect the one end of a wire to the anode part of the battery and the other to the switch, then connect another wire end to the other side of the switch and the other to one side of the motor. Last have one wire connect the motor and the battery to complete the circuit. Solder the exposed wires to finish the electrical link. For the next circuit an Arduino, five LEDs, a 9 volt battery, and eight wires will be needed. First connect the battery into the appropriate pins of the Arduino, giving the Arduino power. Then connect the 5 LEDs using six wires. Last connect the wires to the Arduino by putting the wires in the appropriate pins. Solder all exposed wire to finish the electrical link. DO NOT solder anything into the Arduino. It is important to know that you can program the Arduino to do what ever you want, but for this project it is realistic to have them blink in unison.

Step 9: Adding the Circuit

The two circuits will be installed into the fuselage through the two open ends of the plane. First, drill a hole through the top wing that is wide enough to fit the wires through. Then take the Arduino circuit and put it in the base of the fuselage. Thread four of the five LEDs through the hole and keep the last one inside the plane. take the LEDs and alternate them on each side so there are two LEDs on each side of the top wing. Glue the LEDs to the wing to keep them in place. For the second circuit, cut out an octagonal piece of wood the same size as the end of the fuselage. Then drill a small hole in the center of the piece and glue the motor to the piece. Cut a rectangular hole in the fuselage for the switch behind the top wing. Last thread the circuit into the fuselage and put the switch into it's appropriate slot in the plane, glue the wood piece into the end of the plane closest to the wings, sealing off that end.

Step 10: Adding the Tail

Before gluing anything together, take the last LED from the Arduino circuit and thread it through the center of the cone to include it as a tail light. Take a 4" strip of Velcro and cut it in half so you have 2 2'' long pieces of Velcro. Attach one part of the Velcro to opposite sides of the open end of the fuselage and the other part to opposite sides of the tail cone base. Last attach the two pieces Velcro to complete the plane. The plane can be painted any color but we chose red for this project.

Step 11: Other Information and Reflection

What our group enjoyed the most about this project was being able to creatively make our own prop with moving parts. What we wish we could change next time is to have the motor also connected to the Arduino so there are less wires present inside the plane. Next time we would try to find a different way to attach the fuselage and the tail cone that is neater and more efficient.

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    3 years ago

    That turned out really well, I hope you get an A on your project :)