Paper Airplane Walkalong Glider




What's a walkalong glider? Here's a video of a completed paper airplane walkalong glider on a 42 second "cross country" soaring flight:

This paper airplane design was fabricated from 100% reused materials, from the 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of paper to the 96cm X 75cm corrugated cardboard salvaged from the trash. this is a good way of reusing paper and cardboard before ultimately recycling them. Ever wanted to pilot an airplane? Here's a way to do it without electricity or contributing to global warming- this aircraft model is powered by you.

The surfer paper airplane is designed to fly as a walkalong glider. Paper airplanes are heavier than other walkalong glider designs and fly correspondingly faster. A 96cm X 75cm piece of corrugated cardboard was used as a controllable slope to power (sustain) and control the surfer paper airplane. For other walkalong glider designs see the Controllable Slope Soaring page.

The Indoor Paper Airplane Surfer has many improvements over this design. That didn't stop somebody from flying this design at the Red Bull Paper Airplane Contest in Austria (see 1:28 into the video):

Step 1: Folding the Surfer Paper Airplane

The surfer paper airplane is made from a standard 8 1/2" X 11" sheet of paper:

The nose assembly is used for many other paper airplane designs which differ from this paper airplane walkalong glider design only in how the fins are folded. The nose assembly is similar to the trapezium paper airplane design (proceedure is same up to 2:42):

The nose assembly and first fin fold is the same as before 1:09 in the following video:

The last fold on each wingtip is what distinguishes this glider from the rest. This fold starts at the front where the first fin fold intersects the leading edge of the wing. Then the edge of the fin is lined up with where the first fin fold instersects the trailing edge of the wing. This fold results in the outboard wingtip having a reduced angle of attack relative to the inboard wing, a design feature called wing washout.

Step 2: Trimming the Paper Airplane to Fly Straight

The paper airplane walkalong glider is now ready for a flight test. Launch the plane at a slight nose down atittude on a down angled trajectory. If the plane flies straight it is ready for walkalong gliding. To correct a turning tendency, gently pull out the outer fin on the side of the turning tendency. This increases lift by increasing the angle of attack on the wingtip, making the plane tend to turn in the opposite direction. In the following video a paper airplane walkalong glider is turning to the right. The plane is then adjusted, folding in the left fin and pulling out the right fin so the next flight flies straight.

I did not do any change to the elevators (moving the wingtip trailing edges up or down). The wingtip folds result in a nose up pitch trim when flying straight and level, but when banking (turning) the trim is just right.

Step 3: Weather Breifing

Before any flight, the weather situation should be checked. The flight on the intro page was conducted with no wind (not a breath of air moved the tree leaves). These conditions occur during temperature inversions. Alternatively, the glider can be flown in a large indoor space such as a gym. But even indoors, care must be taken to eliminate or avoid drafts produced by open doors or windows, heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems. A good way to create a temperature inversion indoors is to run the air conditioning (or heating) for a while and when the system is turned off the air should be pretty stable. As when flying full size airplanes, the smoother the air the easier it will be to pilot the airplane.

Step 4: Powering and Controlling the Surfer Paper Airplane

A 96cm X 75cm piece of corrugated cardboard was used as a controllable slope. Larger area controllable slopes produce more relative headwind for the walkalong glider and not as much velocity is needed to sustain the surfer paper airplane (seeTumblewing Experiment: Paper mass Vs Ground Speed).

The surfer paper airplane is flown in a similar manner to other walkalong gliders. See the series of slides titled "Airflow Arond Controllable Slope", "Straight and Level Flight", "Climb" and "Turns" below.

Note the nose up trim which results in the up and down pitch oscillations of the surfer paper airplane when it is flying straight in the video (at 15 seconds into video). In the first turn, the plane stops the up and down oscillations because turns require more nose up trim (at 23 seconds into video):

Cutting off 0.75 inches from the trailing edge will lessen the phugoid oscillations when the paper airplane is flown straight and level. Alternatively, cutting off the trailling edge from each trailing edge to the base of the ballast will have the same effect (see indoor paper airplane walkalong glider instructable). Standard paper airplanes fly fast but not bad using large controllable slopes such as 75X100cm sheets of cardboard or foam core poster board.

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61 Discussions


2 years ago

Can you useA4 sized paper?


5 years ago

It that made of printer paper

i cant get it to work. I don't know how or where to hold the cardboard or anything. when i let go, the plane stalls once, and then is soars away and falls to the ground in about 1 second.


7 years ago on Introduction

i made it a million times but it just loops back and hits my head


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

I think that because of the choice of a denser type of paper, the stability of the glider was in danger, so he had to move quickly. Perhaps if we switched the main material with one like the material used for newspapers/waxed tissue paper, it would be easier to control. Also, we notice that in this design the author has decided not to cut the tail wedge section..overall, it seems solid.


8 years ago on Introduction

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AMAZING!