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Paper Airplanes Turn Into Remote-Controlled Drones With These Tiny Devices


Toy or drone? You decide.

In less than a minute, this gadget turns a paper airplane into a drone that can be controlled with your smartphone.

The PowerUp 3.0 is a miniature propeller, rudder and engine that will carry your paper airplane a full 60 yards and back with its Bluetooth-controlled components.

Image source: PowerUp The PowerUp 3.0 gives paper airplane pilots the ability to control their flight, up to 60 yards away. (Image source: PowerUpToys)

Shai Goitien, a 25-year pilot and aviation enthusiast with a background in industrial design, co-developed the lightweight guidance-and-propulsion system with a rocket-scientist friend. Their invention clips onto origami aircraft and connects to iPhones using Bluetooth, transforming them into remote-control drones, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The avionics system for this tiny plane is roughly the size of a quarter, and gives the pilot 10 minutes of flight on a single charge.

Image source: PowerUp Image source: PowerUpToys

So are these considered toys or something more serious? Even without the added technology, paper airplanes have swooped in to the drone debate.

In March an NTSB administrative law judge struck down an FAA claim against drone pilot Raphael Pirker, saying if the agency had it their way, their definition of a UAS could include a kid’s paper airplane:

"To accept [the FAA's] interpretive argument would lead to a conclusion that those definitions include as an aircraft all types of devices/contrivances intended for, or used for, flight in the air. The extension of that conclusion would then result, in the risible argument that a flight in the air of a paper aircraft or a toy balsa wood glider could subject the “operator” to the regulatory provisions of [the] FAA."

In the March 6 ruling, NTSB Law Judge Patrick Geraghty said the FAA didn't have the laws in place to enforce their claim that model aircraft enthusiasts' use of remotely controlled drones such as Pirker's was illegal.

Congress has pressed the FAA to publish official guidelines for drone use within U.S. airspace by 2015, in part, to allow for companies like the PowerUp 3.0. to soar -- projections top for $80 billion in economic activity over the next decade for drone enterprises. But federal watchdogs say even though the FAA set a five-year road map and designated six groups to run drone tests last year, significant work remains to ensure that drones don't crash into other aircraft and they won't meet the deadline, USA Today reported.

"The agency will not meet the September 2015 deadline for safe (drone) integration and it is uncertain when this will be achieved," Calvin Scovel III, the Transportation Department's inspector general, told the House transportation subcommittee on aviation.

The smartphone application gives the pilot control over the paper airplane, which was once doomed to a one-way crash to the ground with every flight. The PowerUp gives the user ten minutes of flight per charge (Image source: PowerUpToys). The smartphone application gives the pilot control over the paper airplane, which was once doomed to a one-way crash to the ground with every flight. The PowerUp gives the user 10 minutes of flight per charge. (Image source: PowerUpToys)

With the extra crowd-sourced funds, Goitein said he will add a dogfight mode that lets one PowerUp pilot shoot down an "enemy" paper airplane with a Bluetooth signal that stops the rival's engine.

The technological evolution of the paper airplane will eventually include a magnetometer, accelerometer and gyrometer; eventually, according to Goitein, "It'll definitely be a real drone." But the FAA may already see it that way.

Check out their Kickstarter video here:

(H/T: Wall Street Journal)


Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter

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