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It may not be the ideal material. But has there ever been a LEGO model airplane with the ability to glide, under power maybe, or some other kind of successful lifting airship? Helicopter, blimp, kite, even rocket? Sliding down a string doesn't count. Has anyone produced any kind of limiting analysis for this problem?

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Does it need to be LEGO-parts only? If so, good luck with that. –  Joubarc Oct 28 '11 at 9:21
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All the time... oh, you mean sustained flight, not just projectile... –  Cameron MacFarland Oct 28 '11 at 9:42
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This (rcheliresource.com/video-lego-rc-helicopter) is a Lego replica, scaled up. Looks pretty cool. –  pcantin Oct 28 '11 at 10:19
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What about hopping? I'm sure a hopping Technic model is doable, and that does generate some lift (ok, not much). –  Joubarc Oct 28 '11 at 11:11
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I've often wondered whether you could get a 100% Lego helicopter to fly (or at least hover). I suspect that it'd be too heavy if it needed to include the batteries (even rechargable ones), but if you powered it by a wire connected to a battery on the ground it might work...? –  Frankie Roberto Dec 21 '12 at 11:38

6 Answers 6

LEGO seems to be way too heavy and not aerodynamic enough to build a plane so the best bet would be to build a zeppelin.

Theres's a video on youtube that shows such a zeppelin where the nacelle is build with LEGO (not sure if if it's pure LEGO, take a look at it at about 1:55 in the video).

EDIT:
Just found another, much more simple example using only 5 helium-balloons and a 9V-motor: youtube-video

EDIT2:
After some more searching I found this video. A LEGO-model of a Bell-Boeing V-22 that looks like it lifts off and flies by the power of his own engine but is suspended by wire.

Conclusion: Flying lego is possible when you add some none-lego-parts - building a zeppelin seems to be realy easy using some helium-balloons while building an aircraft without suspension is not possible (or at least: not if you plan to use LEGO-motors as they simply don't have enough power).

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Looks cool, but I'd just be too darn afraid of losing my LEGO bricks. "It's not coming back down!!!" –  Peter Cassetta Oct 28 '11 at 15:24
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just take an airsoft-gun with you and shoot the ballons if it goes to high ;) - everything comes down sooner or later. –  oezi Oct 29 '11 at 8:39
    
That vid with the Bell-Boeing V22 is faked. The last shot at the end shows the setup, which I also think was faked. Sorry. –  Cameron MacFarland Oct 30 '11 at 3:45
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...wich is what i wrote: "looks like [it] flys [...] but is suspended by wire" –  oezi Oct 30 '11 at 11:05

Some family built a LEGO quad-copter. Unsurprisingly, it uses non-LEGO parts. Also, the design might seem a bit weird and worst of all, it's glued (uuurrrgh).

But it does work and appears to be very stable, enough to provide a nice remote camera view.

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Not a pure Lego solution, as it uses helium balloons for lift, but it is (mostly) made from Lego and also uses a Mindstorms NTX for control.

Article on engaget

Direct link to YouTube vidio

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Non powered/motorized flight has been achieved

Bamboo copter

Anna Vuurzoon made a Flying machine using only Lego parts which uses a ripcord to propel a three blade propeller on a stick (see http://www.mocpages.com/moc.php/288875). I was able to duplicate her results, so can validate it does work. It is really a modification of a bamboo copter.

Glider design

Daron Williams (via Drat Glider) and Milan "grohl" Reindl from Czech Republic have both reported making working/flying Lego gliders using mainly Technic cross-axles components. Both gliders travelled between 20 to 30 feet with the Drat Glider with the bigger wingspan going a bit longer. The wing cross section is more or less flat (one stud tall airfoil) and acting more like an air sail (paraglider) than an airfoil. Williams uses Lego Plastic sheets from the Mars Exploration Rover Set to cover the wing (wing cowling). Reindl uses plastic from garbage bag and tape to cover the wing on his glider. I have made my own Lego glider using the plastic from Lego store bags as my wing canvas using similar construction techniques as Williams and Reindl . My preliminary indoor flying test validate the results by Williams and Reindl. Milan Reindl is now a Lego Group junior designer (you can see his profile on Lego Technic Designer Profile).

http://www.mocpages.com/moc.php/1769

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CQcCoZ9rcY

The Challenge:

Lego does not make a quality aerial propeller or water/hydrodaulic screw-prop with a fuel efficient power stroke. The Vuurzoon design takes a lot of power to fly and uses the power that it is given inefficiently. The only thing going for the Vuurzoon prop design is that it has the most efficient rotor angle to create lift. The Vuurzoon design uses hand power instead of electrical power and thus avoids the low power limitation of Lego electrical motors and battery pack systems. Lego motors without gearing don't go above 2000 rpm at their set voltage/current level and have a high weight to power ratio which is bad for flying. Going over an 8:1 gearing causes a Lego motor to lose so much power/torque that any propellers slow down due to wind resistance (even the most energy efficient light weight two blade electrical propellers has this problem). Lego motors can go a bit faster if pumped with higher current and higher voltage from a non standard non-lego power source (e.g. poly-Lithium +15V power pack) but many believe this will shorten the motor lifespan. Lego Power Function electrical packs are also too heavy for flight the lightest battery pack is a Li-ion rechargable pack which weights about 75 grams. The heaviest Lego battery pack is the AA battery pack with alkline batteries which weights 195 grams — which is enough to sink a two catamaran hull or a large single hulled lego boat. Standard Lego bricks are too heavy for an heavier-than-air airframe. The lightest lego parts are the technic axles followed by the half width technic beams — both are only semi-ridge so some bracing is need if air frame rigidity is required. In order to get a battery pack light enough and with sufficient voltage levels to fly as part of the aircraft — Lego needs to have to Lithium polymer battery pack kicking out between 18vdc to 30vdc — at those voltage levels the mini hi RPM motors used on Quadcopters and helicopter toys can start to be posssible.

Analysis of other attempts

Lego Quadcopter

There are several efforts to use Lego to make the frame of a quadcopter and uses a non lego high speed lightweight motors, hi powered batteries, and electric propeller. The high speed motors usually run at 3400 to 15000 rpm @ 13 to 30 vdc and are very light weight. In addition it is using a non lego Poly-Lithium power pack some output as high as 30vdc even with heavy current drains. Some are using a Arudino microprocessor like device for remote communication.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkrTJh0H1fs

http://robotsquare.com/2012/03/02/flying-lego/

http://tinkernology.blogspot.com/2010/08/lego-nxt-quadcopter-no-really.html

http://www.suasnews.com/2012/12/20276/drone-made-of-lego-takes-flight/

Lego NXT Blimp-Airship

A lighter than air Lego Airship which was made by The Lego Group for a European Lego show/convention — uses Lego education propellers (from the renewable energy kit) and standard Lego motors and power supply. Prototype (non-commerical, custom made) helium balloons are used to create a neutral buoyancy so that the propellers can create lift and push the airship forward. The Lego airship (called the C5) was demonstrated in an auditorium/stadium with a very high ceiling (there is no wind of any kind that the Airship would have to overcome).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GefwcBUioAE

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+1 for bamboo copter as 100% Lego with true lift off. –  awe Aug 28 '13 at 16:00
    
Some Bionicle sets featured pre-made ripcord propellers as well - not sure that counts, though. –  Joubarc Oct 15 '13 at 16:56

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpttq5IlPx8

no joke, this video is a flying pure lego helicopter.

he just uses a nxt/mindstorms motor

and the blades do have pitch so it makes sense for it to fly

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yes, but there's a giant counterweight so it's not lifting the weight of the model, which is what the question is asking for. –  Mσᶎ Oct 29 '13 at 10:23
    
It's definitely cool, but it doesn't really fly. –  Timtech Oct 29 '13 at 22:21

I made a 100% LEGO flying machine. It's built from three parts:

  1. Propeller number 30333,
  2. An axle (female end) Technic pin (male end two spaces),
  3. A three inch axle.

To fly it you hold it in your hands and slide them past each other spinning the contraption. The highest it's flown is about six feet, I've made other ones similar with different pieces but now this seems the most comfortable to spin.

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