Of powered paper airplanes, and the great outdoors

Paper airplanes are a tradition at the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, dating back to the ceremony’s earliest years. Technology has now advanced to the point where it necessary, for safety, to place a technological limitation on ceremonial flight.

An inventive little tiny leap in electromechanical engineering has brought powered flight — that is powered by other than human arm-and-wrist action — to the realm of paper airplanes. The Wall Street Journal carries a rollicking account of one such aircraft:

It took Chuck Pell less than a minute to build his drone. He folded a piece of paper 11 times, clipped on a battery-powered plastic propeller and rudder, then opened an app on his iPhone. Next he flung the aircraft skyward, steering it above the trees with turns of his phone. The plane soared out of sight. It’s a good technology, according to Mr. Pell, who has suffered plenty of nose dives. It just “needs more pilot training.” … The PowerUp 3.0, brainchild of former Israeli Air Force pilot Shai Goitein, is a lightweight guidance-and-propulsion system powered by a dime-size battery. It clips onto origami aircraft and connects to iPhones using Bluetooth, transforming them into remote-control drones.

Wonderful as they are when flown in the wild, the PowerUp and its like will — alas! — not be welcome in the theater during the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. If you are coming to the ceremony, do feel free to bring paper — but do not bring motors, weights, or other auxiliary doohickies — for safe paper-airplane folding and flying.

Here’s video of the PowerUp people’s thrilling kickstarter (that’s how they funded some of the development) campaign:

(Thanks to investigator Betsy Devine for bringing this to our attention.)