When was the first time you asked how a plane flies? We’ve all done it at some point because at first it looks like it should be impossible! This question may the reason why aviation has been a fascination for many for a long time.
To us non-engineers, planes are basically magic, even if we don’t enjoy flying in them. And to you engineers out there, you likely didn’t get that knowledge by accident.
RC planes are equally intriguing. After all, who can resist the idea of controlling something airborne? And the only thing cooler than an RC plane is a 3D printed RC plane.
Of course, 3D printing remote-controlled planes isn’t as simple as attaching an antenna to a standard model. The designs need to be more specific than standard 3D printed toys, and so we’ve looked around and found some of the coolest 3D printed planes to get into the air today.
Just remember that an inch or two in the wrong direction may render your plane incapable of flying. Precision is the difference between a 3D printed RC plane and a lawn ornament.
Each of these designs will require specific modifications to be flight-ready, and extra hardware and a little engineering will be required. While many 3D printed projects are open to large-scale modification, flight is a delicate process, so it’s recommended that you stay within the measurements outlined by the designers.
RC planes are also not like RC helicopters or cars in that they can’t be used inside. While some RC planes can be made airborne by throwing them like paper airplanes, many 3D printed RC planes will need a makeshift runway to take off, like a driveway or a common garden path.
3D planes aren’t intrinsically dangerous, but 3D printed RC planes very much can be if mishandled.
Before you begin making your own 3D printed RC plane, there are some things to keep in mind. From precise printing to safety measures while in use, here are a few tips on how to have a safe and fun experience when making and flying your RC plane.
It may be easy to think of 3D printed RC planes as toys, but they are far from it. If in the wrong hands, remote-controlled airborne machines can cause a lot of damage.
PLA in particular makes for some very sharp edges, so designs that include propellers should be handled with care when in motion. Lacerations are very common with moving parts like this, and you should always make sure your RC plane comes to a complete stop before touching it.
RC planes take a lot of power to fly, and you need to make sure your batteries are kept in good condition. A fully charged defective battery can explode or start a fire.
This could start a fire in your home or garden if the plane is idle. But if in flight, an accident caused by a broken battery could have parts and shrapnel raining from the sky. It will also make the plane impossible to land safely, which is also very dangerous.
Always take good care of your power sources. Know their lifespans and perform checks regularly.
Know the Law
It may be tempting to attach a camera or GoPro to your newly 3D printed plane but remember that they are legally classified as drones. Depending on your state or local jurisdiction’s laws, attaching a recording device to your RC plane could be considered illegal.
Know your local laws and ensure they’re followed when using your RC plane as a recording device for any reason.
In most states, any aircraft classified as a drone will require a $5 registration fee if it weighs over 0.55lbs (250g) and is used for recreational purposes. So if you’re considering getting a drone, go for a drone under 250 grams.
Everyone wants to avoid crash landings. Not only will they likely destroy the plane you worked hard to print and modify, but the plane may not be all that gets damaged.
An out-of-control RC plane can hit someone, damage your property, or even break a window. A particularly bad landing will also leave shards of plastic or even exposed wires lying around.
Of course, crash landings are accidents, but the best way to avoid them is to make sure you read all instructions carefully and have a few practice flights in open fields and empty spaces before showing off for a crowd.
RC aircrafts are all the rage with many groups and hobbyists. If you’re unsure about something or want some extra help and advice from enthusiasts and experts, don’t be afraid to hop on a message board or subreddit to ask the community.
It’s always better to seek help than fly blind, especially if you’re a beginner. There’s no shortage of helpful designers and pilots who’ll happily answer all your questions. Many designs we talk about here also have direct links to speak to the creators themselves should you have more specific inquiries.
With these things in mind, here are our picks for the coolest 3D printed RC planes.
The Hawker Hurricane
The Hawker Hurricane was a passion project for the designer, Taciucimarius, who is an engineer by profession, as he wanted to build a fully remote-controlled 3D printed plane from scratch.
Because of his engineering background, the Hawker Hurricane is an impressive and reliable RC plane. Along with the files in the link here, you’ll find a host of very detailed and highly accurate instructions to get the best results.
Alongside these instructions is a video tutorial, so visual learners will have no problem following along.
But don’t be discouraged by this level of detail, as the instructions are still clear and easy to follow. The creator also keeps an eye on the comment section if you have any questions or even want to show off your results!
Plane Doe 3D Printed RC Plane
The Plane Doe may not look like much, and it certainly won’t turn as many heads as the Hawker Hurricane, but its beauty is in its simplicity.
Like the Hurricane, the instructions are heavily detailed and very well laid out. There are also specs for the plane while it’s in flight, including propeller RPM, minimum velocity, and basic safety measures to ensure hassle-free printing and flying.
The designer also lists the extra tools and pieces you’ll need for full construction, letting you get organized during the printing process to get your plane flying as soon as possible.
Please note, however, that the designer recommends this model only for experienced RC plane users, stating that it’s ideal for neither children nor beginners.
36’’ Northern Pike RC Airplane
Definitely one of the coolest 3D printed RC plane designs we could find was this 36’’ Northern Pike plane. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking this came straight from the shelf at a toy store, and it’s incredibly noticeable due to its unconventional shape.
As well as its sleek design, the Northern Pike was also designed to be printed in a variety of materials, though some are more recommended than others. One of the most recent updates to the files found here includes the settings for printing with PETG and PLA.
Capable of reaching 80-100mph, the Northern Pike isn’t exactly a backyard pastime, and is better suited for serious enthusiasts with plenty of space in which to fly. A large outdoor space is also recommended due to its impressive gliding capabilities, meaning it will take a long time and fair distance to land safely.
Fortunately, such space isn’t required for takeoff. If performed correctly, a simple toss of about 40 degrees should be enough to get this impressive aircraft into the air and ready to fly. An example video of this launch is available within the instructions.
Other videos include the prototype maiden flight of this model, which went less than smoothly, as well as a more successful launch with less force put into the initial throw.
The nose of this 3D plane is also equipped to hold an optional camera. But as mentioned above, be sure that doing so is legal in your local area.
For those of you who want a different size than the standard, the designer warns against manual scaling to preserve ballast. However, he has also designed this smaller 27’’ model designed to be printed with a .3mm nozzle. The extra materials and instructions for the smaller model are the same as the 36’’ version, meaning you can build both with the same technique.
Supernova RC Plane Models
The Supernova is more of a concept than one particular design, with many creators throwing their hats into the ring to perfect the shape and make a truly impressive 3D printed RC plane.
Here you can see one such attempt, though you will need to mirror the print as the files only include one half of the aircraft.
Unlike the other models we’ve seen, the Supernova is in constant development by a wide range of designers, so this is definitely the 3D printed RC plane for those of you who want to throw your hats into the ring and make the model your own.
Some Supernova models have been known to nose dive, some have been equipped with landing gears, and some have reinvented the wheel – so to speak – by using the concept as a base to make some truly impressive planes like those found here.
If you’re handy and are looking for a new project instead of just an end result, then the Supernova is one that’s definitely worth a look.