Help me find the best paper airplane for this project
May 4, 2008 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone suggest a really great paper airplane design or a cheap balsa glider? The idea is to nest it beneath a kite and release it at the highest possible altitude. I have the release worked out (we have considered dropping eggs on people) but don't have any idea what plane would work best in this scenario. My kids have been really into flying kites lately and I thought this would be a cool way to have some fun with it. Thanks in advance!
posted by snsranch to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is the first result for "best paper plane" in Google. It's quite simple to build and flies brilliantly. It's very loopy and spinny, but if you play with the tail you can get it to glide a bit more. It'd definitely be fun to see it launched from a kite.

(As an aside- how are you releasing it?)
posted by twirlypen at 6:43 PM on May 4, 2008

Best answer: I think that being hit by an egg dropped from altitude would be extremely hazardous. Water bombs perhaps?

A paper plane would be cool, you could make your own balsa glider easily enough - no plans needed. Just look at some pictures of simple balsa gliders, then glue some sheet balsa to a balsa rod in the right way so it looks similar. The center of gravity should be about a third of the way back along the wing. If you're not making a glider for performance, you can come up with some pretty cool designs easily enough. The trick is just to throw it and add or remove weight to get the balance right.

The other cool thing to drop would be an action figure with a parachute! Be prepared to lose it though, they can travel quite a distance in a good wind.
posted by tomble at 6:54 PM on May 4, 2008

Ah, I was reminded of something else I did with a kite. I attached a very bright glowstick to the line a little way below the kite, and flew it at night. The glow stick bobbed around on the string and looked very, very odd. It was not that far away but it looked like a small object, far away, moving very quickly in strange patterns. DIY UFO, essentially.
posted by tomble at 6:58 PM on May 4, 2008

The trouble you're going to have is that balsa gliders and paper airplanes are really meant for zero-wind conditions, and your kite is obviously not going to fly in that environment. Probably what's going to happen is the wind will cause the airplane to tumble instead of glide smoothly to the ground. However, if you attach something heavier that could withstand the wind, it's likely the kite won't get off the ground.

So... why not a second kite? Some kites are designed for low wind, some work best in faster wind. Once you get above the trees you should be able to get a pretty constant wind, so piggy-back one kite on the other "carrier" kite. Once the carrier gets to altitude, release the first kite and it should have enough wind to stay aloft.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:04 PM on May 4, 2008

Best answer: I'd make a whole bunch of these paper airplane helicopters- you won't have to worry about the plane picking up enough airspeed to generate lift, and you can probably get a bunch of them folded into a small space at low weight.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:20 PM on May 4, 2008

Response by poster: Wow, thanks folks. These are some FANTASTIC ideas and we're gonna try them all!

twirlypen, the release mechanism is top secret, but it relies on a loopy nautical knot. See if you can figure it out.

Thanks again everybody!
posted by snsranch at 7:29 PM on May 4, 2008

Please don't drop ANTHING! An egg or a water bomb falling from a height would have enough impact to kill someone. And many non-hazardous things that will float down, such as leaflets, are litter. You could drop rose petals safely and I don't think anyone would mind, but I can't think of any other exceptions.
posted by orange swan at 7:58 PM on May 4, 2008

Response by poster: Hey orange swan, I appreciate your concern, but one of us is actually a pretty responsible adult. For as many times as we've launched rockets or any other crazy stuff that we do, we have a record of zero injuries and no trash left behind. Ever. However, thanks for pointing that out in case of, well, you know.
posted by snsranch at 8:11 PM on May 4, 2008

An egg or a water bomb falling from a height would have enough impact to kill someone.

Enough to be painful? Sure. Enough to maim or kill? I highly doubt it.

I don't need to remind you that the terminal velocity of a falling bullet is far too for it to penetrate your skin. Eggs and water bombs might be larger and heavier but they're also much less dense, much less streamlined and much more fragile.
posted by randomstriker at 9:00 PM on May 4, 2008

(insert "low" in above sentence describing V_t of falling bullet)
posted by randomstriker at 9:01 PM on May 4, 2008

Best answer: This hang glider toy might be pretty cool. Bonus points if you can set it up in such a way that once it launches it activates it's own power source.
posted by nanojath at 9:14 PM on May 4, 2008

(Er, something like this, only smaller. Ooh, unless your original kite were HUGE, then it could totally be that)
posted by nanojath at 9:17 PM on May 4, 2008

Ocular and orbital trauma from water balloon slingshots: a clinical, epidemiological, experimental, and theoretical study.

Feel free to also link irrelevant studies about the death rate when people shooting each other with guns, within ballistic range.

Neither of which is relevant to bullets, eggs or water balloons falling from above. Unless you happen to walk around all the time looking up at the sky.
posted by randomstriker at 12:34 AM on May 5, 2008

Tangentially, you might consider kite photography. Get a picture of you and your kids on the ground from the kite.
posted by wsg at 7:29 AM on May 5, 2008

Best answer: Mefi discussions on kite photography.
posted by wsg at 7:32 AM on May 5, 2008

I guess you have read up on line climbers for kites? They sound a lot of fun, and obviously use techniques that may be of use to you.
posted by Idcoytco at 7:45 AM on May 5, 2008

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