Let's Make Robots!

The Red Baron - Solarized - (Weekend Project)

The Red Baron Solarized (Weekend Project).

Question :- What do you get if you strap a Solar cell wired up in a Miller-Engine configuration, with the output powering a Pager motor with a propellor stuck to the front.

Answer :- A Table Top Solar Powered Aeroplane.


 The Video was made in sunlight - and is in real time.


 URL :- The Red Baron - Solarized (weekend project)





 Proto-type was experimental, just to see if a small propellor could drive the weight of aeroplane with attached solarcell.

It worked better than expected and after it pulled itself off the mount, i decided to go full hog and make a more interesting plane.



The Red Baron Theme came out of the "Blue", as Bi & Tri planes had always interested me.

The idea was to make the aeroplane from scratch, armed only with a picture of a Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker (triplane) i set to work.

I needed a light weight system - so i plumped for a Balsawood and carbon fibre design.

First problem was to make a cylinder out of balsa-wood, as it snaps very easily, solution was to soak it for half an hour in warm water and sure enough it was easy to form into a tight tube.


Three Wings where cut out of balsa - and the same warm water technique was used to form the curve of the wings.


Rear tail parts made and lower wing secured.


Cockpit extraction with x-acto blade.


Second Wing positioned and supporting struts (toothpicks actually) attached for stability.


Third Wing and Undercarriage installed.


Pager Motor Installed and attached a 2.5cm Propellor - which is suprisingly very powerful.


The Engine that powers Red Baron is basically a Solar Cell wired up as a Miller Engine.

With this setup, bursts of power are supplied to the engine giving a very realistic effect.

Under Full Sun or Bright light it gives continuous power, driving the plane forwards under its own propellor thrust.

Under Low Light it charges up a 0.47F Super Capacitor until a fixed level and then "Bam - we have takeoff".


One key to the whole mechanism is the central bearing - which was taken out of a recycled printer.

The bearing supports a peice of hollow carbon fibre which contains the wires for the motor, a pretty tight squeeze i might add.

NB:- Carbon Fibre conducts - my 25cm long piece had a resistance of 8Ω - (gives me a few new ideas)

The bearing was then mounted on a central stand which i placed into a cork which could be attached to a bottle, as it is destined to be a Table Top Decoration........


Final Painting and and gloss effect added.


Maiden Flight was on the top of our roof with good sunshine and super cloudy skyscape.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

That's too Cool!

yo! supercool as usual!
I like your atention to detail, the end result is impressive as usual. I will have to try a solar powered project sometime :D

I know at the moment my work is quite fine, however i am suprised just how much power these systems can develop and i am sure it can be scaled up - just have to work out how to make a large scale miller engine ............ (the caps you gave me are screaming out for it :-)

NB:- A Solar Robot is a cool electronic friend.........


Wonderful, Gareth. I love it. Another gold star ;)

I'm going to steal the idea as a christmas gift for my mother. The main difference will be the counterbalance, it'll be a Snoopy on his doghouse ;)

But what if she reads this?

Ah haaaaaa but can you fly a knife edge and 12 point barrel roll........

Thanks for the encouragement -way to go "Snoopy"

I have to say the Counterbalance-ing was not so easy - and it makes a big difference to the performance of the mechanism.

The better the balance the faster and longer it goes.

The light prototype would spin 5 times around on  one 3-second burst of the prop........ ;-)    the Red Baron will make 2 when it winds up to top speed.

Nice, Gareth, as always! :D I still did not try any solar bot, but I definitely will! :)

They are like friends & good company when late night code-ing -

though they do go off at the most unexpected times (in room light).

what is the voltage of that cell?