When it comes to building vehicles, cars are relatively easy. So are boats. Heck, you can even make your own model rockets without a hitch (mostly). But putting together a plane requires some real aviation design and expertise.
The MakerPlane is an open-source project that’s looking to change all that—along with the aviation industry. Instead of going through all the aeronautical engineering to make sure your plane will fly right, the flight-experienced minds behind MakerPlane propose building a plane from digital plans that you can fabricate using computer-controlled systems like CNC machines and 3D printers.
They’re not joking.
They have plans for a 630-pound aircraft with a wingspan of 32.8 feet, all lifting off the ground with an 80- to 130-horsepower engine.
The MakerPlane took 18 months to design, and the team behind it has started to construct the prototypes and parts necessary to test and validate the concept. To build the plane, the team has been cutting out the major parts of the frame out of fiberglass and epoxy materials. MakerPlane uses 3D printers for non-structural components, such as throttle knobs, handles and so on, as well as for tools and jigs to assist with the build process.
But why build it with digital fabrication tools instead of regular ones?
The MakerPlane folks say only about 2000 new aircraft enter the global registry each year, compared to the 6000 projects that start and ultimately fail. One of the major hurdles is the aforementioned need for aeronautical engineering skills to design and build a plane. Even with those skills, building a single wing rib—the supporting piece of the wing that gives its curved shape and rigidity—could take hours to make by hand. A CNC machine could cut one in as few as two to three minutes.
MakerPlane's designers hope to have a complete prototype of the plane ready to in time to show off at the AirVenture Oshkosh air show in 2014. In 2015, they plan to return to the AirVenture event for the MakerPlane's first public flight. After they’ve proven the prototype can fly, they plan on releasing the free, downloadable plans for the plane that you can take to your local hackerspace to start building your own.
Ambitious? Yes. Crazy? Maybe. But we’re really interested in seeing this take off. If you think this is a project worth backing, you can pledge your hopes and money to the MakerPlane Indiegogo project.
This story, "MakerPlane is an open source airplane you could build at home" was originally published by TechHive.