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There’s something intrinsically appealing about a choreographed blend of low and high tech. To wit, meet PowerUp 3.0: a Bluetooth 4.0 device that turns a bog-standard paper airplane into, well, a smartphone-controlled lean, mean flying machine. Or so its makers claim. And if those claims stack up pranking your teachers is about to get a whole lot more sophisticated.
What exactly is Power Up 3.0? It’s a Bluetooth module that connects to a paper plane to act as both frame, propulsion/steering device, and Bluetooth communications hub — meaning the user can control the plane via their smartphone. The Micro-USB charged module is apparently good for 10 minutes of flying per charge, and has an 180 feet/55 metre comms range (i.e. between it and you, piloting it via Bluetooth link to your smartphone). Max speed is 10mph.
So far PowerUp 3.0’s aviation enthusiast makers have a working prototype and an iOS app but they’ve taken to Kickstarter to get the project off the ground (ho-ho). The campaign launched on Saturday and blasted past its $50,000 target in just eight hours, according to inventor Shai Goitein, so there’s clearly considerable appetite for disruptions to paper-plane throwing mechanisms.
Or for a lower cost way of bagging yourself a remote-controlled airplane, which is basically what this is — albeit, not an ‘all weathers’ aircraft. Soggy paper planes aren’t going to go anywhere, app or no app.
At the time of writing PowerUp’s Kickstarter funding total is soaring north of $135,000 (and climbing steadily) — if they reach $150,000 an Android app will also be baked.
The basic PowerUp 3.0 package costs $30 but all those pledge levels have been bagged by early backers, so the kit now costs from $40 — or more if you want extras like rechargeable power packs.
The current iOS app, which has been in the works for more than a year, includes a throttle lever for ascending/descending, and a tilt to steer function — which manipulates a small fin on the rear of the module to shift the plane’s in-air trajectory. There can’t be a paper-plane folding kid in the world that hasn’t wished for such trajectory bending magic.
The module’s frame is made of carbon fibre, so it can survive the inevitable crash landings — as well as be light enough for flight.
Backers of the PowerUp 3.0 can expect to be disrupting their lessons come May next year, when the kit is due to ship. After the Kickstarter campaign, Goitein says the plan is to sell the module via retail outlets from June next year, with an RRP of $50.