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Here's how to build an electric paper plane launcher.

We've worked on this design for a while, whittling it down to a minimum number of parts and doing our best to eliminate room for error where we can. That said, you will still need to be careful and precise while building this one to get the best result. You may even have to make a couple of adjustments here and there after building it to get it flinging planes just right.

Certain types of paper plane will work better than others. There are instructions for a plane that works well and some general guidelines for making planes at the end — you'll have to experiment a little with plane designs to get the best results, but when it does work, it really works!

So remember that this is a projectile launcher. It can launch projectiles (paper planes) pretty fast. The projectiles have pointy ends. NEVER AIM THIS AT PEOPLE OR PETS! Eyeballs are great! Look after them!

You're probably wondering how it works. Have you ever seen a baseball pitching machine or tennis ball launcher? No? What about the mechanism inside one of those battery powered Nerf guns? No? Okay...

The launcher uses two wheels with grippy rubber tyres, both spinning very fast in opposite directions. The left one spins anticlockwise, and the right one spins clockwise. The wheels are close together, but not touching. When the nose of a paper plane is introduced, the wheels pinch it and sling the plane forwards.

In this design, the longer pieces of bamboo form a nice channel to guide the bottom of the plane in a straight line.



Here's what you're going to need to build this thing. You might end up using some different parts to those listed here. We'll tell you what to do in that case. We sell some of these parts in MAKESHOP if you are in Dublin. We have provided links to some online sources too.


  • 2X high speed DC hobby motors like this, this or this one (note higher voltage)
  • 2X pulleys or wheels to fit electric motor. We use this type or these ones.
  • 2X rubber tyres for wheels like these or these.
  • 2X adaptors to fit wheels to motor shaft. We used iron beads like these.
  • 2X approximately 15cm lengths of straight, smooth bamboo (we used a single piece split down the middle)
  • 2X 7cm lengths of split bamboo (note that the length of this piece of bamboo depends on the diameter of your wheels; make it one and a half wheel diameters long to be safe!)
  • 1X double AA/LR6 battery clip (or larger if motor requires more than 3V). Like this.
  • 2X AA/LR6 batteries (or more if required)
  • 1X slide/toggle switch
  • 2X 7cm lengths of hookup wire


  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Wire cutter / side cutter
  • Wire stripper
  • Craft knife (optional)
  • Soldering iron (optional)

A note about the parts used:

You may end up using different wheels to the ones we have used. Any hobby/RC wheel with a smooth rubber tyre should work. The total diameter should probably be 5cm or larger. We had to make a little adaptor to fit the wheel, which has a 4mm centre hole, on to the 2mm shaft of the motor. You might be able to find a ready made adaptor or wheels which fit snugly onto the motor shaft.

gm2802 years ago

Interesting project. If you use two different motors, you will always have to be adjusting it because one will have slightly different abilities then the other. However, If you could design one that uses one motor with gearing then allow adjustments for each side with maybe adjustable spring tension, then it would be a one time adjustment for the most part. Just an idea. But I do like your project all the same.

WeAreMakeshop (author)  gm2802 years ago

Hi, thanks for the idea, you'd need the spacing of the gears just right. Didn't have any to hand to try that. We wanted to keep it simple enough for kids to build and not require anything too fiddly. Slight differences in motor speed don't really impact the effectiveness for paper airplanes, from what we've seen; you're kind of half using the inertia of the spinning wheels with these low torque motors in any case. If you look at baseball pitching machines, you can adjust speeds of motors independently to throw curve balls or put backspin on.

Perhaps the adjustment could be made by adding a small resistance to the electrica path to the stronger motor. Could explore the possibility with a variable resistor (2/3 of a potentiometer). When both sides equal, remove the variable resistor, measure the resistance which equalized the motors, then put in a true resistor of that value.
16jwilliams2 years ago

a brilliant thing to make when you are bored I a definitely going to make this

jwzumwalt2 years ago

Nice project! It's ideas like this that make subscribing to this list worth it.

suggestion... I think it would be a great tweak to make with wood
shaped like a gun grip to make holding and pointing easier - thanks for

WeAreMakeshop (author)  jwzumwalt2 years ago

Thanks for the suggestion!

When we started making these we had handles on them, but pared the design down a lot so it was easier for kids to make. We have a LOT of plastic dish brush handles from years of making brushbots. Think we'll start using these for just that purpose.

I might be a bit late in reading this but I need to make this today. I'm literally adding this to my schedule right now. Thanks for posting this!

WeAreMakeshop (author)  trexyandiknowit2 years ago

Cool! Let us know how it goes!

That is good idea

Thanks! Some great instructables on your channel. We might have to try some!

very good

Spencerd2082 years ago

I'm building this thing immediately

WeAreMakeshop (author)  Spencerd2082 years ago
Please do! ...provided, of course, you have nothing more important to do ;). Let us know how it works out.
apapercraft2 years ago

This is really cool! Thanks for the inspiration. I need to build this straight away.

WeAreMakeshop (author)  apapercraft2 years ago
Go for it! Let us know how you get on, and if you make any changes.

Thats pretty cool. I'd love to make this out of LEGOs.

WeAreMakeshop (author)  BrownDogGadgets2 years ago
Do it! Pictures or it didn't happen!
One nice thing about these motors are the flat sides, you could maybe sandwich either side between LEGOs.
noch1002 years ago

the best DIY

and you need this for good photos too

best regards

seamster2 years ago

This is great!

WeAreMakeshop (author)  seamster2 years ago

Thanks seamster! They are a LOT of fun. Your channel is awesome by the way!