Flite Test Flying Tank - Behind The Scenes

by FliteTest | December 17, 2018 | (5) Posted in Projects

We made a tank fly. Here's how it was done. 

Flite Test has a long history of making strange things fly starting all the way back in 2011 with the Flying Cinder Block. In 2018, however, I think we've reached new heights of craziness with a giant flying RC tank - want to know the ins and outs of what went into this project? No problem. 


It rather goes without saying, however: if you haven't watched the video yet, here it is!

Q & A

Let's get a direct insight into the flying tank project with some straightforward questions and answers.

Q: How long did it take to build the flying tank?

A: Something like three weeks (not continuously building though!). We spent quite a while pulling this whole thing together and it wasn't a straightforward build as the project was broken in two: first we had the Airsoft A-10 and then we had to make the tank fly - so it took a little longer than most of our projects!

Q: What motors did you use?

A:  These are agricultural drone motors that we have used on other projects such as the Flying Cozy Coupe.

Q: How heavy is it?

A: We're not sure exactly - it is a little big for the scales! - but we can say that the tank has a very low wing loading. This is because 99% of the airframe, including the tank, is made from foam board which is extremely lightweight whilst the aircraft has relatively large lifting surfaces.

Q: How many sheets of foam did you use?

A: Well... we may have lost count. Many, many sheets. Even so, our foam board is very affordable meaning the entire airframe probably cost under $100 (minus the aluminum and other materials). 

Lessons You Can Learn From This Build

Although this project is a little outlandish - we don't expect you to also build a giant flying tank (but if you do send us pics!) - there are still many techniques we used that you can apply to your own builds. 


Use expanding foam: 

Many of our community members have experimented with this technique before, and we highly recommend it. In certain circumstances, you can fill your foam board structures with expanding foam to create a dense yet lightweight infill. Here we used it to ensure that the spar wouldn't rip through our tank. As an example, you could use expanding foam to fill the leading edge structure of a flying wing like the FT Spear to solidify the wing.


Use aluminum spars:

Although in most circumstances a foam or wooden spar will suffice, there's really no alternative to a solid aluminum spar for larger builds. If you want to build a wing which is reliably going to stay absolutely rigid, this is the way to go. You can find long flat pieces or even stronger square tubing at most good hardware stores.


Double your foam board:

It's surprising how much stronger your airframe can be if you strategically double up your foam board. You can create strong spars, thick tail surfaces, and reinforced noses. We're currently working on a wider foam for the Flite Test store that is twice the depth ofour current foam board. You'll be able to order this soon.   


Build with friends:

Even on smaller projects, it's always fun to make planes with your friends and family. Apart from providing an opportunity to hang out, building with friends is super helpful: four hands are better than two. Just think - you can work on one plane and build it twice as quickly! 

More Content on Building Giant Airplanes

Here's an index of articles and videos that will help you to build big.

How To Build Anything With Foam Board

To get to grips with advanced building techniques, here's everything you need to know about building with the material foam board


Monster Airplane Build Tips

For building huge flying machines from our favorite material (foam board) and other odds and ends, here's a guide. 

Scaling up Flite Test Builds ft. The Giant Sea Duck


Here's the behind the scenes article on the giant Sea Duck built by Josh Bixler. It provides you with some background on how you can scale up our designs by pre-cutting parts and adding reinforcement plywood strips.

Valkyrie Project

You can also gain some inspiration from Ben Harber's Valkyrie project. He built a giant model of the XB-70 complete with six EDF units (!) - I mean, that's just crazy. 

If you decide to build big, make sure to share your journey with the Flite Test community by writing an article!

Article by James Whomsley

Editor of FliteTest.com

Contact: james@flitetest.com

YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/projectairaviation 


Pigfarm1403 on December 17, 2018
Not to be too critical but why did you do a Q and A if you can't answer half the questions lol
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NYCBobby on December 18, 2018
You all at Flite Test are just too much. This episode is so great, what a beautiful flying tank. I think you all are amazing. If Josh had been on Gilligan's Island he would certainly have figured out a way to fly off.
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Flite Test Flying Tank - Behind The Scenes