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This project started as a summer intern project at the University of Manchester in 2019 where a number of students were tasked with exploring the creative possibilities of building aerospace structures from foamboard. The question arose of what is the biggest possible model aircraft that could be built of foamboard within the UK Civil Aviation Authority 'Open' category, which limits maximum weight to 25kg? This set us off on an engineering adventure that ultimately involved 100s of students in the design and manufacture of a first prototype which first flew in June 2022.


Project ethos

A core part of the ethos of the project is that building is open to all participants regardless of previous experience, and that the build process is scalable so that with enough people it should be possible to build a complete aircraft from pre cut parts in a single day. Participants in build days get to build a piece of primary structure, sign their name on it, and ultimately see it go to flight.

Why Foamboard?

Foamboard is a relatively inexpensive composite craft material made of Depron foam backed with paper. Parts are easy to cut by hand or in a laser cutter and lend themselves to fast assembly using hot glue. The material has excellent structural properties in that it is relatively strong and stiff for its weight. The directional nature of foamboard means you design with it in a similar way as you would with advanced materials such as carbon fibre composites so the learning is extensible to design of aerostructures in industry.


  • For University of Manchester students, we will have a two-year build cycle in which a new design is started in Autumn each year and flown in the Summer 2 years later. Thus there will be two aircraft in development in parallel for most of the year.

  • We will produce build plans and instructions and publicise them for anyone to build a similar aircraft project

  • We will take the project into schools to enthuse the next generation of students about the excitement of STEM subjects in higher education

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