Flying robot in FRC history

was just wondering if there ever was a flying machine in competition, i know that it wouldnt be possible nowadays since you have to use only certain types of motors/electronics, maybe in very old games of FRC where you werent as limited as you are today there existed anything that is remotely closed to a flying robot? was just wondering this , thanks!


Nah. Motor rules were more restrictive, in that you could only have a certain number. The batteries and control system rules have pretty much made flight (other than 4907s flying robot) a technical folly. At best you have some active tether rules that might allow very limited flight to happen if game objectives supported it. In the mini-bot game
(2011), if you removed the pole end, then some of those would have gotten a little hang time. Last, in 2017 robots prepared to take flight, but none actually flew.


It’s currently legal, if you do some workarounds. Only in 2015 was a completely flying robot legal, and much older games without bumper height issues.


Back in 2011, there was a pilot competition for a FRC program for college students:


@ngreen can you tell us more about 4907s flying robot???

Kind of a “does Superman jump vs fly” debate, but 4907 was definitely airborne longer than most. (1)


Expanding on a previous point: previous FRC games, particularly before about 2005, were extremely restrictive. Wasn’t just the motors, it was almost everything that wasn’t raw materials (and some of those too).
The main restriction that wasn’t a thing back then happens to be the bumper rules.

So other than a few robots catching air off of various field obstacles, and the aforementioned 4907, no FRC robot has flown, and most particularly no FRC robot has done sustained flight.

Actually, this knocked loose an ancient memory…

In early FRC (pre-2000, if I recall), the games were often 1v1v1 (I’ve been told that the alliance era started due to some teams working together in impromptu alliances to knock off a better team, 2v1. So in 2000, they forces everyone to play in alliances, and the rest is history). Due to the scheduling of the 1v1v1 matches, evidently there would sometimes be a match that ended up with just two teams. Enter the placebo bot. The placebo bot was a bot made by FIRST employees/volunteers, who’s only purpose was to drive around the field, and not score any points. This was before my time by a couple years, but apparently they were some eclectic machines. I recall hearing about a remote control vacuum (an upright vacuum, not a Roomba), a robot that fired glitter/confetti into the cloud, and relevant to the topic of this thread, in 1996, a hovercraft.

I know it probably isn’t exactly what you’d consider “flying”, but it still counts in my book. Here’s a link to a video from '96. Hoverbot makes an appearance at ~3:30. It’s the giant silver thing that’s making a lot of noise and getting bounced around the arena.


You would be correct.

And would you believe someone did a full writeup on the Placebo?


Seems I recall in Recycle Rush 2015, there were at least a couple teams that tried to claim some recycle trash cans with tethered flying harpoons.

Anyone have a gif of that to post?

Totally counts! Very cool.


** With the caveat of not playing a match.


I suspect that the constraints imposed power sources that are available/allowed, the motors that are allowed and other parts that are required would make sustained and controlled flight essentially impossible. Have a look at the types of power sources, motors and other parts used in model airplanes to get an idea of how things would have to change for a true flying robot to be possible.

Since bumper rules are relative to the robot, wouldn’t that not matter for a flying robot?

Five or six years ago, I worked as a consultant on one of the projects at DEKA Research & Development in Manchester NH. The Placebo was still on display then, although it didn’t appear to have been driven for quite a while. One of the engineers who originally worked on it told me it would be possible to get the thing working again with a little shop time, but nobody had asked for it.


Someone should restart Andy’s ‘FIRST 101’ threads. To much of ancient FRC history is being lost. Not enough people know that “vex” wheels used to be made from sheet metal, and require assembly, and weren’t actually round. Or that we all used to drive around on wheel chair wheels, and could only order out of a single catalog. Or being able to connect to your robot immediately upon power up.


As it turns out… I fired up one of those wheelchair-wheel-rolling, drill-motor-shifting, pre-COTS-everywhere beasts today (though I’ve made some upgrades to it, like an R/C control system instead of no system). The kids in the area had jaws dropping.

Wouldn’t be a bad idea, that.


You took a video right?

I didn’t. The students did.

I have some teaser clips from last fall’s work on the robot, and I’m hoping to have it fully operational by fall (at least as far as current on-board functionality–there’s a couple of missing parts that will need to be completely rebuilt).

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I think 2405’s Flying Dorito should earn an honorable mention, no? :smiley:

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