Launching and Flying Foam RC Rocket Gliders

Airplanes Drones & Vehicles Rockets
Launching and Flying Foam RC Rocket Gliders

I love being introduced to an entire hobby, or branch of a hobby, that I previously knew nothing about. Years ago, I discovered “foamies,” the class of RC planes made from different types of foam such as Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), Expanded Polypropylene (EPP), Expanded Polyolefin (EPO), and Depron. Making planes out of this material is fairly easy, inexpensive, and the resulting models are lightweight and relatively durable. Foamies are also popular in the drone community, where they are shells that go over the drone hardware to give the drone a specific look/style.

Last night, poking around DIY videos on YouTube, I discovered the category of foam RC rocket gliders. These are foamies that launch as a model rocket and then are gracefully guided back to earth under remote control. When I was a teen rocketeer, I tried my hand at building a couple of the Estes rocker gliders. It proved very difficult to get the bird built well enough, aerodynamically sound and balanced enough, to get a safe and satisfying glider landing. So I can appreciate the smooth and graceful launches, flights, and landings of these rocket gliders.

Frank Burke is a design engineer by day and a model rocket and plane enthusiast by night. He’s built a number of very impressive RC rocket gliders and has documented the projects online on his Dynasoar Rocketry website and the RC Groups forums.

This intro video from Frank’s YouTube channel introduces the work that he does, showcases many of his gliders, and explains the basics of how foam RC glider rockets work.

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This video shows the launching of a number of Frank’s rockets. It’s surprisingly fun to watch the launch and the slow, graceful glider descent.

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In this video, Frank details the launch rail that he built. This is a very easily made, relatively inexpensive launch rail for medium size hobby rockets and rocket gliders made almost entirely from home store parts.

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Quick and easy rail launch pad for mid-power/gliders, this is what I use to launch my gliders at my RC club or when not at a launch with pads/rails available. Parts available from Home Depot, schedule 40 ABS pipe, 8′ long, one sch 40 4-way intersection, four threaded female inserts for the intersection, four threaded male outside pieces for the legs, four end caps, 1/2″ by 8″ long threaded hex bolt, two 1/2″ washers and one nut, two 3/4 to 1 1/2″ hose clamps, one piece of 1.5 by 12″ long abs pipe, 6′ long 1010 rail (available from 80/20 Corp or on eBay)

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn
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