VertiBird Redo

Create a 1971 VertiBird toy with a modern TWIST!

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I had one of these toys back in the day. I used to love it! I have purchased used ones on Ebay and enjoy restoring them. I also wanted to create a new twist on this same idea. The original had a motor in the center and a cable actually spun to mechanically spin the propeller of the chopper. I always wanted to make a clone of this toy but I wanted to put the motor on the helicopter itself and just run PWM DC Voltage to the motor to spin it. Unfortunately, the wires would begin to twist up and rip apart.... Or could an electrical "Slip Ring" be used instead? Follow along in the sections below and find out how I pulled this off....

Check out the new trailer done by my 9 year old son Jonah :)

All the STL files for 3D printing can be found here:

The Coast Guard Rescue Ship is also ready to print:

Here is a video of the prototype:

Here is one of the final version flying:

Closer View of Lift off:

To wire and build the pivoting dome, solder at least 18ga wire to 2 of the terminals on the male microphone plug.  Then fill the hole with epoxy to assure the wires nor plug will twist out.

Here is a schematic that should work well....

Assemble the pivoting motor and audio jack as shown below.  The latest STL files on Thingiverse are a little different than the prototype pictures shown here:

The spring helped with oscillations while flying.

Wire the controller potentiometer as shown below:

Use a rubber band to make the throttle handle on the left always move back to 0 speed if the handle is let go.

Wire the 2 pots to A0 for throttle and A1 for Forward/Reverse.

Put the helicopter motor together and glue the chopper together:

Start putting it all together...

Finished product.....

I am working on the next phase now.  This is the one I had as a kid :)


Arduino Code for 2 analog inputs, Qwiic motor controller and servo control of an RC airplane ESC.

ino - 3.41 kB - 03/18/2020 at 22:20


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dario wrote 08/11/2020 at 18:58 point

salve,ho un problema ,quando provo a fare la verifica con l ide arduino  dello   sketch  mi da questo errore:

no matching function for call to 'ESC::ESC(int, int, int, int)'

cosa posso fare? grazie per la risposta

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Air Museum Network wrote 03/18/2020 at 16:27 point

Is there any place I can download the Arduino code?

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Luke J. Barker wrote 03/18/2020 at 22:19 point

I will post my lastest code today.  It may be different for you depending on the hardware you use.  It's really simple as I just read the analog values and scale those to the motor speed using the Arduino "map" statement.  Since I used the Sparkfun Qwiic motor controller, I had to use the i2c library as well.  Thanks :)

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Johnny wrote 02/16/2020 at 20:51 point

I had one of these. Then one day my half brother (in his late 20's) thought he could "improve" the speed, and proceeded to break the spring in the chopper. He never did fix it as promised. I always thought the rotor spinning was purely cosmetic, as I thought the lift and forward reverse was always controlled by the central hub. I guess not...
I'm gonna start on this project. Thanks!

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John Anderson wrote 02/07/2020 at 17:48 point

I can't tell you how many hours of my childhood was spent flying my VertiBird round and round.

I love this project, excellent execution of a classic toy. So many ideas come to mind to take this to the next level. But, I'll let your excellent work stand for itself. 

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Luke J. Barker wrote 02/08/2020 at 18:43 point


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Dan Maloney wrote 02/07/2020 at 17:13 point

OK, using an audio plug and jack as a slip ring is pretty brilliant.

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Luke J. Barker wrote 02/08/2020 at 18:43 point


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Luke J. Barker wrote 02/05/2020 at 22:15 point

I agree and I still have some tweaking to do on the controls.  I am almost done with my final build and will share all the drawings, STL files and schematics soon.  I have many pictures of the build to post too.

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Dan Maloney wrote 02/05/2020 at 17:20 point

VertiBirds ruled!! I begged my parents for one when they first came out, and played with it until I killed it - the spring they used as a universal joint broke, pretty quickly from what I remember. Years later they re-released it, and I bought another one. I was in my 20s by that point but didn't care - I played with the thing unashamedly for hours. Loved that thing.

I always enjoyed the idea that you were controlling the aircraft mechanically rather than electrically. It''l be interesting to see how the playing experience differs with electrical control. I do think putting the motor in the bird and using slip rings will fix the weak spot, which was always that spring.

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