Vinod’s aim is not to reduce the city’s waste burden, but to drastically cut down the cost of aero-modelling and to popularise it as an educational hobby among students.

Discarded plastic advertisement boards, it seems, can also sometimes fly. At least when Vinod Madhav, a veteran aero-modeller, gives them wings.

His latest remote-controlled aero-model, the ‘Flying Bugle,’ is fashioned out of used corrugated plastic fibre boards, a non-biodegradable material that forms the bulk of the urban refuse that litters the city and clogs its storm-water drains and canals.

Vinod’s aim is not to reduce the city’s waste burden, but to drastically cut down the cost of aero-modelling and to popularise it as an educational hobby among students. He wants to change the popular perception that aero-modelling is a rich man’s pastime.

Aero-modelling, arguably, helps students acquire basic designing, carpentry and mechanical problem-solving skills. Apprentices learn to read engineering drawings, use tools and measuring instruments, and shape materials, chiefly costly Balsa wood, into scaled-down working models of various types of gliders and propeller aircraft.

Conventional build-your-own aero-model kits, sold in “hobby shops” in the country’s metro cities and also those sourced from the Gulf, cost from Rs.40,000 and upwards, depending on the capacity of the miniature two-stroke internal combustion engines that power them and the range and sophistication of their dedicated remote control units.

Vinod says an aero-modelling student or hobbyist can make his Flying Bugle, which is not for commercial sale, for less than Rs.3,000. The easily available “synthetic fluted boards” costs much less than Balsa, the conventional material used for fashioning aero-models.

Moreover, an “electric brush-less motor,” salvaged from a second-hand spare parts shop, powers the Bugle, and a remote control unit, cobbled together from parts of thrown-away electrical devices, helps steer her.

On full battery charge, the Flying Bugle can remain airborne for not less than 45 minutes. He says it can land and take off on a strip less than the length of “two basketball courts.”

Vinod flew the “cost-effective technology demonstrator” for the first time at an abandoned stadium near Edava in Varkala last week.

A video-recording of the Flying Bugle’s maiden flight shows her streaking into the air and executing spins, loops, rolls, figure-of-eights and vertical charlie, all aerobatic manoeuvres, at the twitch of a toggle of the remote control unit wielded by her maker. When he landed the aero-model after 20 minutes, Vinod says, he was convinced that “even thrown away plastic boards can sometimes fly.”