Machine Design
Undergrad Teams Square Off in Unmanned Aircraft Competition

Undergrad Teams Square Off in Unmanned Aircraft Competition

On July 1-2, unmanned aircraft ruled the sky throughout the Institute of Mechanical Engineers’ Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) challenge. Competition consisted of 13 teams of undergraduate students representing over thirteen universities across the UK participated in the first-ever UAS competition that took place at the engineering institution’s campus in London. It was sponsored by aerospace company, Northrop Grumman.

The challenge sets a hypothetical scenario, where a remote coastal area is hit by an earthquake and tsunami. The UASs are programmed to bring aid to the affected area, traveling through a series of waypoints and recognizing the supply-drop zone, successfully bringing relief to the affected area. The autonomous aircrafts must then follow a set course back to base in order to avoid other unmanned vehicles.   

Undergraduate students at the University of Bath work on their unmanned aircraft system before the competition.

The multidisciplinary teams were presented with the rules of the competition in September 2014 and had an academic year to design, build, and test their UAS that would carry out the mission. At the competition, the teams presented a review of their design to a panel of judges and then competed in a ‘fly-off’.

The winners

The winner of the competition is a team from the University of Southamption. The victors demonstrated amazing resilience, fixing a broken wing after the plane crashed in its testing phase, days before the competition.

Graduate students at the University of Southhampton won the competition, despite technical difficulties before the final competition.

The goal of the challenge is to assess practical engineering skills for the aerospace industry and thus provide opportunities for employment after graduation for participators, as well as build relationships with industries and universities.

The final results of the competition are listed below: 

  • Champions – University of Southampton
  • Design – Loughborough University
  • Most Viable Business Proposition – Loughborough University
  • Safety and Airworthiness – University of Nottingham
  • Autonomous/Automatic Operations – University of Southampton
  • Manufacturing – Liverpool University
  • Flying Operations – University of Southampton 
  • Most Promise – Sheffield Hallam University (with a mention for University of Swansea)
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