A group of third year MEng Mechanical Engineering and Design Engineering students at The University of Nottingham has won the ‘Safety and Airworthiness Award’ after taking part in the inaugural IMechE Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Challenge.
The students undertook the competition as part of their third year ‘Group Design and Make’ module at the University. The challenge started in September 2014 and the team competed against 14 other universities at the final ‘fly-off’ this month.
Autonomous unmanned aircraft
The aim of the challenge was to design and build an autonomous UAS that could fly for two kilometres in two minutes carrying two kilograms of flour, which would then be dropped on a two metre by two metre target. The team therefore had to design, build and program a UAS from scratch as well as produce an image recognition system which would allow their craft to accurately drop its package within the identified drop zone.
The team was awarded the ‘Safety and Airworthiness Award’ for having the most comprehensive safety procedures and airframe build quality. The team’s safety procedures included an automatic flight termination mode, a manual override feature and a bright orange body which significantly increased visibility.
The University team included students William Aldridge, Andrew Dudley, Freddie Fagg, Jack Jones, Walter Kirkwood, James Revell, Thomas Slater and Emily Talukdar.
A sort of art
One of the team members, Jack Jones, commented: “Getting a model aircraft to fly with minimal experience is very difficult. We had a limited skill set in terms of programming and building basic remote controlled model aircraft is sort of an art that takes months and years of experience - no amount of equations can help you until you have learned the basics!
“However, it was a great experience and we were all very proud of our aircraft, which included a control system with an automatic flight termination mode that would try to land the plane if it lost contact with the radio transmitter. It also had a manual override feature which could be activated throughout the flight.”
Excellent theoretical and practical skills
Dr Adam Clare, who supervised the students during the project said: “I am delighted that our team won the award as it recognises the hard work the students put into ensuring their aircraft was safe and of high quality. Throughout the preparation for the competition, the team made excellent use of their theoretical and practical skills and I was delighted with their enthusiasm and the calibre of thought and engineering that went into our entry.”
Some of the students have said that they will continue their work on the UAS as part of their final year projects. Many also plan on assisting the new team of third year students, with the hope that they can aim for the overall prize next year.
The University of Nottingham team was sponsored by Oil and Water Management Ltd, who provided them with funding for the project and team shirts, and received support from North Luffenham flying club in Leicestershire who conducted test flights.
Future support for projects
The University is always interested in hearing from companies who would like to sponsor or support student projects. Businesses who would like to get involved should email Dr Adam Clare
For more information, email Emma Smith, Project Assistant, Business Engagement and Innovation Services or tel: +44 (0)115 951 6803, or contact Nick King, Marketing Projects Manager, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 82 32184.
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