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Preparing students for the next challenge

Institution News Team

University of Dundee's Haggis Aerospace team
University of Dundee's Haggis Aerospace team

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ annual Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) competition took place at Snowdonia Aerospace Centre on 18 and 19 June.

There were a record 25 teams participating in this year’s event. Each team had to design and demonstrate a UAS that could operate in a humanitarian aid mission.

Institution member Steven Brison is the co-leader of the University of Dundee’s Haggis Aerospace team, who were featuring in the competition for the second year running. They decided to build a drone that could act as a long-range monitoring platform.

“Inspired by an albatross, we opted for a large three metre wingspan with a canard to increase the area for lift,” says Steven. “We designed an automated payload that could use GPS and a servo-operated parawing to land the payload safely onto the designated area. We also developed an image recognition programme to locate the target for the payload.”

While challenges, such as the UAS, put engineering skills to the test, there is plenty for students involved in them to gain and learn, according to Steven.

“These competitions aren’t simply about exercising engineering knowledge. Health and safety, logistics, and business and cost management are some of the other skills needed to understand and manage the project as a whole,” he says. “This can boost your CV and give you something to talk about in interviews.”

As part of his work as volunteer for the Institution's UAS Challenge, Steven visited the Farnborough Airshow alongside a range of 2018 participants, event officials and staff.
The team met and engaged with an estimated 700-800 young people across 3 days via various activities such as DIY drone-building, a mini drone obstacle course and the University of Dundee’s flight simulator.

He spent his time at the Airshow engaging with visitors of all ages talking them through the experience of autonomous flying and supporting the flying experience via the simulator. Visitors to the stand included the Red Arrows pilots who stopped by to cheer the children on and to commend and encourage Steven.

Talking of his experience at the world’s second largest Airshow he said ““I had the opportunity to walk around and meet companies shaping the aerospace sector – from satellite manufacturers to individuals designing the electric aviation of tomorrow. The trade show got me updated on roughly what is happening in the aerospace world, which was really invaluable. I particularly enjoyed my time meeting the younger children and families who queued up eagerly to have a go at the simulator. Their enthusiasm and keen willingness to learn and talk about flying was refreshing and encouraging. It was fantastic to have had that opportunity to inspire children and see them excited about engineering as I was when I attended my first Airshow”

Summing up his involvement in the UAS competition, Steven said: “I believe I’m now a more confident and competent engineer, who is very ready to take on the next challenge.”

UAS Challenge competition for 2019 will open in October. Contact uaschallenge@imeche.org to register your interest in taking part in the 2019 competition.

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