The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Challenge

The competition

The UAS Challenge is the leading annual student competition in the aerospace sector. Launched in 2014 with the key objectives of developing professional engineers and inspiring the next generation, the challenge is now in its third year. We lead the way in promoting value and cohesion within the industry, providing unique opportunities to universities, their teams, the individual participants and of course for our partnering organisations.

UAS ChallengeThe Challenge calls on participating teams of undergraduates from all over the world. Teams undertake a full design and build cycle of a UAS with specific mission objectives, with 10 awards on offer. The Challenge is a year-long project with phased stages of completion that require strict adherence and assessment in order to qualify. The Challenge launches in autumn, before a final UK ‘fly-off’ event in the summer. Entries for the 2017 competition are now closed.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Challenge (UAS Challenge) bridges the gap between academia and industry in developing applied UAS-related activities; giving you the perfect opportunity to strengthen links with industry, other universities and enhance employment opportunities for graduates in the aerospace sector.
Given the experience we have from the Institution’s globally successful Formula Student competition, our direct links and relevance to both students and industry are assured.

UAS Challenge 2016

Competition dates

Launch: 14 October 2016
Fly-Off Event: 19-20 June 2017

Competition Status

Entries Now Closed

PDR submission due: 6 January 2017
CDR submission due: 28 April 2017
FRR submission due: 9 June 2017

All submissions should be made via email to

The rules

Read the full 2016/2017 UAS Challenge competition rules*.

*rules are subject to change

Read about the 2016 Challenge.
Learn more about the Aerospace Divison.



As stated by section 3.1.6, the drone is expected to comply with EU directives regarding radio equipment and data links. It is then stated that radio equipment and the Flight Termination System shall be compliant on the 2.4GHz band. Could you clarify if 2.4GHz is the frequency all communications between the drone and the ground station has to be or for example could a 5.8GHz frequency be used for the camera and data information.

Answer: 2.4 is for the command and control link. Imagery can use other (EU-allowed) frequencies.


Could you provide us the detailed COTS list of the equipment included in £1,000 limit? In the rules the following equipment are given: motor, esc, batteries, servos, sensors, autopilot, and control boards. Is there any other equipment that are included in this list?

Answer: The £1,000 is a ‘guidance’ figure and the COTS refers to major bought in items but would not be expected to include nuts & bolts, small components, etc. We are interested in cost effective solutions and therefore COTS spend will influence the score obtained.


In Article 3.1.3 Payload Specification, the dimensions of the flour bags are not detailed. Are we going to use a specific flour brand or could it be anyone commercially available?

Answer: Flour Bags – we have not previously specified the make of bag or its dimensions; just commercially available 500g bags.

Article 3.1.4 says "each payload should have a speed retarding system to limit its speed of impact at the ground". Is this mandatory or is it just a suggestion?

Answer: Retarding – in the rules “shall” is mandatory and “should” is advisory and so in this case it is not mandatory.

Could you provide the distance between each waypoint and the distance between take-off zone and first waypoint in payload delivery mission, also the total distance of one lap in the endurance mission?

Answer: The coordinates of the waypoints will be published on the day of the competition. No further detail is available before then. The length of a lap of the endurance course is 1km (A.3.3).

Do we have to carry gimbal, camera, image transfer modem etc. for both payload delivery and endurance mission? Can we take out payload drop mechanism for reconnaissance and endurance mission as long as we keep the outer fuselage design same?

Answer: No, you do not have to carry the camera etc. for the payload delivery or endurance missions but you will have to go back through scrutineering if you change the equipment fit. This will lose your flight slot and risk losing the opportunity to fly again if weather, etc. causes delays. Removing the payload release mechanism for the reconnaissance mission would also trigger a re-scrutineer.

In the second mission, do camera images have to be transmitted in real time? Or the image processing & geo-tagging can be done later in ground station as well?

Answer: The greater the degree of autonomy and capability, the greater the points scored. A fully autonomous, real-time, on-board detection, with immediate data relay to the ground station, will score the most points (all else being equal).

Do we get a point deduction from autonomous part in Mission 2 if we save the images into storage unit (SD card, flash drive etc.) during flight and plug in this storage unit into the ground station computer to identify location and character after the plane landed?

Answer: Yes.

Which alphanumeric characters do we have to identify in the reconnaissance mission? For example: are the alphanumeric characters random combination of letters of word “TARGET”?

Answer: The characters will be any capital alpha from A to Z.

Is the colour of central square red for all the alphanumeric characters or could it be any colour? The shape is given in Annex 4, p. 28 in the competition rules.

Answer: Red Background, White Letter, A-Z Upper Case.

Could you provide mission scenario draft for endurance mission like you did for the first two mission in Fig. A4 and A5?

Answer: The mission will be laid out on the day of the competition with a lap length of 1km.

Can we use different type of propeller and battery for different missions? Do we have to use only one type of battery and propeller for all 3 missions? For example: we used high capacity more heavy battery for one mission and low capacity battery for another mission. Is it allowed?

Answer: As in the above question, a change of configuration would need to be re-submitted to scrutineering.

Payload numbers must be same in mission 1 and mission 3 or not?

Answer: Not

Flight termination

It is stated in the rules under section 3.3.1 Flight termination System, the UA is to be put into a low energy state upon a flight termination. The throttle shall be set to idle/engine off. Does this therefore mean that upon a flight termination that for example the motors powering a UA propellers will have to be completely halted? Or for example could the motors be put into a slow spin that would allow the UA to slowly descend in a controlled manner?

Answer: The throttle shall be set to idle / engine off. Powering the propulsion system is not permitted.


Benefits to participating universities

  • Provide real-world engineering experience to students
  • Throughout the competition, students will be provided opportunities to develop and demonstrate their technical, engineering design and manufacturing skills
  • They will learn and practice key soft skills such as team-working and time management alongside project management, budgeting and presentation skills. Becoming better equipped for a long-lasting career in engineering
  • Aspects of the design may be utilised towards their final year project

Benefits for students/ teams

  • Obtain practical aerospace engineering skills for industry
  • Win backing from potential future employers
  • Develop connections and network with like-minded students 
  • Learn more about the next generation of aircraft
  • Gain accolades for achievements

Benefits for sponsors/ partners

  • Generate a pool of prospective young engineers - job-ready in terms of experience, people skills and academic excellence
  • Consolidate support and uphold the future of the sector.
  • Deliver profiled and relevant brand exposure
  • Be part of a growing network of industry leaders that promote innovation

The UAS Challenge objectives

  • Stimulate interest in sector and set challenges for aspiring engineers
  • Promote aerospace as a career for engineers
  • Develop team building skills of participants
  • Provide an opportunity for students to develop and demonstrate team working, leadership and commercial skills as well as technical competence
  • Encourage and promote UAS research within academia
  • Promote inter-university collaboration to encourage fundamental and interdisciplinary UAS research
  • Encourage integration of enabling technologies in curriculum
  • Create a hub to foster closer academia / industry links
  • Enhance employment opportunities in the sector
  • Promote the public and professional perception of the Institution in aerospace
  • Promote awareness by both the educational establishment and the public of the role of the Institution in the field of aerospace

How can you get involved?

Teams: Entries to the 2017 UAS Challenge are now closed.

Watch the video

To find out more

For more information or for partnering/ sponsorship opportunities please contact:

Kellymarie Healy, Education Projects Executive at or
Sandra Balthazaar, Education Projects Manager at

UAS Challenge Platinum Sponsor

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UAS Challenge Gold Sponsors

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