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Institution launches student Unmanned Aircraft Systems Challenge 2017

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Nineteen student teams from the UK and three international teams are set to compete to build the best drone

Some of the most talented young engineers from the UK and overseas will compete to design and build the best Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), also known as a drone, as part of the annual competition run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

An unmanned aircraft system is an aircraft without a human pilot on-board. They are predominantly known for their use in military and special operations, such as delivering humanitarian aid.

The competition will see the young engineers develop their drones before taking on other teams in a ‘fly-off’, where they will be challenged to transport a package as accurately and rapidly as possible.

John Turton, Chairman of the UAS Challenge, said: 

“Industry and academia interest in the UAS Challenge has grown rapidly since our first competition in 2015.

“For 2017 we are expanding the international dimension with more teams being invited from overseas. Going forward we are seeking to engage more industry leaders to partner us in a range of aspects. For organisations, this continues to be a remarkable opportunity to join hands with the Institution to support and uphold the future of the aerospace industry. 

“The competition gives access to a pipeline of job-ready young engineers experienced in practical skills and enhanced people skills, delivers profiled and relevant brand exposure and facilitates being part of a growing network of industry leaders that promote innovation.”

Andrew Tyler, Chief Executive of Northrop Grumman Europe, the leading aerospace company and 2017’s Gold Sponsor, said:

“Unmanned aircraft systems have been transformational in the past decade and now have a wide range of proven applications, not just in defence but also in civil missions such as environmental monitoring, humanitarian relief, search and rescue, and disaster relief operations.

“This competition provides an opportunity for students to broaden their understanding of UAS technologies which we hope will encourage them to pursue careers in aerospace engineering.”

The universities confirmed to be taking part are:

  1. University of Bath


  2. Loughborough University


  3. University of Nottingham


  4. DHA Suffa University, Pakistan


  5. University of Sheffield


  6. University of Glasgow


  7. University College London


  8. Swansea University


  9. University of Huddersfield


  10. Queens University Belfast


  11. Istanbul Technical University, Turkey


  12. University of West England


  13. Cranfield University (2 Teams)


  14. Sheffield Hallam University


  15. University of Surrey


  16. Coventry University


  17. University of Hertfordshire


  18. University of Southampton (2 Teams)


  19. University of Dundee


  20. Military Technical College, Egypt

Now in its third year, the UAS Challenge is the fourth student engineering challenge event run by the Institution, following Formula Student, the Railway Challenge and the Design Challenge.

The UAS Challenge is an initiative that supports the Institution’s ongoing commitment to inspiring the next generation of engineers. This year the focus of the entire competition experience is based on wider industry exposure and interactions for all participants and sponsoring organisations. This includes opportunities to be mentored by industry personnel via a buddy programme, opportunities to interact with aerospace experts, gaining feedback from a team of experienced experts towards fine-tuning technical and soft skills.


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