Drones have gained increasing popularity, both good and bad, in a variety of uses in civilian and military contexts across the world. Amidst a raft of negative publicity surrounding the recent unscrupulous use of drones, the Institution focuses on bringing back attention to the untapped portal of features and benefits the unmanned air systems space provides by their safe and regulated use.
The Institution's Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) Challenge enters its 2019 competition with 32 teams and 350 participants representing leading universities from the UK as wel as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Denmark, Netherlands and Canada on board.
The competition is structured to replicate a real-world unmanned aircraft system development programme. The phased 9-month design and development process runs over the course of an academic year and culminates in the build, test and demonstration of the UAS at a featured fly-off event each summer.
This Challenge is seen as an opportunity for international regional networks to join hands with academia in engaging with the Challenge on a continuous basis. IMechE Pakistan has begun leading the way in encouraging local universities to participate, resulting with improved engagement with academia and show-casing the Institution’s singleness of approach.
“We believe that as engineers-to-be we must find ways to apply what is being learned in the classroom before joining the workforce, and coming across competitions like UAS Challenge is exactly the opportunity we so eagerly look for! Moreover, several members of our team have been already been to competitions similar to the UAS Challenge but so far these have only been either in Canada or in the United States. From what we have seen thus far I’m sure the UAS Challenge will have nice surprises for us that the other competitions did not have! All in all, it’s definitely exciting for us to be going “across the pond” to represent the first and only Canadian team at this global event!"
Firas Khelifi, Team Leader, team AHS Stingers Concordia University, Canada
What to expect in 2019
The judges’ synopsis from this year’s concept papers reveals there is a shift towards more fixed wing designs but there is plenty of variety with a mix of VTOL, STOL, Quad, Hex and a first-time Helicopter design in the mix. While some teams are busy refining last year’s designs to meet this year’s new mission requirements, some teams have considered interesting design features with some new entrants impressing at the starting line.
There are a mix of propulsion systems being considered such as electrically driven propellers, EDFs (electric ducted fans), internal combustion engines and a turbo fan. Teams with tilt rotor designs will be aiming to master transitioning from hovering to forward flight. Fixed wing designs also had some interesting configurations with a mix of differing body, wing and control surface types such as a Prandtplane wing. All in all the judges are eager to see how these designs develop over the course of the year and finally perform at the fly-off event at Llanbedr.
The other project deliverables that are scheduled within the nine-month lead up to the fly-off event are a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), Critical Design Review (CDR) and a full-scale Flight Readiness Review (FRR).
“A very exciting year in prospect for the competition and a very interesting one for the judges with many more entries from the UK and overseas. There have been some significant changes to the rules with a different aid package delivery challenge, still within a maximum take-off weight of 6.9kg. There is only a single but longer and more complex mission which must be flown fully autonomously. We have already reviewed the teams’ Concept Papers. There are some new and innovative concepts as well as many variations of more conventional approaches but with no two the same. It is going to be fun and instructive.”
Lambert-Dopping Hepenstal, UAS Challenge Head Judge
The UAS Challenge is among a portfolio of the institution’s Challenges that are fully self-funded. The 2019 Challenge is sponsored by UK industry partners such as GKN Aerospace and Bombardier. They are joined by the Welsh Government which is coming on board as a new partner of the event, supporting its direct and indirect links to the economic development, the regional skills partnership, the Snowdonia Aerospace Centre and ultimately towards the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone.
The Challenge continues to provide a unique platform for industry partners to engage, assess and impact talented young undergraduates, maximise brand exposure and deliver on CSR/ STEM outreach agendas. Industry interest in the UAS Challenge has grown rapidly since its launch in 2015. In 2019, The event looks to return to its preferred venue in Llanbedr, west Wales at the heart of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone for the third consecutive year, for its fly-off, firmly placing Wales on the global map.
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