Connecting Industries Worldwide

Paving the way for a new league of innovation in unmanned air systems

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has launched its 5th annual Unmanned Aircraft Systems Challenge competition.

The Challenge is structured to replicate a real-world aircraft system development programme, with a phased 9-month design and development process over the course of an academic year culminating in the build, test and demonstration of the UAS.

Undergraduates from universities across the world an opportunity to practice key soft skills such as team-working, time management, project management, budgeting and presentation skills, becoming better equipped for a lasting career in engineering.

Jon du Bois, Senior Lecturer at University of Bath said: "The IMechE UAS Challenge has provided a great focal point for our teaching on autonomous systems and aircraft design.

“Building the aircraft and competing in the event gives students a much deeper insight into the application of the theory and processes they have learned about on their degrees, and the contact with industry experts throughout adds to their learning experience.

“Being part of a multidisciplinary team is a valuable experience, and overall it has provided us with a fun, engaging way to inject deeper learning into our degrees. The feedback from our students has been overwhelmingly positive, and the student projects have also offered a great route to establish strong links with industry research and development teams."

The Challenge strives to work closely with industry partners to ensure that participants have access to world-class standards, inspirational mentors and an insight into the real-world of the unmanned aircraft industry. Ably supported by organisations such as QinetiQ, GKN Aerospace and Bombardier, the Challenge seeks to continue to provide a platform for industry leaders who wish to engage with an extremely talented pipeline of aspiring engineers, maximise on profiled brand exposure, further STEM engagement and build networks with academia and a wide range of related industry sectors.

The UAS Challenge is open to all undergraduate or taught postgraduate students from universities from any part of the world. It is for those who would thrive on the call to be resourceful, solution driven, able to maintain and push boundaries whilst working as a team.

The UAS Challenge engages teams in the design, build, testing and live demonstration of a UAS at a 3-day ‘fly-off’ event in the UK in June 2019.

Participating teams will be working within a hypothetical natural disaster scenario where a significant stretch of a remote coastal area has been devastated by an earthquake and resulting tsunami. It is known that several thousand people living in the affected coastal communities are cut off; their houses destroyed, and with night-time temperatures dropping below freezing, they urgently need supplies of food, shelter and most importantly first aid. Time is critical, and a UAS led mission is launched from the Rescue Centre located some distance away.

The UAS should operate automatically, transiting rapidly via pre-planned waypoints to the devastated area to deliver the aid safely and accurately to the affected communities. During the mission, it searches in defined areas for other potential aid recipients, relays the location co-ordinates back to base so that another aid drop or rescue mission can be organised, and returns to base via a different route.

In 2019, for the first time, teams will use first-aid kits and water bottles as their payload. Deliverables have been carefully specified to maintain reasonable technical rigour yet aiming to keep the workload manageable for student teams.

The full project life-cycle is supported by academic and industry experts in aerospace engineering and flight safety who volunteer as officials of the Challenge.

Alex Robbins, UAS Challenge volunteer, Project Manager said: “We are again seeing more potential for growth and refinement of the competition which should enable teams to fully innovate their designs for 2019.

“With the evolution of the UAS Challenge mission flight to a single multi-faceted operation, it will be great to see what solutions are presented throughout the Design and Flight readiness phases and Fly Off event.”

As part of the Institution’s continued focus on inspiring the next generation by outreach work with schools across the nation, the 2019 UAS Challenge, will also be launching a STEM programme including pre-competition for school children aged 7+. The work will be supported by a dedicated STEM Ambassador team who will provide an interesting agenda of creative and inspiring activities leading to a fun-filled STEM Day during the fly-off event.

Jonathan Tayler, UAS Challenge volunteer, STEM Outreach Leader said: “The UAS Challenge provides a fantastic opportunity to promote engineering to young students. It gives the students a chance to interact with engineers at different career levels; apprentices, university students and qualified engineers.”

The UAS Challenge is returning to its favoured venue at Snowdonia Aerospace Centre in Llanbedr, Wales 16th – 18th June 2019. The venue is ideal in its layout, facilities and structure as well as its appeal as a well-known drone test centre.

To find out more - to volunteer, support, sponsor or participate in the competition, click here.