Open to WSU students, WSU alumni, and high school teams! 

(Updated 4/17/2014, 7:42am - news & competition dates/times; & QA sections)

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Some of the excited 2013 participants!

News & Competition Days/Times
Competition days are now scheduled for Sunday April 27th and May 4th!  Flying location information will be posted soon.


Be sure to check this site often. Official information, changes, and updates will be posted here. The weather and other factors can result in last minute changes.



The Aerospace Engineering department annually sponsors an aircraft design competition. The goal is to encourage involvement in a fun and educational activity.

Competing teams design and build an electric-powered, remote controlled, aircraft to fly a challenging mission. Undergraduate winners get their names on the Bronze Propeller Trophy. The fifth annual competition will be held in April 2014.

There are three participant categories:  WSU undergraduate; high school; and professional. Any WSU or high school student can compete. WSU aerospace alumni and graduate students participate in the professional category (new this year).

Don't be shy. Form a team, build a plane, and fly! Mentors for high school and underclassmen student teams are recommended. Contact Dr. Miller for help finding a mentor.

2013-2014 Mission, Rules, & Guidelines
This year's mission is "A Heavy-Lift & Special Payload Delivery Aircraft." A successful mission profile includes the following: 

  1. Takeoff
  2. Fly four complete laps
  3. Remotely drop the special payload, after the fourth lap, as close to the target as possible
  4. Approach and land successfully

Additionally, planes must meet the following minimum requirements and constraints: 

  • The aircraft must be wing borne, not a rotorcraft, airship, etc.
  • Use only electric power (no gas, jet, nuclear, or rocket engines)
  • The aircraft must fly with a WSU supplied battery pack
  • WSU supplied systems must be securely held in the plane at all times
  • The propulsion system fuse must be safely (at least 6-inches behind the prop) and quickly accessible
  • A 30-Amp fuse/s must be utilized
  • Aircraft wingspan is limited to 4-ft
  • The payload is water carried in a balloon and a special item (a 1-oz “coffee bean bag”) supplied by WSU (updated 3/11/14)
  • The “bean bag” must be remotely dropped by the pilot after the fourth lap
  • Provisions for the pilot to release the water in flight, in an emergency, are required (updated 3/11/14)
  • The plane must be passively stable and human controlled
  • The aircraft must be made predominately (>90%) of commonly available model aircraft wood
  • Use of foam is prohibited
  • Use of any heat shrink or adhesive coverings (e.g., UltraCote, MonoKote, Coverite, fabric, tape, tissue paper, etc.) are prohibited
  • Use of composite materials (e.g., graphite tubes, fiberglass) for critical parts (e.g., spars, fuselage, etc.) of the vehicle is prohibited
  • Use of tape to secure anything on the plane is prohibited
  • Use of Velcro to secure servos is prohibited (they should be screw mounted)
  • The aircraft must be conceived, designed, and built exclusively by team members (no one else)
  • A designated WSU pilot will fly the plane at the competition
  • Deadlines for submitting department support, parts, systems, cutting, and other requests will be established in the spring semester and must be satisfied
  • Teams will get on a flight list on competition days. They will then be called in order, as listed, to fly
  • Once called, teams have a maximum of 5-minutes to weigh their planes and to fully ready them for flight (updated 3/11/14)

The exact flying location and course is not finalized. It will likely be a parking lot on campus. The flying area dimensions are approximately 400x100-ft. Planes are expected to fly within this area at all times (under about 100-ft altitude). The runway will be in the center and turns will be approximately 300-ft apart (perhaps around light poles).

The mission score (SCR) is calculated using the following equation,

SCR=H2O + (150/MT) + [1/(0.5+D)]

Where H2O is the weight (lbs.) of water carried, MT is the total mission time (seconds), and D is the special payload’s landing distance (ft.) from the target (rounded to the nearest ft.).

Mission timing begins the moment the plane lifts off. The timer is stopped when the plane touches down for a landing after completing the entire mission.

Required Power System
The WSU supplied battery pack (see photo below) operates the motor, receiver, and servos. The operating voltage is approximately 10V (loaded) and the current output must be fuse limited to 30A. Maximum available battery capacity is approximately 1,000 mAh. The dimensions and weight are, respectively, approximately 1.6 x 1.7 x 2.7-inches and 6.7oz. Actual battery pack performance test data can be found by clicking here.

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2014 Competition Battery Pack

Important Comments
All rules, requirements, and constraints are subject to interpretation and change by Dr. Miller. Additional rules, requirements, and constraints can be added anytime. Team members assume all risk with respect to disqualification (i.e., SCR=0).

A successful design is well understood and properly developed from the beginning.  Don’t let someone create a better overall design than you.

Use engineering principles and methods to win!

Mini-Grants & Mentors
The planes will be inexpensive to build. However, some teams may be eligible for limited AE department assistance to help build their plane (e.g., radio gear, motor, assorted supplies, laser cutting, foam cutting, etc.).

Additionally, the department will do what it can to provide mentors to help less experienced teams.

Deadlines for submitting department support, laser/foam cutting, and other requests will be established in the spring semester. Teams must meet these deadlines.

Contact Dr. Miller for further information on mini-grant and mentor opportunities.

Engineer of 2020
Eligible WSU students, especially seniors, can gain “Engineer of 2020” service-learning credit by serving as a mentor for less experienced teams. These opportunities must be prearranged.  Contact Dr. Miller for further information.

Bronze Propeller Competition Flyer
Click here to download a Bronze Propeller flyer that you can post or share with friends. Spread the word, form a team, and compete.


Questions & Answers (updated 3/11/14, am)
Here are some important questions and answers.

Q1: Is there a minimum amount of water that must be carried?
A1: There is no minimum water requirement. 

Q2: Can the water payload be carried in multiple balloons or does the entire payload need to be contained in a single balloon?
A2: The entire water load needs to be carried in one balloon (to assure emergency release capability and smooth contest administration).

Q3: Can Velcro be used to secure other internal components (i.e. battery pack, wires etc)?
A3: Velcro can be used to safely secure only power system components (i.e., battery, ESC, RX, and wires).

Q4: Are we limited to a single battery pack?
A4: You can use more than one battery pack. However, all propulsion circuits must be fused with a 30A, or less, fuse.

Q5: Can UltraCote, MonoKote, or Coverite be used to give the plane color?
A5: Yes, simple coverings can be used to make the plane pretty and to improve visibility for the pilot. However, the plane’s mold-line and shape must be exactly the same without coverings (i.e., the covering must be strictly cosmetic and used only to give the plane color).

Q6: Who will supply the balloon, WSU or the team, and what kind can be used?
A6: The balloon is up to the team. Size, shape, capacity, etc. is your call. You must simply use only one (1) and demonstrate that it can be safely ruptured (in case of an in-flight emergency).

Q7: Do we have to use a balloon to carry the water, or can we use something else?
A7: You must use a balloon to carry the water.

Q8: Can we do anything to change the water density (e.g., freezing, additives, etc.)?
A8: No, you must use tap water at normal temperature.

Q9: Is it OK for us to fill the balloon after it's installed in the plane?
A9: A specific filling method isn't required. However, the time involved is very important. From a contest operations perspective, we can't wait very long for teams to load their planes, get weighed, and to fly. Teams, once called, have a 5-min limit to be completely ready it to fly.

Q10: Can foam be used to help seat doors or for wing-fillets?
A9: Yes. However, the amount of foam must be minimized and it cannot be substantially load bearing.

Additional Information 
Contact Dr. Miller, by email, with questions - scott.miller@wichita.edu

"What I cannot build, I cannot understand" - Feynman


Visit this page often, don't miss important Q&A's and competition news!