(Updated 12/20/2016 - Added Q&A's)
Some of the excited 2016 participants!
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 eighth competition will be held in April 2017.
There are three participant categories:
Teams with alumni or graduate members participate in the professional category.
A successful design is well understood and properly developed from the beginning. Don’t let someone create a better overall design than you. Use aerospace engineering principles and methods to win!
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.
This year's design competition is for a “Lightweight High-Speed Emergency Relief UAV." The mission profile includes the following:
Competing planes must meet the following requirements and constraints:
The exact flying location will be announced in the spring. The dimensions are approximately 400x100-ft. Planes are expected to fly within this area at all times. The takeoff, landing, and payload drop zone is in the middle of the course, with turns approximately 300-ft apart. Competition day takeoffs and landings are on grass, not from a prepared hard-surface runway.
The competition mission score (MSCR) is calculated, when successful, using the following equation,
M = (100/MT) + (VR) + (6/CO) + DAS
The Mission Time (MT), in seconds, starts the moment the plane is launched and ends when the plane successfully lands in the designated zone. The value is rounded to the nearest second.
As noted previously, all aircraft components, the battery, and the payload must fit into a rectangular deployment container. The smallest volume container is desired. A related (volume ratio) scoring parameter is given as,
VR = (130/container volume)
The container volume is rounded to the nearest cubic inch.
Vehicle cost is heavily influenced by electronic and control system complexity. As a result, a vehicle complexity/cost scoring parameter is given as:
CO = number of actuators, Electronic Speed Controls (ESCs), & motors utilized
A payload of emergency supplies, simulated by one (1) regulation size/weight tennis ball, must be delivered during the third lap within a roughly 30x30-ft square target zone. A Delivery Accuracy Score (DAS) is defined as follows:
DAS = 1, if the ball settles within the 30x30-ft zone, but outside a 20x20-ft zone
DAS = 2, if the ball settles within the 20x20-ft zone, but outside a 10x10-ft zone
DAS = 5, if the ball lands within the 10x10-ft zone
Balls may land, roll or bounce into a zone. The final resting place determines the score.
The team score is then calculated as,
TSCR = M – S
The team’s best mission score is used in the final TSCR calculation. “S” is the total number of “strikes” incurred by the team during the entire competition. The highest TSCR wins!
A team strike is given if the mission fails in any way. Specifically, the mission fails if:
Teams that crash or sustain significant damage due to “acts of nature” (i.e., extreme weather, bird strike, etc.) will not be assessed a strike, unless Dr. Miller determines the problem was due to design/engineering/preparation/execution issues.
Obviously, you should avoid receiving strikes at all cost. A good team effectively utilizes sound design methods, engineering principles, construction techniques, and preparation to achieve mission success. Don’t undervalue the beauty of simplicity within your efforts.
Keep in mind that proper engineering is not about trial and error or playing around until you find something that works as good as you can discover. Work very hard to keep a zero strike count. Employ engineering methods and prepare!
All aircraft must pass a structural test prior to first flight. As a result, all vehicles must include provisions for quickly installing a WSU structural test fixture.
The WSU test fixture and hole mounting dimensions are the same as those used to mount models in the 3x4-ft low speed wind tunnel and are given in the following document (click here for information on the "mount hole pattern," found on page 1, top-rt side). Aircraft must include blind nuts, to allow for easy and quick installation of the test fixture (using only screws).
A dead weight load, equal to the aircraft weight, will be applied through the test fixture. The vehicle will be suspended by no more than 1-inch of the wing tips during the test. Vehicles breaking during the test are not eligible to compete.
The planes will be relatively inexpensive to build. Some teams may be eligible for limited AE department assistance to help build their plane (e.g., radio gear, motor, assorted supplies, laser/foam cutting, etc.). However, support must be requested, prearranged, and approved at least 3-weeks before the competition.
Additionally, as mentioned, the department will do what it can to provide mentors to help less experienced teams. Contact Dr. Miller for further information on support and mentor opportunities.
As mentioned in the previous section, the AE department may be able to supply teams with components to build their planes. Here is some basic information on the most commonly utilized Receiver (RX), Engine Speed Control (ESC), and Servos:
There are other (riskier) options, but we typically have lots of these components available to use.
Proper battery selection is an important part of your design efforts. Unfortunately, battery labels can be a bit misleading. Conservative design selections are often wise. The best way to know is to test the batteries. Unfortunately, this is not always a viable cost option.
WSU has used two LiPo battery packs previously. Test data for these are available for download:
Perhaps these packs (if still available) will work for your design. If not, at least you get a sense of how the packs behave (worse than the label suggest).
Eligible WSU students, especially seniors, might be able to gain “Engineer of 2020” service-learning credit. These opportunities must be prearranged. Contact Dr. Miller for further information.
Visit this section regularly for official Questions and Answers (Q&A’s) that can have an impact on your design efforts.
Q1: Are rotary wing aircraft (e.g., helicopters or quad-rotors) okay to compete?
A1: No, rotary wing aircraft are not allowed. (8/24/16)
Q2: Can the payload, simulated by one (1) regulation size/weight tennis ball, be modified (cut up, deflated, etc.)?
A2: No, the tennis ball payload cannot be modified in any way. It must remain a tennis ball (ready to play).
Q3: Can we utilize fabric or any other type of flexible material for the aircraft box?
A3: The aircraft container can be made of any desired material. However, notable bumps, bulges, or deviations in container cross-section or aspect ratio as specified are not allowed. (10/11/16)
Q4: Can we use accelerometers or other systems to improve the stability characteristics of our airplane? If so, would it increase the complexity score? Would more accelerometers result in a higher complexity score?
A4: Stability augmentation or autopilot systems are allowed if they are designed and built by the team (i.e., not off-the-shelf systems). Since the design complexity and cost is increased the control system will be counted as a single actuator. (10/11/16)
Q5: Can we use composite components (e.g., graphite tubes) to build parts of our plane?
A5: No, the plane must be made from commonly available model aircraft materials (e.g., balsa wood, basswood, spruce, foam) – nothing exotic. (10/11/16)
Q6: Can we use aluminum tubes (e.g., arrow shafts) to build parts of our plane?
A6: No, the plane must be made from commonly available model aircraft materials (e.g., balsa wood, basswood, spruce, foam) – nothing exotic. (10/21/16)
Q7: Can teams make multiple flight attempts during the competition, in order to improve their mission score?
A7: Yes, multiple flights are allowed to improve the mission score. However, keep in mind that failure to complete a mission attempt results in a strike.
Q8: How are scores from multiple mission flights used to calculate the final team score?
A8: The best result for all successful missions flown (minus the number of strikes incurred during the entire competition) is used to determine the final team score.
Q9: Do two or more battery packs wired in parallel (or series) count as a single battery?
A9: No, two or more battery packs wired in parallel (or series) count as two or more battery packs.
Q10: Can I modify battery packs, build my own, or use exotic/special packs?
A10: No, the battery pack must be off-the-shelf, from commonly available model aircraft sources, unmodified, and safe.
Remember to check this area regularly! Contact Dr. Miller, by email, with questions - email@example.com
Special thanks go to WSU alumni and friends who provided ideas and suggestions for this year’s competition, including some at the Lockheed Skunk Works.
Contact Dr. Miller, by email, with questions - firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a Bronze Propeller competition flyer you can print, post, and share (click here)
Team Shock Drop won the 2016 Bronze Propeller Competition! Congratulations to the following WSU undergraduate students (L-to-R in photo):
Their names will be placed on the historic Bronze Propeller Trophy, located in the WSU Aerospace Engineering office.
Team Shock Drop - the 2016 Campions!
The complete competition results are as follows:
Team Just Wing It - 2nd Place
Team I-Drone - 3rd Place
Team Cloud - 4th Place
Jonathan Mowrey (left) - The Bronze Propeller test pilot (an amazing pilot!)
Be sure to visit this page often; don't miss important competition information and news!