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Queen’s students awarded for their life-saving autonomous plane technology

Two Teams from Queen’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (SMAE) have achieved podium finishes at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Unmanned Air System (UAS) Challenge.

The challenge engages University undergraduate and taught postgraduate teams in the design, construction, development and demonstration of an autonomously-controlled aircraft, and the final competition took place at the Snowdonia Aerospace Centre from 15 - 18 June 2019. 

Team Hibernica Liberandum (Irish rescue) finished second and team Flytanic finished third in the competition. Both teams were competing with a starting field of 32 entrants from across the world.

Their aircraft were developed and constructed as part of their third year aerospace engineering module in Aircraft Design at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (SMAE).

Team Flytanic were also awarded two commendations by the IMechE judges. The first was from the competition’s Scrutineering team who recognised them for the excellent build quality of their aircraft, and the second acknowledged the novelty of the tailor made transport and deployment container which was developed for their aircraft.

With a Maximum Take-off Mass of 6.9 kg, and operating within Visual Line of Sight the unmanned aircraft is designed to undertake a representative humanitarian aid mission delivering water and / or a medical kit. The system has to operate automatically, including take-off and landing, and perform a series of tasks including area search; navigating waypoints; accurately dropping aid packages; and returning to base via a defined route. 

Queen’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering integrates the development of remotely controlled and autonomous systems within its curriculum to ensure that graduates are fully equipped with the skillsets required to meet the demand for skilled engineers to drive the ongoing sectoral growth in UAS systems.

Dr Joe Butterfield, lecturer from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who has been working closely with the students throughout the competition process, said: “Considering the quality of the other competition entrants, this is a fantastic achievement for both of our teams.  Their prizes are just reward for the effort that they have put in since they started their UAS Challenge journey in October of 2018 when they were tasked to develop their aircraft designs from scratch, based on the IMechE competition specification. 

“It is also an excellent example of how the ’design build’ philosophy which has been adopted across all of our SMAE undergraduate degree programmes directly impacts the quality of our engineers across disciplines. This approach ensures that they can excel in the company of our national and international institutional comparators.”