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MUST creates buzz as newest club for UAV enthusiasts

A gold model airplane.

Even though it was only their second appearance, the Mizzou Unmanned Systems Team was able to place in the middle of the pack, ahead of several veterans of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle System Foundation’s student competition such as CalPoly and Virginia Commonwealth. Photo courtesy of MUST.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have made some exciting headlines recently. With Amazon’s drone delivery announcement, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hurricane-hunting Global Hawk drones and Pix4D’s new affordable 3D-mapping UAV software, it seems as if unmanned robotics may be one of the next big innovations in tech.

In the MU College of Engineering, several students enthusiastically are crafting unmanned aerial vehicles of their own. MUST, or Mizzou Unmanned Systems Team, began its third semester last fall, with seven new members eager to fly UAVs of their own. After several months of build sessions and scrapped designs, it was finally time to test their first single-rotor plane. As each of the 20 or-so members cascaded down to Hinkson Field with what would eventually become their competition build, a nervous excitement was in the air.

MUST members discuss adjustments to their plane.

For those interested in knowing more about MUST, email president Aaron Scantlin at ScantlinA@missouri.edu. Or, Scantlin recommended, just show up at one of the team’s meetings.

“Everything is a learning experience,” said MUST president Aaron Scantlin, a graduate student in information science and learning technologies. “We are out here to develop an understanding of [UAV’s] limitations, but also see that there are still a ton of great possibilities.”

The first test was not a complete success, but the team learned from their mistakes and readied the plane for their annual competition in the spring, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle System Foundation’s student competition in California, Md. Even though it was only their second appearance, they were able to place in the middle of the pack, ahead of several veterans of the competition such as CalPoly and Virginia Commonwealth.

“The coolest part of the competition wasn’t just that we were able to do fairly well, or that there were some notable schools there,” Scantlin said, naming Purdue, Mississippi State, Rutgers and NC State, along with several international teams as examples. “The coolest part was actually the atmosphere. It seemed like everyone was just excited to be there — all of the teams were helping each other out, being very social. There was an objective of total success between the teams that was really refreshing to see.”

In addition to the yearly competition build, members of the team also work on their own projects. One of the freshman members last fall bought his own multi-rotor kit and the upperclassmen helped him turn it into a working quadcopter. During the spring, he was able to build another multi-rotor from scratch, which was fondly dubbed “The Batwing.”

The team also has built several “training crafts” that they often take to one of their practice fields to fly. These are especially important for instructing newer members on the mechanics of flying a UAV.

MUST meets once a week during the semester; the location and time will be determined in the next few weeks. The first meeting every month is usually business, with the remaining being devoted to designing and building. There are currently no dues

For those interested in knowing more about MUST, email Scantlin at ScantlinA@missouri.edu. Or, Scantlin recommended, just show up at one of the team’s meetings. Everyone is encouraged to join; the team has a fair share of engineering students but also has had members from the College of Arts and Science and the School of Law.