MU Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Team flies right at competition
The Mizzou Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Team pulled out a 14th place overall finish out of 33 teams at the Association For Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Student Unmanned Air Systems competition held from June 18 to 21 at Webster Field naval air facility in Maryland.
The building team, which consisted of 10 students, assembled a radio-controlled plane with a nearly seven-foot wingspan. The craft was powered by a 30 cc gas engine — equivalent to the type of engine found in a weed trimmer — and contained an autopilot system, global positioning system, navigation system, cameras and an on-board computer.
The Mizzou squad was able to complete six of the possible “prize barrel” objectives: those with a cash completion prize. MU received one for participation, then earned five more for flight, auto takeoff, auto landing, auto navigation and for completing an air drop of a small plastic egg onto a target, earning the team total of $1,300.
“You go to a competition, and the tasks you complete, you get cash for. So you don’t have to finish first, second or third to get cash,” Mizzou UAV Team president Jason Shelby said.
“Some of the things we attempted were the first time we’d ever attempted them,” he said. “Our autonomous landing, we had never done one before. But it was at the end of the mission, and we figured, ‘Oh, we don’t need the plane after this. Let’s try it.’ And it went perfectly.”
For the overall standings, teams were ranked in three areas — flight, oral presentation and written journal. Flight rank was the team’s main area of focus and Mizzou finished ninth in that category. They ranked 16th in oral presentation and 27th in the written journal competition.
“[The flight competition] was pretty much our main focus,” Shelby said. “Our paper, it was a good paper, but it got turned in about 30 minutes late, so I think we got automatically a 20 percent deduction on that.”
The competition brought together students from the MU Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and IT Program. UAV team faculty advisor Professor Ahmed Sherif El-Gizawy’s students, and students under the guidance of IT Associate Teaching Professor Dale Musser and Matthew Dickinson, computer science system administrator and IT instructor, collaborating on various aspects of construction.
The event also provided a chance for the Mizzou UAV Team to mingle with and see how it stacked up against not only schools from around the U.S., but the world. Most competitors were at the collegiate level with a couple of high school teams filling out the field. Participating teams also came from India, Canada, Israel and Turkey, among others.
“It’s always fun to go out there and have that purpose and be representing the school,” Shelby said. “And then it’s fun to compare yours with other schools. And this year I think we ended up a lot bigger and a lot cooler than some of the other planes, so we’re pretty proud of that. And it’s always fun meeting all the foreign and international teams.”