The University of Kentucky Design/Build/Fly (DBF) team’s “Blue Dawn” competed against nearly 100 student teams from around the world in the 2011 Cessna Aircraft Company/Raytheon Missile Systems Design/Build/Fly Competition at TIMPA Field in Tucson, AZ April 15-17. This was the 15th year the competition was held.
Each year, teams must design a lightweight aircraft to successfully complete three missions.
The contest theme this year was a Soldier Portable Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The airplane had to fit in a commercially available suitcase meeting airline carry-on requirements. The first mission was a “dash to critical target” with no payload followed by an ammo re-supply mission (steel bar payload) and a medical supply mission (golf balls). The total score was the product of the flight score and written report score.
“To be successful at the DBF competition,” said team member Austin Lovan, “it is not enough to have excellent aerodynamic and structural designs. The team must also submit a 60-page technical report that is graded by industry experts to establish their position on the flight line. They must also be able to construct a lightweight, precise, rugged aircraft and then practice flying.”
The 2011 competition was only the third time the UK DBF team has competed and despite some mid-flight difficulties during their trial flights, recorded the best overall finish ever. The “Blue Dawn” team received 82.5% on their written report which earned them a flight line spot of 39th.
On Friday, “Blue Dawn” passed the technical inspection with flying colors and flew its first mission with a total of three laps. On Saturday, a crash occurred mid-flight during the steel bar payload mission. The team spent the next 10 hours or so in the hotel room rebuilding the plane. On Sunday, they came back with the rebuilt plane and passed the technical inspection again. Unfortunately, the plane crashed again mid-flight and there wasn’t enough time to rebuild before the end of the competition. Overall, UK’s “Blue Dawn” finished tied for 49th place with The Ohio State University.
“Many teams crashed and only 30 or so actually completed all three missions,” said Lovan. “Regardless, DBF for UK was an excellent opportunity for each team member to apply concepts from the classroom into designing, building and flying a complex system.”
For a short video of the team’s competition efforts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSzFsxFIK6w