UC Team Places First at Regional Drone Competition

By:    Brandon Pytel
Date: June 8, 2018

UC aerospace students placed first in the vertical takeoff and landing section of the Ohio Space Grant Consortium’s UAV Competition.

image of drone with award

The University of Cincinnati team designed and programmed this drone to navigate a successful mission.

drone in the sky

The UC drone in action.

A team of University of Cincinnati (UC) aerospace engineering students placed first at the Ohio Space Grant Consortium’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Competition.

The competition, which took place in Fairborn and Yellow Springs over Memorial Day weekend, is designed to provide students with “an introduction to applications of UAS aircraft, as well as hands-on training in flying such aircraft.”

The competition consisted of an oral presentation and a flying portion. Teams across Ohio could test two types of vehicles: vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and solar-powered aircraft.

The UC team competed in the vertical takeoff and landing section. They designed, built and tested a drone that flew autonomously for nearly 38 minutes. The drone took off, completed several laps and landed, all at the push of a button.

“The novelty here was figuring out the path to fly and how to navigate that path,” said aerospace engineering graduate student Justin Ouwerkerk.

laptop on consul outside.

The UC team used this control system to plan the mission.

The team used Flymaster Ground Control Software, a system designed by UC graduate student Anthony Lamping, to autonomously control multiple classes and unmanned aircraft platforms simultaneously. Ouwerkerk designed the platforms the team used. By using their own designs, the students could easily integrate custom features when preparing for the competition.

Since the students completed all the programming and path designing before the competition, once the drone took off, all they could do was sit back and watch the aircraft navigate the pre-programmed mission. As planned, the drone was successful.

Aerospace engineering professor and department head Kelly Cohen, PhD, advised the team, which consisted of three undergraduate and two graduate students.

“Professor Cohen gave us the support and freedom to explore the boundaries of our capabilities for this project,” said Ouwerkerk. “By reinforcing his belief in our systems, we overcame a series of unexpected setbacks, which would have normally ended the system development.”

In the future, local governments hope to apply this technology to emergency response systems. Part of the competition goals, therefore, was to test the practical application of these aircrafts. In addition to completing the flight requirements, each aircraft had to carry a medical supply box payload.

The UC team’s success is one step forward in this exciting, emerging field. Thanks to competitions like this, autonomous and operational drones may soon takeoff, soaring into our daily lives.