Aero Team ILK AGH UST third time in most prestigious aviation competition in the world

photos - archives of Aero Team ILK AGH UST

On 21-23 April, 2017, for the third time the Aero Team ILK AGH UST  will compete against teams from all over the world in the most prestigious competition for aviation engineers SAE Aero Design, which this year will take place in Lakeland, Florida.  

The aim of the competition, judged by the representatives of the American Space Agency NASA, as well as the experts of such aviation concerns as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is to build an unmanned flying platform, the so-called “cargo plane”. Similarly to the previous years, the competition will be divided into three categories: Micro, Regular, and Advanced.  

In the most demanding category “Advanced”, which will be entered by the AGH UST representatives, the only limitation of the design is the engine capacity of 7.5 cm3. The competition consists in flying the plane at the height of 30 metres and dropping packages into specified targets, which are located on the ground. Additionally, the construction needs to have a minimal kerb weight so that it can lift the highest possible load. 

“During the competition, we can load the plane with as many packages as possible. Each package dropped near the target constitutes a multiplier of the points. The more packages are dropped closer to the targets, the more points we can gather, therefore this year we are planning to take 10 packages. The entire plane may weigh up to 25 kg – according to the Polish regulations, as well as the American law, it is a value below which a plane need not be registered as an aircraft. An additional loading is a metal bar, which also gives us a certain number of points, and taking bags (packages) on board we can multiply the weight of the bar. The final score is a result of the points awarded for the metal bar plus a multiplier for each package,” says Adrian Stępień. 

The plane is built entirely of composite materials, with the use of negative moulds. It is the same technology as in the case of real composite planes, which makes it possible to reduce weight and increase the strength of the entire construction. The wing is made of a sandwich-structured composite, i.e. a layer of fabric, a core, and again a layer of carbon fabric. Thanks to this solution, the wing is empty inside, and the plane is very light. Currently, it is a technology that enables fabricating lighter elements at maintaining suitable stiffness. Although in contemporary unmanned aircraft electric engines are used because of lower vibrations and higher reliability, in this particular construction – due to the regulations of the competition – a combustion engine has been installed. On the other hand, the entire airframe has been designed and built by the AGH UST students. The plane also uses ready-made components such as the engine, the electronic systems, e.g. servo-mechanisms, or the autopilot module. 

This year, the project has been carried out by eight students: Tomasz Frąk, Adrian Stępień, Sylwester Kurneta, Szymon Byrtek, Paula Wojciechowska, Piotr Kotlinowski, Tomasz Nowiński, and Denis Gad, in collaboration with Łukasz Wojakowski. The supervisor of the team is professor Tadeusz Uhl, head of the Department of Robotics and Mechatronics. 

The team is supported by a large number of sponsors who provide the constructors with the necessary materials; the list of sponsors includes Solid Works, New Era Materials, TeXtreme, Evonik, Vladmir’s Model, CarboLine, Axson, and Sika. The young engineers also collaborate with the Technische Universität Dresden and its Institute of Lightweight Engineering. 

Taking part in this year’s competition would not be possible without the financial support of the university authorities from the “Rector’s Grant”, as well as the support of the Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics. 

SAE Aero Design has been organised for 30 years by the Society of Automotive Engineering. This year, the competition hosts over 70 teams from all over the world, for example, the United States, Canada, Mexico, India, Brazil, and Turkey. Among the teams from Poland there are also the representatives of the Warsaw University of Technology and the Rzeszow University of Technology.