The Institution of Mechanical Engineers organizes the UAS Challenge 2021 to encourage further innovation in the field of drone technology. During this event, teams of undergraduates from all over the world take part. DroneTeam Twente is one of the 30 teams that attend in this year’s edition. They have been working hard on their design, and hope to make it an award-winning one!
DroneTeam Twente is participating in the UAS Challenge with their newly developed drone, an Unmanned Aerial System that is designed to perform fully autonomous flight regardless of ground conditions. At the moment the first prototype, called Spark, is ready for flight and the second prototype is already underway. “In earlier designs, we have used a tilt motor mechanism. Now we’re trying out a totally new design”, says Dick Dekker, Technical Manager of the team. “Spark is a drone which has mixed both plane and quadcopter technology. With the quadcopter technology, the drone is able to take off and land vertically, and with the aircraft technology it is possible to achieve high speeds over long distances”. This is still a relatively new application, therefore the UAS Challenge will be a great moment for the team to test their design.
The UAS Challenge
The UAS Challenge is a humanitarian drone competition where the idea is to help people in case of disasters. The mission is to autonomously deliver a package to a defined location. The faster you are able to deliver it, and the more payload you can take with you, the more points you will score. Secondly, additional tasks consisting of a speed trial, during which the drone needs to scan the ground for ground markers, and an area search, where the drone needs to search in a defined area for a specific ground marker. In this way, the drone can map a disaster area and people could ask for help using these markers. Combining all these features, a drone could be deployed during a disaster to help both the disaster relievers, by mapping the area, and the people in need by bringing supplies and detecting them.
For every task, the team can score points, and the one with the most ones wins the award!
On the 14 and 15 of June, the virtual event takes place, in which the teams will practically fly ‘over the internet’. By using X-plane, a flight simulation software, the team has rebuilt their model into the computer. The jury is able to control the drone in judge the flight characteristics of it. Based on the submitted drone design and its surrounding business and innovation model the drone will be judged and the points will be divided.
However, the DroneTeam is still developing a physical drone and therefore hopes the physical event will still take place.
Hopefully, depending on how the corona pandemic develops, the physical event will take place on the 14 and 15 of July at the BMFA Buckminster (the British Model Flying Association), located in Grantham, UK. During this live competition, all teams come together to compete in a 'real' mission. This mission consists of a disaster area, wherein they need to deliver a package. Again, the better the team performs in the mission, the more points they can score. During this event, they have to carry out different mission tasks, such as take-off, payload carriage & delivery, and a speed challenge.
If due to COVID-19 the event won’t take place, DroneTeam Twente will look into the possibility to organize their own event at the Airport Twente with Space53, in which they will still perform the flight mission.
Transport4Transport is a Dutch non-profit organization that provides bicycle ambulances for developing villages in Africa, for instance in Malawi. However, Malawi has been suffering from severe flooding, which makes it sometimes impossible for these ambulances to find the right location. Therefore Transport4Transport invited DroneTeam Twente to test their drone to map the areas surrounding those villages. The updated map will help development organizations such as Transport4Transport to locate more villages and reach more people with aid, which they sometimes need urgently.
Next to mapping the areas in Malawi, DroneTeam Twente is also testing to send aid packages directly to the disaster location by drone. “When a patient has for example an allergic reaction, an epi-pen is immediately needed. Bicycle ambulances cannot easily reach the location due to flooding. Our drone can cover a long distance in a short time, so it can be of great added value in this area”.
Due to corona, it’s still uncertain when the team is going to travel to Malawi.