M-FLY, an interdisciplinary student team dedicated to designing competitive aircraft, brought two of its planes to the 2016 SAE Aero Design Competition East in Fort Worth, Texas in March. Entering both the regular and advanced class competitions, Jacob Gersh, Sophia Mehdizadeh, and Vaibhav Parashar, electrical engineering students, helped the team finish top 10 in both categories, including a first-place oral competition finish.
M-FLY’s two aircraft, its regular class entry the M-8 and its advanced class entry the MX-1, were designed for different competition goals. Regular class entries set out to lift the heaviest payload possible, and are scored on the weight of the payload. The advanced class adds to this the ability to drop off a payload accurately.
This is the first year M-FLY has taken a plane to the advanced class, where the aircraft do fancier flights and are allowed to incorporate more complex materials and sensors. According to the SAE, the ultimate end goal for the advanced class is autonomous flight with a "purpose" decided every year by rules committee members.
"Entry in this class opened up a lot of opportunities for EE students on the team," said Sophia Mehdizadeh. Unlike the regular class aircraft, this plane was designed with an extensive system of electronics and sensors, such as a first person view camera, a payload drop mechanism, an altimeter, and also an on-board radio and arduino for processing and sending data.
In addition to the hardware, the Sensors and Systems sub-team also coded a custom graphical user interface for the team to use as a ground station to read the altitude information sent from the aircraft.
Sophia was responsible for designing a custom printed circuit board for the Sensors and Systems team. "This project helped me find my interests within Electrical Engineering," she says, "and I really enjoyed the process."
Both competitions are based on three judged portions: a written design report, an oral presentation, and a flying stage.
M-FLY’s MX-1 earned 5th place overall, and performed well in both the written design report and the oral presentation. The design report took 9th place out of 19 teams, and the oral presentation received 1st place.
The regular class team performed well in all aspects of competition; the M-8 took 8th place within its class, along with 16th place for the presentation portion and 5th in the design report.