TU team in US fly & spy competition

Aerospace Engineering students are competing for the best autonomous flying and long-term observing robot. The UAVForge competition will be held on a hilly training site in Georgia from May 9 to 19.

Crew pilot Dieter Castelein hovers the Atmos. (Photo: Jos Wassink)
Crew pilot Dieter Castelein hovers the Atmos. (Photo: Jos Wassink)

The mission for the eight students is to fly their unmanned air vehicle (UAV) to a three-story building 3.5 kilometres away, land on the building and observe the square in front of it for three hours, then take-off and fly back to base over a preset route containing various obstacles. If you think of it, the complexity is staggering because the Atmos (Autonomous Transition Multi-rotor Observation Vehicle) will mostly be out of site of its pilot and must operate largely on its own. This includes landing on the edge of a high building.

Two weeks back, the students demonstrated their prototype in the airplane hall at the AE faculty. It looked like a vertical wing on legs with two small electrical engines at the tips and two larger ones in the middle. Once they all started turning, the machine lifted-off vertically and hovered stationary.

The really smart trick though is its ability to fly. The vertical wings then tilt over and provide lift from the air speed. This means the large engines can be switched off. The transition to flight not only makes Atmos much faster (35–75 km/h) than most of its competitors, which are mainly based on the quadrotor principle with four engines actively providing lift, but Atmos also flies much more efficiently.

The students developed the tilting wing design for their BSc design synthesis exercise, an assignment that was set up by Rick Ruijsink (MSc) and Bart Remes (MSc), who were both involved in the development of the well-known miniature UAV Delfly. The mission they designed had striking similarities with the challenge the US defence research agency Darpa presented in its UAVForge competition. Originally, 140 teams enlisted, with 58 teams short-listed and only 12 ultimately chosen to fly the mission in Georgia. The TU students will be squaring off against teams from MIT, Shanghai and India, to name a few. Check the sites for the latest news.

www.uavforge.net
www.teamatmos.nl
youtu.be/aCec6PsFYx4


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