This year another team participated in the AUVSI Student UAS Competition held in Webster Field, Maryland, USA. Compared to 2011 and 2012, the competition was much stiffer this year. There was a record number of teams competing -- 35, 32 of whom flew and only 7 of whom crashed. Out of these, 5 were VTOL-style crafts like our hexacopter. Of the VTOL-style aircraft, all five flew but four crashed. Three of the VTOLs were multirotor, one was autogyro, and the only one that didn't crash was a large off-the-shelf single-rotor helicopter from Kansas State.
Friday the USU team was one of the last called to fly. The hexacopter had a good takeoff but had trouble flying autonomously, so a time out was taken after 10 minutes to fly the next day (no penalty). After fixing the problem in the flight plan, the hexacopter was flown and tested at 6am the next day before returning to the field.
On Saturday the winds on the ground were a breezy 8-10knots but well under the competition takeoff limit of 20knts (the USU's hexacopter had been successfully tested for autonomous flight in 30knt winds prior to the competition). Takeoff was smooth and the autonomous navigation mode worked perfectly. The hexacopter flew well for more than 8 minutes and successfully navigated 6 waypoints out of 9 despite faster winds aloft. The furthest point of the flight path was more than 700 meters away, and an altitude of 150 meters. As the craft returned to the base area and approached waypoint 7, there were very gusty winds estimated between 35 and 40knts. The aircraft leaned into these winds at high throttle for more than 30 seconds before experiencing a motor failure and falling to the ground. Half of the total course was completed before the winds ended the mission. Sadly, due to the crash, the payload computer was totally destroyed and no images were recovered or targets recognized.
The 2013 USU AUVSI team placed 2nd of out of 5 VTOLs. If the flight been in the same conditions as Kansas State or even some of the fixed-wing teams, we would have finished the mission and placed much higher overall. Total prize money was $1000 (flight, autonomous navigation, auto takeoff and landing). The team as a whole felt that it went well considering the weather conditions and they are confident that had the winds been below the 20 or even 30knt the hexacopter would have successfully completed the mission. Of the three multi-rotor aircraft USU's easily performed the best. The team is also excited to apply what was learned and continue to improve the AggieAir VTOL platform.
Congratulations to the antenna pointer senior design team (Jarret and Ishmaal) for finalizing their design, and successfully presentijng it to Water Lab representatives and to the Senior Design professors.
Communications Antenna Pointer senior design team formed
Monday, January 7, 2013
The senior design team UAV CAP was formed to create ground station equipment that can point a directional antenna at the UAV in flight. This capability will extend the line of sight range to over 5 miles. The antenna pointer will also measure weather data at the launch site. The senior design class ends December 2013.
UAV CAP team members: Jarret Bone, Ishmaal Erikson