Stanford sub 5KG UAV

The record attempt was made by a group of graduate students who took a course this spring in the Aero/Astro Department at Stanford University. This year the goal for the course was to design a small UAV to beat the remote control altitude record (~11, 000 ft). There were four teams of 4-5 students that had 10 weeks to go from a blank sheet of paper to a successful vehicle. The autopilot and propulsion system were provided, but the teams had to write their own control software and design/build the vehicles. The only sensor allowed was GPS (+ an barometric pressure sensor for the record attempt). At the end of the class in June there was  a flyoff where the teams had to demonstrate their vehicles by repeatedly climbing between 50 ft and 400 ft (to stay within FAA regulations). All four team succeed in demonstrating greater than 10,000 ft of cumulative altitude gain. A few students continued working on the project over the summer, culminating in a world record altitude attempt a couple weeks ago at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. The altitude record attempt was for an autonomously controlled electrically powered UAV weighing less than 5kg, FAI Category U.2a Group 2. The news article gives a good account of the record attempt flights. The record altitude was 2177 m (7142 ft), which ended up being limited by winds aloft, not battery energy. Only about 40% of the charge was used getting to the record altitude.

By Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.