Southampton University survive last minute scare to take UAS gong

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Five final year masters of engineering students from the University of Southampton have beaten 13 other undergraduate teams to be crowned overall winners of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Challenge.

The annual event encourages teams of undergraduates to undertake a full design and build cycle of a UAS with specific mission objectives from September 2014 – before competing in a final ‘fly-off’ and judging on 1st and 2nd July 2015.

Victory for the South Coast team was, however, in doubt after their fixed wing aircraft crashed on a test flight just days before the final set of judging.

James Thomas, group member of the University of Southampton UAS team, said:

“Before the crash we were confident of our chances. We had prepared well and our aircraft was performing extremely well. The crash changed everything and we were very close to giving up but we were reluctant to abandon almost a year’s work and, with the help of University staff and some very late nights, we rebuilt the aircraft and managed to put together a reasonable airframe.

“It’s been extremely rewarding to be a part of such a talented and motivated team of people. I’ve learnt an awful lot and gained hugely valuable experience that I will take forward with me through my career.”

John Turton, Chairman of the UAS Challenge, said:

“The event has three key aims; recruitment opportunities for industry, employment opportunities for soon-to-be graduates and a proving ground for innovation.

“The Challenge will assist students to learn practical aerospace engineering skills for industry, prepare aerospace engineering students for industry employment and encourage links between industry and universities.

“The competition directly supports the Institution’s objectives of inspiring young people about engineering and developing awareness of engineering and profile of the Institution.  All five of the Institution’s key themes Energy, Environment, Transport, Manufacturing and Education are promoted through this work.”

The competition bridges the gap between academia and industry in developing applied UAS-related activities, giving students the perfect opportunity to strengthen links with industry and enhance employment opportunities.

The final results of the competition saw the University of Southampton crowned as overall grand champions. Winners of the other categories were:

  • Design – Loughborough University
  • Most Viable Business Proposition – Loughborough University
  • Safety and Airworthiness – University of Nottingham
  • Autonomous/Automatic Operations – University of Southampton
  • Manufacturing – Liverpool University
  • Flying Operations – University of Southampton
  • Most Promise – Sheffield Hallam University (with a mention for University of Swansea).