Publish Date: 15.05.2018

Category: News from the University

Students of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Ljubljana ranked 4th at the Design/Build/Fly (DBF) competition in Wichita, United States of America, which took place from 19 to 22 April 2018.

At the competition, which is annually sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the students designed, built and participated in a flyoff of a remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle. The competition attracted as much as 91 teams from around the world, with the first place going to the Clarkson University, followed by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Georgia Institute of Technology.

In a matter of months, the team from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of UL, under the mentorship of doc. dr. Viktor Šajn and ass. prof. dr. Tadej Kosel, constructed and built an aircraft, which was required to transport passengers (bouncy balls) and cargo (payload blocks). The aircraft was one of the most technologically-advanced products at the competition, reaching speeds of more than 100 km/h. The aircraft was made from sandwich-structured composite materials (two plies of carbon fibres and a honeycomb core).

Under the guidance of Rok Štante, the team received a 90-percent report score, which is the best result since the Faculty has been participating in the competition (the best team received a 93.20-percent report score). The mechanical engineering students thoroughly prepare themselves for the DBF competition every year, which is reflected in excellent results: in 2015 they won and in 2017 they ranked 3rd.

The DBF competition lasts 4 days. On day 1, aircrafts undergo tech inspection, where the judges carefully verify if an aircraft meets the rules of fabrication, which includes the check of radio and electronic components and battery weight. This is followed by three missions or tasks the aircraft must successfully complete. To complete the first mission, the aircraft was required to fly three laps in five minutes without passengers and cargo, for the second mission the aircraft carried passengers (bouncy balls), while payload blocks were added for the third mission. On all three missions, the aircraft was controlled by the mechanical engineering student, Timotej Hofbauer, who described the experience as follows: “Flying an aircraft was very challenging this year, because we built a model, which was not easy to control, while we also had to fight strong wind and rain. We also saw a lot of accidents and problems the other teams had because of strong gusts of wind or poor fabrication of models. I am glad we completed all three missions without any faults, which is, of course, very encouraging, because it shows that the team was really well-prepared.”