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The University of Southampton

Engineering students overcome last minute crisis to win national competition

Published: 7 July 2015Origin: Engineering
The winning UAV in flight

Five final year Masters of Engineering students put in long hours in the workshop to take part in a national competition for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) after their fixed wing aircraft crashed on a test flight just days before the final.

Notes for editors

The students went on to beat 13 other teams in the two day contest organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) at Bruntingthorpe Airfield in Leicestershire.

“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,” says James Thomas who worked on the project with Michael Ladhams, Richard Whitehouse, Guy Morgan and Andrew Theobald.

“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,” adds James.

John Turton, from the IMechE comments: “The Challenge assists students to learn practical aerospace engineering skills for industry, prepare aerospace engineering students for employment and encourage links between industry and universities.”

The group had already won the University’s first annual Design Excellence Award for their Group Design Project involving the same fixed wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Among their design innovations which impressed the judges, team members came up with a new suspension system using memory foam and used 3D printing to integrate all the essential avionics within the tail.


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