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The University of Southampton

High-flying engineering students impress by building two UAVs for international clients

Published: 29 June 2018

Final-year University of Southampton engineering students, led by Zackary Rowland, tackled two complex challenges for their 2018 Group Design Projects.

One assignment was to design and build an autonomous plane for their sponsors, the French aerospace company Thales. The second involved working with students from Arizona State University (ASU) on another UAV entered for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Design Build Fly international flying competition in Wichita, Kansas.

Both were successful. The aircraft for Thales achieved its objectives and was filmed at the University’s Air Show and the American plane came second for its flying score at the contest, beating 133 other entries, despite light winds on the day.

“Time management was a major issue for us,” explains Zach, who is studying MEng Aeronautics and Astronautics. “Final year is extremely busy and we had modules to complete and exams to take as well as the project work. Building two aircraft – one in the USA - took a lot of time and we needed to be well-organised.”

The rest of the team were Daniel Barker (MEng Aeronautics and Astronautics), Hirad Goudarzi (MEng Aeronautics and Astronautics), Harvey Graver (MEng Mechanical Engineering), Low Eng Hong (MEng Aeronautics and Astronautics), Ong Sheng Kai (MEng Aeronautics and Astronautics) and Joel Jobelson Soh Andu (MEng Mechanical Engineering)

“Both projects enabled us to put our aerospace knowledge into practice. Only one of us had worked on a practical University UAV project before so we had a lot to learn in a short time. We worked hard, starting from scratch, to build a plane that could take off, fly a circuit and land safely and achieved our aim,” says Zach.

In the second project, the team developed a prototype passenger carrying aircraft at Southampton then Zach and Dan Barker went out to Phoenix to work alongside the ASU students on the contest entry. Fellow group member Joel Jobelson Soh Andu flew it in Kansas.

“Collaborating with American students to build a plane for a flying contest made this a unique and challenging international project. Time was tight and many of the other groups had far more experience and resources than we did and I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved,” says Dan.

Zach’s leadership of the Group Design Project has been recognised by the European Space Agency which has given him a job after graduation. “I’m going to join the ESA in Holland this summer as a Young Graduate Trainee, thanks in part to my experience managing this project. It’s my dream job and I’m looking forward to getting started in my career in space exploration.”

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