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The University of Southampton

Students reach for the skies to beat European competition

Published: 7 January 2009
Unmanned Air Vehicle
The award-winning UAV in action

High-flying students from the University of Southampton have beaten universities from across Europe to win an international design competition.

The six students, from the University’s School of Engineering Sciences won a cash prize in an industry sponsored European UAV (unmanned air vehicle) competition for designing, building and flying a UAV.

The team successfully test flew their design at Draycott Airfield, near Swindon, and were judged by an industry panel to have produced the most professional approach and to have made the most progress towards fully autonomous flight.

Uniquely amongst the competitors, the University’s UAV was equipped with an autopilot and control system, developed by PhD students at the University. A telemetry link provided the team with very accurate real-time flight data including altitude, airspeed and control surface movements. Using this, the competition students were able to compare actual performance with design predictions based on computational fluid dynamic analysis and wind tunnel experimentation.

The team, which consisted of James Basham, Garry Battams, Kelvin Cheung, Will Simpson, Neil White and Patrick Yau, were supervised by Professors Jim Scanlan and Andy Keane.

Professor Scanlan comments: “There is explosive growth in the use of unmanned systems, particularly in civilian applications such as weather forecasting, surveying, traffic monitoring and agricultural applications. These applications demand low-cost solutions which the students have been able to demonstrate. These students did a fantastic job in tackling a difficult multidisciplinary task and the skills they displayed are exactly what the aerospace industry now demand in high-flying graduates.”

The latest Research Assessment Exercise confirms Southampton’s position as one of the UK’s top engineering universities. The University joins Imperial College and the University of Cambridge in a ‘golden triangle’ of engineering research excellence, as the top three institutions in the country for their range and quality of engineering.

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