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Haggis Aerospace Journey through ImechE UAS Challenge 2022

The challenge tasks us with making Drones capable of accomplishing humanitarian missions. We try to participate every year and made an article about the design of a UAS last year as well, Check it out!

So what did we do this year? Follow us on the walkthrough of our journey and you’ll see a rough guide on how to design a carbon fibre UAV, what to and not do and how we fared in the challenge!!

Challenge overview

So, what exactly do we need to do in the challenge? We’ll there is a 30-page document you can read thru in your spare time if you wish, but long story short: The challenge consists of a core mission and additional tasks that provide extra points. Who gets the most points – wins. There are also extra categories which are awarded to teams who do the best at those, they are:

Grand Champion, Virtual Champion, Innovation, Design, Scrutineering, Safety, Airworthiness, Operational Supportability, Business Proposition, Most Promise, Highest place new entrant, Media and Engagement.

Main Mission consists of your Drone being assembled in a short period of time, taking off autonomously with a payload, dropping said payload to a specified coordinate, performing a climb and glide to determine efficiency and land. Additionally, you may perform an endurance test and area search mission.

As you can see, there are a lot of categories to aim for. Our team decided to aim for endurance and design. Since all tasks of the mission need to be completed within 15 minutes (including optional ones), and endurance is judged by the distance flown, we decided to focus our design on speed, designing a drone that is quite different from most of the competition. Since everyone is optimising for efficiency, their drones tend to have huge wing spans and they fly quite slowly. Our drone was a lot more compact and fast, which also should have given us an edge in the business proposition part of the challenge. Another thing that we specified before doing the design is that we want to make the drone out of carbon fibre. For no particular reason, we just thought it was cool and would be a fun experience. The fact that at CF was also a lot lighter and stronger was a cherry on top.

With the main idea set, we began design…

Design

The rough parameters are set, but there are still a lot of parameters that need to be determined for a clear design approach. There are quite a few, but not to bore you too much, the main ones are the size, propulsion position and the actual glide and take-off speeds. Oh also we wanted to try V-toll, again for funzies mostly, but also if V-tol works, it provides many advantages such as no need for a strong landing gear and that the wings can be optimised for cruise only, no need for take-off. But, that’s if V-tol works.

Anyway, here’s our rough design concept.

rough design concept

After that, we started designing each individual part as precisely as we could. A lot of parameters are really tied to each other, for example, the prop size determines the tail size, since it has to fit between the spars, the wing thickness needs to both fit aerodynamically and to fit all the components. I won’t go into too much detail, but if you want a full report of how we designed it, leave a comment.

As before we used XFLR5 to do a basic Wing analysis and choose a wing shape. After that, we used SolidWorks to design everything. What we got was this:

CAD Design

My tip is to never leave something undesigned. If there is time, put in each bolt and screw as that will help with unforeseen situations in assembly.

Speaking of assembly

Manufacturing

This part can be split into 2 major parts, easy and hard. The easy ones were 3D printing, laser cutting and just cutting spars to size. The harder one was Carbon fibre. We went with a positive mould approach and a wet lay-up method of fibre, meaning we made moulds out of foam, covered them in dry carbon fibre and applied resin to them, and then repeated. This was mostly quite annoying, cuz there is resin everywhere, and it's harder to later extract the foam from the part. The part is not perfectly smooth as well. Despite this, our results were a lot better than we could have expected, the parts were incredibly light and strong:

Manufacturing the wing

Manufacturing the body of fibre glass

Fitting all the electronics wasn’t too big of an issue since we pre-planned that and made special connectors for attaching everything quickly

Wiring

In the end, we got something looking like this:

Final build

Final build on runway

Now, not everything went very smooth…

Issues

Unfortunately, We had 2 major problems during the development. First, our uni was still finishing renovations after our workshop meaning we could only start working about 3 months after the semester started, which gave us a big setback. And due to a new Health and safety manager, we basically couldn’t do anything without resubmitting risk assessments (which were lost lol). So when it came to actual manufacturing, we had to do that in personal spaces like bedrooms and balconies.

2nd – we were low on people, only about 5 people contributed to the project. Not much could have been done with that. Despite all that, once exams were done, the manufacturing could finally begin. The actual building took about a month and had to be finished at the challenge. This means our maiden fight was basically at the challenge itself.

The challenge itself

At the challenge, we took a day to finish manufacturing and managed to pass scrutineering. At the Flightline, we managed to take-off! For about 5 seconds. The Ailerons of our plane turned out to be too small and didn’t provide enough control, and the plane did a cartwheel. Still, the carbon fibre fuselage and wings took the hit and didn’t break, only the 3D printed parts did, and 1 spar. We definitely learned a lot and will participate next year with more human resources hopefully! Thanks for reading, and if you got any questions leave them in the comments!

back to the drawing boards

UAS team at University of Dundee
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