Student Ingenuity Takes Off in Unmanned Plane Contest
UAV is a growing technology, with applications that include reconnaissance, border patrol and communications, Behler said. UAVs controlled from California are flying over Iraq, he said.
But failure was part of the UAV competition learning process. Two teams, including one from the University of Texas at Arlington, could not compete because their UAVs crashed in a practice run.
In the case of Polytechnic University, the UAV failed to meet one requirement: autonomous flight. When working properly, the UAVs in the competition are controlled by preprogrammed flight plans that they are able to follow by exchanging signals with Global Positioning System devices.
The Polytechnic plane nose-dived as the team tried to shift into autonomous flight, forcing team members to revert to manual control for the rest of the mission.
North Carolina State team members also had to manually fly their UAV, which was a backup plane, after the UAV on which they had worked for more than a year crashed two weeks earlier in a practice run, Angermuller said.
Angermuller, who also took part in the competition last year, said his participation has led to a job with an aerospace company.
"There is no way I would have gotten this job if I hadn't been here," he said.
The potential opportunities yielded by the competition attracted the Turkish team.
"We feel quite relaxed here," said Goekhan Koyuncu, a graduate student. "Everybody seems almost at the same level."
Judging was based on a scoring system that evaluated each team's 20-page paper, an oral presentation and the flight. Criteria included takeoff, autonomous control, waypoint navigation and efficiency.
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