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USC Viterbi’s AeroDesign Team takes 6th place

| May 4, 2018

The student-led model aircraft team places 6th at the AIAA international Design Build Fly competition

The 2017-18 USC AeroDesign Team with the plane “SCkywalker.” Photo/USC AeroDesign Team

After a weekend of tough competition and uncooperative weather, the USC AeroDesign Team finished in sixth place at the international Design Build Fly competition on April 19-22 in Wichita, Kansas.

The annual student competition, hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in collaboration with Raytheon Missile Systems and Cessna, invites university teams to create a remote-controlled model aircraft based off of a specific brief. This year, teams were tasked with building a dual-purpose plane that could function as both a regional and business aircraft. As such, planes had to carry bouncy ball “passengers” as well as blocks representing a “payload” during flights around the course.

The team’s plane “SCkywalker” keeping dry under an umbrella between missions. Photo/USC AeroDesign Team

“The field was competitive, bringing a wide array of solutions to flight. But all top entries focused on building the smallest possible aircraft that they thought would withstand the Wichita winds,” said Charles Radovich, team’s academic advisor and senior lecturer in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

Throughout the weekend, the constant winds, reaching speeds up to 20 mph, were interrupted only by rain. After being ranked first for their design report and third for their rated aircraft cost, the team successfully completed the first and second missions despite the weather and were poised to take home first place for the second year in a row.

However, on the final day of competition, at their first attempt at the third mission, their plane had a catastrophic crash. They had just a few hours to rebuild their entire plane before the event ended. They finished with just 30 minutes to spare and began their second attempt at the mission. However, during a 360-degree turn, their plane once again plummeted to the ground.

Out of the 88 competing teams, they took home sixth place. “To say the least, it was a very heated finish to a competitive event!” Radovich said.

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