International Engineering Ambassadors
Insight into the life & course of international students.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Sheffield Opportunities: The UAS Challenge

By Wai Keat, Lau (Lucas) 

For weeks now, a group of talented students have been gathering in the SIMURQ lab beneath the Frederick Mappin Building. These men and women are the engineers of Sheffield, working together to forge an instrument of sophisticated technology, one that will revolutionise humanitarian relief efforts in the future.

After a cup of early morning coffee (or tea for our lovely British counterparts), you decided to catch up on current news on your favourite news site. What awaited you was the media being flooded with news of a devastating quake that had happened just a few hours ago halfway around the world. Though the runway at the city airport have been cleared and legions of international relief workers and stockades of supplies have begun to land, any feeling of relief may be premature.

With roads cracked and rails obstructed by debris, they’re rendered useless and unsafe for transporting relief workers and supplies. As a result, access to remote communities is nearly impossible in the short term. With water, energy and road networks disrupted, and infrastructure destroyed by the quake, vital resources such as water, food and medicine will soon run low. The clock is ticking, delaying the supplies will put lives at stake. What now?

The answer: a computer-controlled aerial vehicle that takes delivery into the skies, capable of zipping past any obstacles on the ground and delivering supplies quickly, efficiently and accurately. Our brilliant engineering students are delivering that very solution, creating a UAV of their own that will be entered into the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) challenge, an annual competition hosted by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The UAS Challenge

Presented with the scenario of a humanitarian disaster, the UAS Challenge provides an opportunity for students from universities across the UK to tread into the field of unmanned aviation, designing and manufacturing their very own fully autonomous drone for humanitarian purposes. While each team has their own unique approach to the challenge, each drone must be able to perform a series of intricate tasks, including area search, navigating through waypoints and delivering payloads with precision. Teams are given 9 months to design and manufacture their UAVs, after which their UAVs will be judged on a range of criteria at the final fly-off.
2015 design on the runway at Brundingthorpe

The University of Sheffield team

Sheffield UAV team at Brunthingthorpe
In July of 2015, the University of Sheffield team stepped onto the grounds of Brunthingthrope Aerodrome in Leicestershire with their drone at hand for the inaugural competition, facing off against 13 other teams from universities across the country. A testament to their engineering ingenuity and brilliance, the Sheffield team and their sleek carbon fibre quadcopter successfully claimed third place, in addition to awards for design, manufacturing and the business case. 

This year, we’re aiming to get first place by introducing cutting edge technology into the design of our UAV”, says Lewis Parsons, a 3rd-year mechanical engineering student and one of the two leaders of Sheffield’s UAV team.

In achieving this, the team is putting the university’s resources to good use. They’re utilising the expertise of university researchers, state-of-the-art equipment including 3D printers, and their cooperation with the Composite Systems Innovations Centre promises cutting edge techniques to be utilised in manufacturing.

Do you have what it takes?

For Lewis, his involvement in the UAS challenge was motivated by “the opportunity to work on developing current engineering research and solving a challenging engineering problem”. Indeed, this up and coming field of engineering is tempting to many enthusiasts and holds great potential for development. Are you interested in joining the ranks of the Sheffield UAS team?

Preflight checks before take off

The Sheffield UAS challenge promises a fruitful and rewarding experience to all its members. Depending on their preference, students may choose to work on one of the many sub-teams covering different aspects of UAV design, whether it be avionics, electronics, structures or payload delivery. Though it would be ideal for members joining the team to be pursuing an engineering degree, but do not be discouraged even if you aren't!

An engineering degree isn’t the nail in the coffin for prospective members looking to join the team. We have had physical science students that help out with the UAV design, even business students interested in the business side of the engineering helped out with the business case.” says Ilgit Ercan, second leader of the Sheffield UAS challenge team.

It is the interest in engineering technology, enthusiasm and ability to commit that we look for in members

Team manufacturing a carbon fibre I beam in the lab
In return, members willing to take on the challenge are rewarded with extensive specialist knowledge on UAV design, opportunities to network with academics and industrial partners, plus an impressive activity to be included in their CVs! New members with little background knowledge can expect to be directly involved in the design of the UAV as they’re expected to gain knowledge through research. Students’ willing to step up and undertake advanced tasks will also be provided with the learning opportunity under the tutelage of an experienced member. 

This budding field of engineering has yet to reach its prime, and with its versatile nature the potential applications of UAVs are boundless. You, the student, could shape the future of unmanned aviation, will you grab this opportunity and take on the UAS challenge with us at Sheffield?

1 comment:

  1. really there have superb activity with Sheffield Opportunities. i m so much appreciate this kind of engineering technology, enthusiasm and ability. thanks for share this post.

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