USU’s unmanned aerial vehicle team takes national competition

Press Release LOGAN — Students from Utah State University’s College of Engineering seem to be proving a point in recent months to the nation’s other engineering programs. The college’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Team just took the first-place prize at the 7th Annual Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Student Unmanned Aerial Systems Competition in Maryland against many of the top programs in the nation and even from around the world. That first-place award comes just after the USU rocket team took top prizes at NASA’s 2008-2009 University Student Launch Initiative in May. The rocket team also won “Best Vehicle Design” and the “Project Review Award.” Looking to improve from last year’s second-place performance, Team USU’s Open Source Autonomous Miniature Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Team (OSAM-UAV, pronounced “awesome U-A-V”) received the highest score in competition history. The team also won the first prize in flight performance, first in journal paper and third in the Test Review Design presentation. “The team nailed the competition,” said team leader Chris Hall. “We had an excellent flight and were very organized, even ready to take care of problems on the fly. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a direct result of the amount of preparation, testing, and forethought we put into the project. Our team really deserved to win, and we won very definitively.” There were teams registered from Canada, India, Puerto Rico and the United States, including teams from the University of California at Los Angeles, University of Texas, Cornell University, University of Delhi, MIT and University of Alberta. In the recent competition, USU’s OSAM-UAV received $14,000 in prize money and an invitation to visit Patuxent River Naval Base for a tour of the Global Hawk UAV. “This first place award is one of the indicators of our research excellence in unmanned aerial vehicle research programs that we have been building since 2006,” said faculty advisor YangQuan Chen, an associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering. “Research excellence can be achieved when faculty spend quality time with students and research team building.” The purpose of the competition was for undergraduate students to work with and build Unmanned Aerial Systems capable of flying waypoints, covering search areas, real-time target recognition and in-flight re-tasking with an emphasis on producing these results quickly and efficiently. “This year the competition was more competitive than ever before, with the majority of the teams capable of flight and many of the targets successfully identified by the different teams,” said Hall. The team designed and built a robotic airplane or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle capable of flying autonomously along a pre-defined flight path, while transmitting flight information and images to a ground control station, where targets from the images were located and their GPS coordinates reported to the judges. Targets for the competition consisted of plywood shapes with a letter on them. Collectively the targets spelled out “Semper Fi #1.” Team USU OSAM-UAV identified all of the targets in the allotted time. The team began this project in July 2008 and worked on it continuously throughout the school year, with weekly team meetings to discuss progress and make decisions. “The competition is a motivation to speed up our research progress and an opportunity to test ourselves against competitors in the whole United States, or even around the world,” said graduate supervisor Haiyang Chao. In the overall competition, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and University of California at San Diego tied for second, and University of West Florida placed fourth. “The competition gave us the opportunity to make contacts with people who work higher up in the aerospace and UAV industry and to see many of the UAVs the government is currently using,” said Hall. “AUVSI-UAS competition has really helped prepare us to work as engineers in teams.” Team members of USU OSAM-UAV are: Chris Hall – Team Leader, Yiding Han, Long Di, Daniel Morgan, Cal Coopmans, Haiyang Chao- Graduate Supervisor (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Aaron Avery, Jeffery Anderson, Kaylon Anderson (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) and YangQuan Chen – Faculty Advisor.

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