The Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ (IMechE) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Challenge 2023 has now come to a close, with DC micromotor manufacturer maxon participating in judging the event. 19 teams took part at this year’s annual autonomous aircraft competition for universities from around the world. The UAS Challenge was sponsored by maxon, which provides propulsion systems to the global unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market.

The competition tasked university entrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, with the design, build, and flight of unmanned aerial systems capable of autonomous control. Teams entered various aircraft designs, including fixed wing, helicopter, and quadcopter.

Over 10 awards were given with categories including design, environment, airworthiness, and business proposition. The overall competition award combined UAS development as well as flight, with Istanbul Technical University winning the Grand Champion award, the University of Surrey in runner up position, and Loughborough University taking third place.

The UAS Challenge 2023 fly-off took place between 26 and 29 June at British Model Flying Association Buckminster, Lincolnshire. The event included UAS scrutineering and assessment, including speed and ease of aircraft assembly, to demonstrate real-life usability. Teams also entered their designs in a virtual flight sim before participating in actual flying missions that simulated humanitarian  aid package drops.

The flight assessment, which contributed 500 points to the 800 available in total, was based on evaluation of autonomous flight. Flight assessment criteria included takeoff, flight with navigation to given waypoints, accurate payload drop, as well as landing.

maxon engineer Matthew Dean, who is also a highly experienced model aircraft developer, was selected by the IMechE to judge the UAS Challenge.

“Judging the flight stage comprised the precision of take off, flight, and landing. Airworthiness was also assessed, and to compare flight efficiency, the battery was monitored pre- and post-flight,” says Matthew. “The various aircraft designs demonstrated strengths and weaknesses for each assessment category, and each UAS relied on DC motor propulsion.”

Each entry was based on £1,000 budget, plus submission of a business proposal to potentially turn designs into manufactured aircraft production.

“As a result of the maxon Young Engineers Programme, over the years we’ve supported many university projects, enabling them to progress their designs by providing motion development experience and expertise, as well as motors, gearboxes, feedback, and control systems,” says Matthew.

Tested according to aerospace standards, maxon’s UAV propulsion systems comprise BLDC (brushless DC) motors, ESCs, and propellers. Tested over hundreds of real-life projects in the most demanding arenas, these motion systems provide high thrust, high power density, optimal efficiency, and long lifetime for the best environmental resistance.

“The UAS Challenge is a great way for universities to gain real-world experience of UAV development and flight. We’re keen to assist universities achieve their objectives, and we encourage them to consider the benefits of participation in the maxon Young Engineers Programme.”

Registration for the 2024 10-year anniversary of the UAS Challenge is open in September 2023. Find out how to gain the support of maxon’s Young Engineers Programme.