By Hamarz Aryfar
The challenge for this year’s 157A competition was to build the fastest drag racing autonomous airplane. The race course was seven meters long and with a one meter tall barrier at the finish line. A wireless transmitter started the race. Thereafter, the airplanes had to fly completely autonomously over the barrier. The students were provided with a battery, motor, propeller, and micro-controller that they had to integrate into their design. Outside of the provided materials, the students had a $100 budget for any other parts they might need. The since the propulsion system was fixed for all vehicles, the team that could minimize drag while still making it over the one meter barrier would ultimately win the competition. The concepts covered include aerodynamics, controls and stability, design optimization, solid mechanics, programming in C, and fabrication techniques.
There were 42 students split into five teams in total. All teams completed their vehicles and competed in the final. The final consisted of three solo flight time trials. The two teams with the fastest times (Team Panda and Team Free Willy) competed head to head in the final race. Team Panda ultimate won the competition with a healthy lead and a course time of 1.86 s.