College’s Aero SAE teams soar at national competition

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By Xavier Quinn Contributing Writer This past weekend the Union College SAE Aero advanced and micro teams travelled down to Lakeland, Florida, to compete in a multinational competition. Both teams have spent the past school year designing and building a plane for the class of the competition they were going to compete in, as have hundreds of other students from across the world. Each class of the competition has different stipulations and scoring systems, and the planes are designed accordingly. The advanced class has to carry several large weights around a lap of a field, and then drop the weights as close to a target as possible. These planes tend to be quite large, with the average wingspan at competition being around seven to eight feet in length. A large variety of designs where present, including carbon fiber planes, planes with two motors, balsa planes, and foam-core planes. Union’s advanced team had a design made from balsa, aluminum, carbon fiber, and plastic coating on the wings and tail. Their plane also included a camera with a live stream to help identify the correct time to drop their payload. The micro class on the other hand only has to complete a single lap, but their scoring is based on how heavy a payload they can carry in relation to their planes weight. They must also design their plane to fit within a six-inch diameter tube, with the shortest length possible. Many hours of research on the best foil shape, wing length, and fuselage size resulted in Union’s micro competition plane, which had a wingspan of thirty-two inches, carried a max payload of 1.8 pounds, and folded down into a tube 17 inches long. During competition, both teams had their share of problems. During the first advanced round there was an issue with transmitting and receiving data from the plane to the pilot, which could have been due to interference from other teams channels. Because of this, the plane could not be flown until a few rounds later, where these issues had been sorted. The plane gracefully took off, and gently soared into the sky, until it was about to complete its first turn, when it inexplicably plummeted to the ground, completely shattering the wings, and ruining the engine. The advanced team rushed to assemble the spare plane they had brought, and managed to complete it and get back on the runway a couple of rounds later. Unfortunately the exact same thing happened, and their second plane was wrecked. They then began assembling a third plane using whatever parts could be scavenged, and a set of wings that was only meant to be a prototype. It was around this point that it was discovered that the remote control receiver they had been using only had a range of around 100 meters, and the third plane was built with a much more advanced receiver system. Sadly, this was never tested to its full potential, as right off the runway, the salvaged tail control broke, and the plane did a loop-d-loop, then crashed nose first into the ground. The micro team had brought a total of six planes worth of parts, as they are quick enough to manufacture, and were planning on testing the limits of the payload weight. The first flight was done with a relatively light payload of around 1.7 pounds, and was completed without any issues. For the second round, the payload was increased dramatically, and the plane immediately flipped upside down and crashed upon launch. According to SAE’s rules, at least 50% of the plane must be the same for your previous scores to not be erased, so the micro team carefully repaired every bit of the ruined plane except for the fuselage, and was able to complete another successful round. The plane later broke twice more during landings, but again everything but the fuselage was painstaking repaired, and the plane was able to fly for all rounds. Union’s micro team ended up in 4th for flight scores overall, and first out of teams from the United States.

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