The Vertical Flight Society (VFS) has announced the winners of its second annual Design-Build-Vertical Flight (DBVF) Student Competition, supported by ARL, and sponsored by Survice Engineering and Wisk Aero as Gold and Bronze sponsors.

The Ohio State University took first place, the University of Maryland second and the Pennsylvania State University third for the year-long competition, which culminated in a final fly-off last week, hosted by the US Army Research Lab (ARL) near Aberdeen, Maryland.

Nine universities from across North America participated, and a total of $5,000 was awarded. Six schools made it to the Final Technical Report submission on May 2, and five schools gave their final presentations at the end of May.

The challenge was to build an eVTOL aircraft capable of flying manually and autonomously, weighing no more than 15 lb (6.8 kg) and capable of carrying a payload of at least 2 lb (0.9 kg).

The final flight competition was held on 1-2 June at the Army Research Laboratory’s Robotics Research Collaboration Campus near Aberdeen, Maryland. The three teams that made it to the fly-off contended with 100°F heat, high humidity and gusting winds.

Last year’s fly-off was cancelled due to COVID-19 and this year’s competition was also made very difficult due to a recent Department of Defense (DoD) mandate that prevents the use of Chinese-made drone electronics.

Flying at the site required identifying and integrating non-standard, inferior and/or more expensive equipment in the weeks and days before the fly-off, scrubbing many teams from the competition.

VFS executive director Mike Hirschberg said: “Every team had to overcome formidable obstacles in this competition, and the students learned a tremendous amount.

“The Society is very grateful for the US Army’s support for this important educational initiative, as the future technical workforce is a critical need for advanced military and civil VTOL developments.”

In April, VFS announced three competitively selected engineering students at US minority-serving institutions for its inaugural 2022 DiversiFlite Scholars programme.

The programme selected the students for an all-expenses-paid trip to the VFS’ annual Forum, which is the largest and longest-running VTOL technical event in the world, comprising 225 technical papers from over 30 invited presentations by leaders in industry, academia and government, and nearly 80 exhibitors.