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Vertical Flight Society announces winners of its second eVTOL Drone student competition

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.

eVTOL Insights Editorial

This article was compiled by the eVTOL Insights editorial team.

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