An interdisciplinary team of students from the University of Missouri – Rolla took first place over Georgia Tech and the University of Alabama-Huntsville in an unmanned helicopter competition sponsored by the Redstone Chapter of the American Helicopter Society. The group of University of Missouri - Rolla students from multiple disciplines combined knowledge and experience to take on a new frontier in Unmanned Emergency Responders. Results of their efforts will not only expand UMR’s horizons for unmanned helicopter research and development, but could one day save lives.|
The team was organized in January of 2006 in response to an invitation sent out by the AHS Redstone Chapter to 30 universities nationwide. The Purpose of the competition is to encourage University Research and Development of small Vertical Take-Off & Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) to assist in accomplishing 1st Responder missions. 1st Responder missions are those accomplished by Police, Firefighting, and Search & Rescue organizations in emergency situations.
“Our ultimate goal of forming and nurturing student teams such as the First Responder Team is to inspire, engage and educate students in order to produce well-prepared graduates who quickly adapt to technical innovations and are more competitive and productive throughout their careers,” says team advisor Dr. Fathi Finaish, professor and associate chair of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UMR.
As the members of UMR’s recently established 1st Responder Design Team have learned, Unmanned Vehicle Systems are playing a rapidly increasing role in military and civilian applications. The team members recently attended the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Annual Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama. They attended as participants of the 1st Responder University Competition sponsored by the American Helicopter Society (AHS) Redstone Chapter (Huntsville).
The Objective of 1st Responder was to design and build small VTOL UAV Systems that can safely operate around and in buildings. These UAVs are intended to quickly conduct both preliminary building surveys and extended spot ground surveillance in geo constrained spaces. These emerging capabilities will allow 1st Responders to more efficiently complete their missions and bring VTOL Technology closer to home.
The competition was broken in three steps. Of the five teams selected for Step 2, which included: UMR, Wichita State University (WSU), Georgia Tech, and two teams from the University of Alabama – Huntsville (UAH), three teams were selected to participate in Step 3 (Apr 2007). Teams selected for Step 3 (UMR, UAH, and Georgia Tech) were awarded $5000 grants each to build their proposed designs and compete in a fly-off against the other selected teams. The mission of the 1st Responder during the fly-off is to navigate around a building and look into windows to view six inch letters posted on the inside of the window. The aircraft must be launched from a ground control station located 100 meters from the building, conduct the mission, and return to the ground control station. Scoring for Step 3 was evaluated on how quickly they record the numbers through the ground station, safely operate with both the least number of building ‘hits’ and operators as well as providing the lowest itemized cost to accomplish the mission.
In total the team was awarded $11,000 from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). With the help of this funding, the team plans to continue to further develop their system, adding new capabilities and performance. With the help of the Missouri Space Grant Consortium, the 1st Responders Team provided students with a chance to develop their own skills and knowledge, while developing potentially life saving technology.
~KYLE A. ZIMMER, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-ROLLA