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  • Writer's picturegingerlau

Vertical Flight Society Drone Design Competition

Updated: Aug 30

Course: ME393 Senior Projects with Prof. Wootton, Prof. Luchtenburg, Mike Giglia, and Prof. Baglione

Purpose: To design and develop an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) drone for the 2023 VFS Design-Build-Vertical Flight Competition. Our team used computer-aided design, simulations, and physical testing to optimize flight range, speed, payload, and autonomous navigation. The flying wing hybrid drone features technical and sustainable innovations that deliver exceptional aerodynamic efficiency and maneuverability.

Key skills used:

  • Knowledge of aerodynamics and propulsion

  • Aircraft stability and flight performance analysis using Python

  • Structural Analysis using ANSYS and XFLR5

  • Mechanica design and fab using Rhino3D and Solidworks

  • Manufacturing with XPS foam, carbon fiber, and thermoplastics

  • Recycled PLA Innovations (reference another project, ReCOOP)

  • Web Design Cargo and CSS

  • Budgeting and leadership

The Cooper Union first team aerial vehicle team placed in the top 5 teams for VFS’s 2023 preliminary design report. We were unable to compete at the flight competition in June but look forward to supporting Cooper Union's future teams.

***Checkout the Project Website I built for this project (here) ***

Within the realm of aerial vehicles, small-scale vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drones provide advantageous capabilities — long-range efficient flight, exceptional speed and maneuverability, payload capacity, and autonomous navigation — all without requiring a runway. These capabilities enable VTOL aerial vehicles to quickly transfer payloads in areas difficult to access without a runway, for emergency military, medical, or search-and-rescue situations. CUAV joined the 2022-2023 VFS Design-Build-Vertical Flight Competition in hopes of exploring and innovating VTOL technologies through a competitive environment.

Pictured: The 2023 Cooper Union Aerial Vehicle Team: Alsu F., Kameron W., Prof. Wootton, Ginger L., and Andrew K.

The competition features a flight course for electric aircraft to navigate through, completing as many laps as possible within a time limit. CUAV aims to design, fabricate, and test a VTOL drone capable of piloted and autonomous flight, carrying a sufficient payload across the competition course. In order to achieve this, the team must design a suitable aircraft, develop manufacturing and testing methods, and demonstrate technical innovations.

To begin the project, the team performed many design trade studies which involved immense background research in mission requirements, existing drone technologies, and configuration selection. After much deliberation, the blended wing final configuration was chosen and evaluated for aerodynamics and structural stability using ANSYS, XFLR5, and Python. I focused on running structural simulations to analyze material selections and weight distributions for stable flight.

The controls and autonomy teams focused on motor efficiency and thrust generation while balancing weight, power, and budget constraints.

Controls Schematic

Together, the team delivered an innovative drone design highlighting reflexed airfoils and recycled material landing gear to spearhead the competition.

This project would not be possible without the generous guidance of Prof. David Wootton, Prof. Luchtenburg, and Mike Giglia.

Capstone Poster:

Cooper Union Final Technical Report VFS Design Build Flight Comp 2023.docx
Download PDF • 8.57MB

Ginger Lau Senior Project Preliminary Design Report
Download PDF • 6.01MB

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