Georgia Tech teams shine at international airplane design competitions

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The weekend of April 12 was a busy one for a team of ASDL-led engineering students -- participants in two storied design competitions: the 2014 Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE) match-up in Marietta GA, and the 2014 AIAA Design/Build/Fly competition in Wichita, KS.

"It was a major undertaking by Georgia Tech and by AE that, on the same day, in two separate locations, we launched four different student-designed aircraft," said Dr. Dimitri Mavris, head of the Aerospace Systems Design Lab (ASDL) that oversaw both efforts. 

Supported by Rolls Royce, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, the GT team spent hundreds of hours designing, adjusting, and testing the vehicles before they set out for the competitions.

"Before they launched any of the SAE vehicles, they had to build prototypes," said Mavris. "They got up before dawn many mornings so they could test them. They ran more than 135 test flights before they competed."

In the SAE competition, Georgia Tech aerospace and mechanical engineering students competed against 71 teams from eight countries, placing first in one category, second in two others, and third overall in the “micro” class.

Going into the much-anticipated DBF match-up, the Georgia Tech plane was widely considered to be a strong contender for first place. It was the second lightest vehicle in the competition and was designed by a team that had bested the field more than once before.

With its signature "Buzz Gold" color and "angry eyes" windshield, this would have to be the Georgia Tech entry into the 2014 DBF Competition.

But windy weather proved too much of a challenge at Saturday’s take-off.

“It had a hard time moving forward because the winds were 30-35 miles an hour,” said Carl Johnson one of the ASDL research engineers who helped coordinate the competition.

“The irony is, one of our team members had researched wind conditions for Wichita over a 10-year period, calculating wind speed as a function of time so that we went in with a probability distribution that would tell us what the winds would be like at the time we launched. We had figured 5 to 25 miles, but it was actually a lot windier.”

The Empire Buzzes Back was the name of this plane, which came in second  for its written report in the regular class competition of the SAE International Competition.

Johnson and fellow ASDL research engineer David Moroniti said the entire team learned from its shortfalls and celebrated its victories.

“Everyone worked together on all four planes,” said Moroniti. “Our goal – our job – is to create the optimal - the best plane - so if someone had a strength in one area, he shared that on all of the teams.”

That approach worked well for the SAE, where the Georgia Tech team fielded winning submissions in three classes: micro, regular, and advanced.

In the advanced class, Georgia Tech’s “Return of the Buzzed” (Team #219) took home first place for its written design report.

In the regular class, Tech’s “The Empire Buzzes Back”(Team #27) received a second place award for its written design report.

Students took care to transport the planes to safety after their flights. This year's entries will become next year's teaching models for Georgia Tech's SAE teams.

And in the micro class, Tech’s “A New Buzz” (Team #301) took home second place in the category of maximum payload lifted (11.19 pounds, officially). This plane also took home "third place overall” in the micro category.

A longtime participant in both the SAE and DBT competitions, Georgia Tech has established a winning legacy that is the envy of many engineering schools around the country.

That's prompted the team to develop something of an attitude – one that does not kindly tolerate second place.

“I think our team is eager to take revenge next year,” said Johnson, with a hint of a smile on his face. “I don’t mean we need to do 'better.' I mean: we have to win.”

Go Jackets.

Most photos in this story were provided by Viktor Vik Hromyk



  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Britanny Grace
  • Created:07/15/2015
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016