Engineering Students Beat Elite Universities from Around the World to Secure a Victory in the DBF Competition in America

date: 18.04.2019

category: Sporočila za javnost


Ljubljana, April 17 2019 – A team of 17 students from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Ljubljana achieved a convincing victory at the Design/Build/Fly (DBF) competition in the United States of America in the field of operating a remote-controlled unmanned aircraft. They have succeeded in designing and building an immensely fast and light composite aircraft that can reach speeds of over 100 km/h and is capable of flying at the competitive speed for more than 10 minutes. They won the competition amongst 100 participating universities and managed to beat prestigious universities such as MIT, Stanford University, University of Southern California, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Hong Kong, Virginia Tech…

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) invites university students to design and build radio-controlled unmanned aircrafts every year. This year, the competition ran from April 11 to April 14 2019 in Tucson, Arizona, and the team of students from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Ljubljana took part in it under the mentorship of doc. dr. Viktor Šajn.

They have been preparing for the event for more than six months, building a model aircraft with a radio that could take off of an aircraft carrier. In addition to restrictions on dimensions, the instructions also required folding wings that automatically open, as well as the possibility of rotating the radar and dropping bombs. They were required to build an aircraft that could carry as much “bombs” as possible and at the same time be incredibly fast, able to take off of a 3-meter ramp, and be quickly prepared for take-off. The team, led by the engineering student Timotej Hofbauer, decided to build the aircraft entirely from composites with the help from sponsors Pipistrel, Akrapovič, and Zavod404. 

We have been building the aircraft for more than half a year and committed more than 2000 hours of work to it. We succeeded in building an incredibly fast and light composite aircraft that can reach speeds of over 100 km/h and is capable of flying at the competitive speed for more than 10 minutes. The aircraft, ready to fly, weighs approximately 9 kg, of which 35 % constitute the batteries alone. It can carry 18 “bombs” and has a wing span of 2.5 meters,said Hofbauer, who operated the aircraft, about the technical specifications.

The competition that almost stretched into the desert was comprised of three air and three ground missions.  They were extremely fast in the latter case, owing to the wing opening system that works according to the principle of torsion springs. The first task in the air confirmed that the aircraft was capable of completing three laps. On the second task, they managed to beat all the other universities because of the excellent surface of the aircraft, finishing the three laps with the installed radar in 1:29 minutes. The third task brought them the highest number of points. “This is where we built our lead. We successfully completed a record 18 laps and dropped 18 “bombs” in 10 minutes, four laps more than the runner-up team. This made us the absolute winners,” said Hofbauer and added that they were also surprised to achieve such a lead. “We were all very surprised at the fact that we were able to create such a lead in regards to the other universities.”

The dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, prof. dr. Mitjan Kalin, was also very pleased with the excellent result. “The team's success is the product of knowledge, diligence, and hard work. I am very pleased with and proud of the fact that students are able to reach the very top despite the disparity in the material conditions between universities. Here at the Faculty, we try to provide for our students to the best of our abilities”.


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