March Madness is hitting the drone world as six collegiate teams compete for $35,000 in a drone-design showdown.
The FirePoint C3 Challenge is an inaugural competition in which the teams vie for a “final four” phase. The four winning teams will collaborate to design and fabricate an integrated drone prototype to be presented to the U.S. Army next year.
Presented by the FirePoint Innovations Center at Wichita State University and sponsored by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center, the challenge develops new UAV innovation as well as up-and-coming STEM talent. Teams work within one of three areas — lift, energy or airframe.
“We essentially gave them a blue-sky mandate—they could propose anything they wanted within those three functional areas—and we’re eager to see how these concepts evolve and come together to benefit the Army’s technology pipeline,” said Steve Cyrus, Manager of Technology Collaborations with FirePoint.
- Buhler High School Science Club (Wichita) – a lift concept that leverages the Cartesian diver principle to float a safe, hydrogen-filled envelope, providing whisper-quiet operation with no energy to maintain altitude for the UAV.
- Team Innovating Shockers (Wichita State University) – a concept combining a conventional wing design with a circular airfoil design to provide UAV lift.
- Team Shocker UAVs (Wichita State University) – a concept that focuses on leveraging advanced, digital manufacturing methods to construct a next-generation airframe for the UAV.
- Team Vol Air (University of Tennessee) – the team will demonstrate how a process called compression overmolding with a 3D printed lattice can be used to rapidly build durable carbon fiber airframes with cutting edge bullet resistance for military-grade UAVs.
- Team UAH Chargers (University of Alabama-Huntsville) – the concept for airframe design leverages a closed-cell foam material fabricated on a hot-wire foam cutting machine to quickly manufacture structural components for rapid construction and deployment of on-demand, mission-tailored UAVs.
- Pistol Pete’s Propulsion Posse (Oklahoma State University) – a proposed propulsion system, called a turboelectric power system, combines battery power with electrical power generated by a gas turbine coupled to an electric generator.
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