Passion takes flight

The scene is tense. Several team members are huddled together over a test bed that holds bolted motors. The blue led of the computerized tachometer is dim in comparison to the sunlight flooding the room. As the last of the connectors is fastened, preparations are deemed complete. Slowly, my fingers grip the throttle stick on the receiver and I slide it up a trifle. The motor roars to life . And although we know it begins on the ground today, the sky has no limits.

A triumphant feeling grips the little crowd of engineering students, who see months’ worth of effort and research bearing fruit. The next steps, they realize, are simple. It is just a matter of assembly and test validation. They need hands more than minds now. Through the eerie of the applause, I reflect on our journey.

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Fuselage is constructed by infusing layers of carbon fibre, ensuring rigidity, strength and premium quality.

We started off as an IMechE UAS Challenge entrant, where we are set to represent Queen Mary among numerous other national and international universities, all competing to claim the throne title of Grand Champion. The challenge itself focuses on market gaps for unmanned systems, of which active and passive reconnaissance, as well as remote payload delivery seem two of the most essential and desirable qualities of an autonomous unmanned system. During the brainstorming for the design of the UA System, we identified a hybrid quad-plane would not only be able to take off and land vertically, but would also endure for hours using a gas engine.

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The fuselage prototype with space for GoPro gimbal under the nose

Although an excellent idea, we were genuinely surprised that such a simple combination of two seemingly dominant technologies have never been commercialized. This meant recognition for innovation at the challenge, but it also meant uncharted avenues for commercialization all set to bring the future we dream of, even closer. The concept has been around for a while and is a genius culmination of agility as well as versatility. It is indeed a concept, that is set to revolutionize the drone industry we know of today. Capable of lifting increased payloads from a fixed spot vertically and swiftly transporting them through air horizontally, the drone finds applications in agriculture, transport and delivery systems (TDS), lengthy reconnaissance, military industry; you name it. And were leading the game.

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