Momentum - February 2021 - 8

Student Generation
simple question we had asked ourselves in the
beginning that started it all: could we compete at
AeroConnect 2020? 
Back in November 2019, I stumbled across an
advertisement for this competition and was
immediately enthralled by the idea of it: design a
system of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to
support fire-fighting missions in California. In light
of circumstances at the time, mainly the
Australian bushfires, this seemed like a call to
action to help solve a pressing global issue.
Excited by the idea of a new project, I soon took it
up with my team and to my surprise, it was met
with hesitation. They were rightfully worried that
the design of this UAV system would be too
complicated, given how much we already had on
our plates. This was because several months
earlier we had set our sights on a completely
different SAE competition (SAE Aero Design
West, Advanced Class), and all our resources were
directed towards it. Suddenly shifting our focus
and increasing our scope in the middle of the fall
semester would be an incredibly difficult task.
Nevertheless, we took this idea of a new
project seriously and started to review the
competition rules. It soon became apparent that
our experience building similar surveillance
drones for a capstone project would lend itself
well to a project of this nature. This seemed like
the perfect opportunity to figure out how well
our previous experience would carry over in a
competitive setting. With that in mind, we set our
sights on competing in the first ever
AeroConnect Challenge. 
 As we were starting to work on our overall
design, we quickly realized that there were some
major obstacles ahead of us. The first was the
fact that we had never actually designed a plane
to operate in conditions as dangerous as the
ones we faced. We had no idea how we were
supposed to accurately find the fire front. In
addition to that, we didn't know how we were
going to send any of the data that we could get a
hold of to ground crews and fire suppression
aircraft. Not to mention that all this had to be
done autonomously in a fifty nautical mile
operation radius without visual line of sight. It
seemed like there were too many questions we
needed to answer in too little time. We soon
found ourselves overwhelmed and understaffed
at this point, so we started to rapidly recruit
people to help us find solutions to our design
 With a larger team that was better equipped
to handle the tasks ahead of us, we decided to
split our focus down the middle. There would be

8 February 2021

Landing gear and propulsion assemblies mounted to the fuselage during manufacturing.
Materials were provided by ICARUS Aerospace.

A CAD model highlighting the modular design of the UAV.
two sub-teams for this project, one for the mechanical design and one for
the electrical/software design. We then began to solve our first major
problem-seeing the fire. While we would perform grid searches of the
mission area to roughly find where the fire was, we quickly figured out that
a standard camera wouldn't be able to see through the smoke produced by
an active forest fire, preventing us from locating it accurately.
In order to see through the smoke, our best option was to use an infrared
(IR) camera. The IR camera also needed to capture specific wavelengths of
light to stop us from picking up noise from unrelated heat signatures such



Momentum - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Momentum - February 2021

Momentum - February 2021 - Cover1
Momentum - February 2021 - Cover2
Momentum - February 2021 - 1
Momentum - February 2021 - 2
Momentum - February 2021 - 3
Momentum - February 2021 - 4
Momentum - February 2021 - 5
Momentum - February 2021 - 6
Momentum - February 2021 - 7
Momentum - February 2021 - 8
Momentum - February 2021 - 9
Momentum - February 2021 - 10
Momentum - February 2021 - 11
Momentum - February 2021 - 12
Momentum - February 2021 - 13
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Momentum - February 2021 - 15
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