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NC State Soars in Aerial Robotics

An 11-member team of students from NC State’s Aerial Robotics Club finished first overall at the 12th annual Student Unmanned Air Systems Competition, held last week at Patuxent River, Maryland. The competition, sponsored by the Seafarer Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, featured 28 aviation clubs from around the world.

Led by team captain R.J. Gritter, a rising senior in aerospace engineering, the NC State team finished first in both the journal-writing and safety elements of the competition and was second in the flight element. Last year, the NC State team finished second. It last won the competition in 2010.

NC State has participated in the event every year since its inception. Also placing in the top five were teams from Cornell and Kansas State, along with international teams from India and Israel.

This year’s flight mission featured new requirements, including adding an infrared imagery system that required identifying infrared targets on the ground. It also added an air-drop task, which required dropping a plastic egg from the plane to a target on the ground.

“Many of the mission goals tend to be the same year to year,” Gritter said. “These always include flight autonomy, imagery of targets on the ground and in-flight retasking. This year, however, the organizers added several new requirements that added a significant challenge. Nearly all goals are optional and include a couple levels of achievement, and many teams choose to focus on a subset of them.

“Our team chose to tackle nearly every objective to the highest level, and through a year of hard work, dedication and a lot of testing, we excelled in nearly every objective.”

The team used a custom-built red-and-white plane on a Fenrir UAS frame with a 10-foot wingspan, built by club members over the course of the 2013-14 academic year.

In addition to Gritter, the team included imagery leader Michael Pratt, autopilot leader Lindsey Reed, flightline director Jesse Crouch and other members Justin Easter, Kim Nguyen, Alex Shaver, Joe Hodkiewicz, Alan Hilliard and Matthew Tompkins.

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