Ohio State’s Design/Build/Fly team receives 3rd highest final design report score
Each year, The Ohio State University’s Design/Build/Fly (DBF) team competes in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) DBF competition. While the location of the annual competition changes each year, the objective is always the same. Student teams are challenged to design a remote control aircraft that meets AIAA’s strict set of flight mission and design requirements, which are released each fall.
This year’s competition, which took place from April 20 to April 23, challenged students to design an aerial vehicle that could be stored within a circular launch tube without being disassembled. The Buckeye engineers were in for an exciting endeavor.
They had to design an aircraft that could be folded, rotated and moved into flight position using hinges, pivots and other mechanisms. That wasn’t all. The student team’s plane also had to complete a series of flight missions at the Tucson International Modelplex Park Association Airfield. To beef up the competition, AIAA even required the plane to carry three hockey pucks internally during two of those three flight missions.
“Barrett .50 Cal” flies high at AIAA 2017
At the 2017 competition in Tucson, Arizona, Ohio State’s DBF team was awarded the third-highest design report score out of 95 international teams. This score beat the team’s previous all-time best of 18th place.
The Buckeye engineers’ unique design featured a conventional aircraft configuration with four folding mechanisms that allowed the stored plane and launch tube to be as small as possible. In total, their 3.5-pound plane, named “Barrett .50 Cal,” had a 58.5” wingspan, was 42” in length from nose to tail, and fit into a tube with a diameter of 8.75” and 35.5” in length. That’s just shy of a yard stick.
“This year's challenge was particularly difficult, a bit like fitting a square peg in a round hole. It required an intricate design,” said Kegan Buchhop (’17 Aerospace Engineering), president of Ohio State’s 2017 DBF team. “We had plenty of compliments from rival teams about how gracefully Barrett .50 Cal flew. I'm proud to say it is the best aircraft that OSU DBF has ever built.”
Buchhop, who graduated this spring, was also an undergraduate research assistant in the university’s Aerospace Research Center. This summer, he will join Blue Origin as a propulsion development engineer. The university’s DBF team is advised by Clifford Whitfield, assistant professor of practice in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Matthew McCrink, research scientist at the Aerospace Research Center.
To fit into tight quarters, “Barrett .50 Cal” featured a wing that pivots 90 degrees to orient itself parallel to the fuselage – or main body – of the aircraft. The external sections of the plane’s wing, which were manufactured out of carbon fiber, were capable of sliding into themselves – or telescoping – and locking into place. Finally, the tail boom of the aircraft telescopes and rotates into the fuselage and folds into a compact triangle. While carrying the required three hockey pucks, the DBF team’s aircraft could fly more than 50 miles per hour.
In addition to their third-place design report score, the team’s design proposal placed sixth out of 138 submissions. The aircraft successfully completed each competition objective in Tucson and placed 15th out the 95 eligible teams. This beats the university’s previous all-time program high of 38th place. Ohio State’s DBF team also received the highest rank out of all Big Ten schools represented in the competition.
You can visit “Barrett .50 Cal” on the second floor of Scott Laboratory; the plane is currently on display in front of room N250.
- Kam King, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering