Ohio State Design/Build/Fly team places in their highest ever position in AIAA's annual competition

Posted: August 11, 2021
DBF team's aircraft in flight

The Ohio State University Design/Build/Fly team placed fourth, the best in the team’s history, in the annual Design/Build/Fly competition hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

The DBF team with their aircraft
The DBF team with their aircraft.

The team’s main objectives for this year’s competition were to create an electric aircraft capable of carrying a heavy payload of sensors in “shipping containers,” and to deploy and retract an independently controlled sensor while in flight. The team also had to adhere to strict competition design guidelines such as a 55-pound weight limit and a five-foot maximum wingspan.

The competition was scored in two parts: a 60-page design report and a video of the aircraft completing its mission, foregoing an in person demonstration due to COVID-19 restrictions. A panel of judges then reviewed the report and video, and averaged the scores together to decide the winner. More points were given for faster flight speeds, higher payload amounts and faster loading times achieved within various other constraints given by the competition rules.

“It is very gratifying to see our team’s hard work payoff with the highest finish in team history at Ohio State,” David Winter, leader of the Design/Build/Fly team, said. “At the beginning of last year, we set a goal to finish in the top 10. We exceeded our own goal by finishing in the top 5.”

The team placed higher than several notable schools, including the University of Michigan, Cornell, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Purdue, Georgia Tech and the University of Southern California.

Watch the DBF team do a run of their flight test program here

Next year, the Design/Build/Fly team will be competing once again in the AIAA competition. Winter believes that their prospects for next year look good and hope to place first.

“We did very well with a relatively small and inexperienced team this year,” Winter said, “so we believe that this year with our much larger and experienced team, getting first place in the competition next year is a very achievable goal.”

The DBF aircraft

Caleb Hawley, the recruitment chair for the Design/Build/Fly team, sees an opportunity to not only pursue first place next year, but bring on a group of underclassmen that can carry the organization forward to consistent excellence and promote passion for aerospace, support careers and create a positive and inclusive community.

“The Design/Build/Fly team is one of the most fun, knowledgeable and inclusive engineering groups you will find at OSU,” Hawley said. “Whether you have been around RC airplanes your whole life or you have never held a tool in your hand, you will feel welcome at any of our meetings. Design/Build/Fly is a place to learn, grow and apply your engineering coursework in a safe environment.”

Winter and all of the Design/Build/Fly team would like to thank their advisors this year, Dr. Cliff Whitfield and Dr. Matt McCrink, as well as sponsors, Boeing, Flite Test, Buddy R/C, the MAE department and the Ohio Space Grant Consortium.