Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi Student Aerospace Engineers Take Second Place in National Design/Build/Fly Competition

70 teams from all over the country flew planes in Tucson finals; USC was one of only three with a final score over 300.

May 03, 2011 —

An undergraduate team from the Viterbi School's Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering scored a second place finish in the 15th Annual Cessna Aircraft Company/Raytheon Missile Systems Design/Build/Fly Flyoff held at TIMPA Field in Tucson, Arizona.

click on the logo to see the complete scores and competition background

P 4150035USC Professor Emeritus Ron Blackwelder, who has worked with AME D/B/F teams for many years, was on hand for the event, along with the team of 22 Viterbi School students, and his initials named the USC plane, “The RFB.”

The mission was to create a "soldier portable" unmanned air vehicle, which had to fit into a commercially available suitcase meeting airline carry-on requirements. The vehicles had to carry out three different missions, a “dash to critical target” with no payload followed by an "ammo re-supply mission (steel bar payload)" and a "medical supply mission (golf balls).”

The competition attracted 90 entries, with 82 teams submitting written reports, while 70 came to fly. Of these, only 33 teams were able to complete all three missions. “We flew all the missions on first attempt, and we met all of our design and performance goals,” wrote team program manager ShanLing Yang. “USC ADT continues its legacy of placing in the top 10 every year!”

Yang continued: "The hardest part of the competition was holding first place for a solid 24 hours before being surpassed by only 10 points on the last day, and knowing that by just a few changes USC could have remained in first place. One of the hardest parts of the year leading up to competition was continually changing iterations and designing, building, and testing new configurations so frequently.

“However, this year was one of the most encouraging years for the USC AeroDesign Team. This is the second best finish the team has ever seen. At this year's competition, all of the flight missions went smoothly and were completed on their first attempts. The team experienced a lot of favor at competition, especially to have finished second place without a single technical issue and to have rebounded from a last place finish the previous year.”

ADT 2011 The RFB
The 2010-2011 ADT captains celebrate a well-deserved 2nd place victory. Left to right: Josh Villbrandt, Ben Title, Matthew Cowan, Claire Heatherly, Carson Vogt, Geoff Martindale, Benjamin Ackerman, Anna Holmes, Andrew Hanes, Nadia Bess.

  • Program Manager: Shanling Yang (Ph.D. student) - organized and led the team through conceptual, preliminary, detailed, and competition design phases
  • Chief Engineer: Matthew Cowan (Senior) - oversaw and ensured integration of all plane components for each iteration
  • Performance Captain: Josh Villbrandt (Senior) - ran initial trade studies to set the overall geometry of the plane as well as amount of payload needed to be carried for each mission to obtain the maximum score
  • Propulsion Captain: Ben Title (Junior) - tested and optimized propulsion packages for the plane to meet flight mission requirements
  • Aerodynamics and Stability & Control Captain: Ben Ackerman (Senior) - sized all aircraft components to ensure the plane could fly all missions
  • Build Captain: Geoff Martindale (Senior) - led the building process of all aircraft iterations and corresponding components
  • Payloads Captain: Anna Holmes (Senior) - optimized different payload configurations and corresponding restraint methods to hold the payloads in the aircraft
  • Structures Captain: Carson Vogt (Sophomore) - tested various structural components and fabrication methods to find the optimum materials and build methods for the aircraft
  • Flight Test Captain: Andrew Hanes (Senior) - oversaw all flight tests and ensured adequate data was acquired and analyzed for each flight
  • Landing Gear Captain: Claire Heatherly (Junior) - analyzed and tested the landing apparatus of the aircraft
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Nadia Bess (Senior) - took meeting notes and was in charge of all funding and expenses

The USC AeroDesign Team finishes 2nd place in the 2011 DBF competition in Tucson, AZ. Back row (Left to Right): Wyatt Sadler (Pilot and Industry Advisor), Carson Vogt, Jake Ichikawa, Aditya Vaidyanathan, Stu Armstrong, Chris Gomez, Benjamin Ackerman, Alex Cramer, Andrew Hanes, Terry Brown, Mike Coverley, Charles Radovich (Advisor). Mid-row: Anna Holmes, Nadia Bess, Kolleen Lee. Front row: Mark Page (Industry Advisor), Ben Title, Matt Cowan, Ron Blackwelder (Advisor), Geoff Martindale, Claire Heatherly, Josh Villbrant, Jerry Chen (Advisor)