Undergraduates of Loughborough University have to do a Group Design Project as part of their final year Aeronautical MEng degree. This year, with the help of Simon Howroyd a PhD student at the University, one of the groups were challenged to design and develop a UAV capable of searching for a person, in a Search and Rescue (SAR) mission. The team known as "Overwatch" have heavily modified a Skywalker X8 and used APM2.6 to create a stable camera platform capable of flying search missions.

The project goes beyond the typical hobbyist modelling approach and features heavy theoretical design and analysis including Computational Fluid Dynamics to assess the aerodynamics, backed up by wind tunnel testing. They have also done structural modelling to ensure a stiff structure in unforgiving weather conditions such as storms in mountainous areas which are hard to reach by rescuers en foot.

It is relatively short project, only spanning around 7 months, with all the undergraduates having no prior knowledge of UAVs or RC aircraft, so the learning curve has been steep! Factor this alongside working with unusual materials in this field such as Styrofoam and expanded polyolefin (EPO) and you have a great project to vastly improve the employability of the students in industry after graduation.

May 2014 sees the project come to a conclusion with a presentation and report due. Of particular interest the output of the system is a GPS location and photo of the person to be rescued. This is achieved by utilising a standard search pattern and onboard image processing of camera frames where Matlab code (recompiled as C code and uploaded onto a BeagleBone) makes decisions as to the probability of the subject being found in each frame.

Undergraduate Team:

James Baines - Systems hardware, image processing & prototype development

Sufal Basnyt - Image processing

Oliver Boldero - Prototype manufacture, materials & CAD

Alex Cook - Aerodynamics

Stephen Clarkson - Portability & prototype manufacture

Iain Forbes Brown - Aerodynamics & wind tunnel

Chris Hughes - Comms & swarm logic

Mudasser Iqbal - Prototype manufacture, structural design & catapult

Jitinder Johal - CONOPS, detection, FMECA

Phillip Loughlin - Systems hardware, powertrain & prototype development

Oliver Meager - Aerodynamics & CFD

Thomas Offord - Sense & Avoid

James Whitehead - Comms & swarm logic

Project Directing Staff:

Dr Gary Page - Senior CFD lecturer

Dr Chris Harvey - Structures lecturer

Dr Paul Cunningham - Materials & structures lecturer

Simon Howroyd - Pilot & UAV technical support, PhD researcher

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