From the description: "MADS (Miniature Aircraft Deployment System) is an Aerospace Engineering senior design project at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The mission of MADS is to deploy flight-capable, autonomous, miniature aircraft (the SuperFly) from a larger unmanned aerial vehicle (the Sig Rascal 110). Visit for more information!"

(Actually the aircraft that are launched aren't really UAVs, since they're not guided or even controlled. And it's not clear why this team took eight months to figure out how to drop something from a plane. But it's a cool concept at least...)

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Comment by Jack Crossfire on April 6, 2009 at 7:46pm
GATech did this with an RMax & a Helispy & it was computer controlled to some degree. That must have taken a lot of work.
Comment by Spencer Riggs on April 6, 2009 at 9:51pm
I am a graduate aerospace student at CU, and I feel the need to add some clarification. As a public research institution, we are subject to different rules than the hobbyist community. So there is a lot of restrictions on what the team can actually do in public airspace. In addition, the entire fall semester is spent designing and analyzing every aspect of the project, so there is a lot more work involved than a hobbyist level approach. We are warned to not do that. The spring is spent building, testing, and verifying that the design works and meets requirements.

Please go to for more information about the overall course, and you will see the level of detail and why CU has one of the top-ranked aerospace programs in the nation.


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on April 6, 2009 at 10:15pm
I checked out the students' blog at and it is indeed impressive stuff. They're solving the same kinds of radio, electronic and mechanical problems we deal with every day, but they're documenting it really well and debugging the problems with a commendable thoroughness.
Comment by Matt Lenda on April 29, 2009 at 7:24am
Hey all,

I'm on this senior projects team, and let me says that we're glad we're getting some attention!

Spencer got the gist of it. The aerospace capstone projects at CU spread across two semesters -- the fall semester is project definition, requirements development, and critical design, and the spring semester is build, test, and verify. It's tempting to take this thing out and just fly it, "Just to make sure it flies," but then we've got 10 people with PhD's on our butt about not proving anything. Every part of the system must have a model that can be verified quantitatively. For instance, how can we model the endurance of the SVs? How can we get stability derivatives of this odd configuration? How can we be sure the PV will withstand the loads on its fuselage? On and on and on and on... :D

The coolest part about this project was the amount we learned from the RC pilots that were handling our system. Mixing engineers with hobbyists is always interesting!

Check out the website soon for our Project Final Report. It contains all of the information in our Fall Final Report, with updated designs, drawings, testing data, and more pretty pictures. We've also uploaded a paper we submitted to the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics that provides a nice system-level approach to understanding MADS.

(FYI: Our website has moved to


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