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Work in Progress: Feedback Reinforcement of Classroom Learning of Aerospace Design and Performance Concepts Through a Hands-on Design-Build-Fly-Redesign Loop

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Aerospace Hot Topic: Unmanned Aerial Systems

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Paper Authors


Srikanth Gururajan Saint Louis University

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Dr. Srikanth Gururajan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology at Saint Louis University. He received his PhD. in Aerospace Engineering from West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Dr. Gururajan's teaching interests are in the areas of Flight Dynamics and Controls and believes that student aerospace design competitions are ideal avenues for students to express their creativity while complementing the knowledge gained in the classroom with hands-on experience as well as promoting greater collaboration and learning across disciplines.

Dr. Gururajan’s research interests are interdisciplinary and in the fields of fault tolerant flight control, parallel & distributed computing, real time systems, experimental flight testing using small UAS and UAS based remote sensing applications in precision agriculture, pest management and emissions measurement and characterization.

He has authored and co-authored several publications in archival journals and has served as a peer reviewer for several leading journals and conferences in Aerospace Engineering. He also currently serves as an Associate Editor of the Aerospace Science and Technology Journal, the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Journal and the International Journal of Unmanned Systems Engineering.

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In recent years, the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) has seen an explosive growth, thanks to the drop in cost of the aerial vehicles themselves, as well as the associated avionics. Additionally, the release of the Part 107 UAS rules by the FAA has resulted in a new landscape for UAS operations in the National Airspace System (NAS) and it is reasonable to expect that UAS will only be incorporated into novel and yet to be conceived applications in the near future. As it stands today, while the established players in the aerospace industry, like the major aircraft manufacturers, are still a major part of this UAS landscape, most of the growth and novel applications are driven by small businesses and startup companies. In this relatively uncharted landscape of UAS operations in the NAS, there is significant competition among UAS designers, manufacturers and end users in coming up with new and novel designs and operations for the UAS. As with other industries, it is natural to expect that the invisible hand of the market, as well as evolution by natural selection will shape the future of UAS designs and operations – and in a few years, it will result in a small, but proven and well-established set of UAS designs that are used for most of the UAS operations.

Thus, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that during these initial years, there will be a demand from the industry for aerospace engineers who are capable of designing, building and flight testing a UAS from the ground up, purely from specifications/requirements. On the other hand, as time passes, and the designs converge to a small set of proven UAS platforms, the demand for graduates from a multitude of engineering disciplines, including aerospace, electrical and computer science, as well as sciences including chemistry, biology, geography, geographical information sciences, who are capable of leveraging these UAS platforms to perform any given goal/mission is only going to grow.

Very few academic programs, if any exist in the country that provide this comprehensive experience to their graduates. On the other hand, a number of student UAS competitions like the annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) sponsored Design, Build, Fly (DBF) competition, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) AeroDesign competitions, as well as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Student Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) competitions are ideal avenues for students to complement their classroom knowledge with hands-on experimental experience.

Among these competitions, AUVSI’s SUAS competition is unique in that it is designed to be a truly multi-disciplinary “systems design” competition – student teams are required to execute complex mission scenarios such as aerial photography, target (image) recognition, geo-tagging, geo-referencing, obstacle avoidance and others. In this paper, we will explore the efficacy of student participation in the AVUSI SUAS competition in complementing a student’s classroom experience in learning core aerospace engineering concepts with skills from other disciplines that are needed to succeed in a “systems” world.

At the same time, we will also explore the efficacy of the set of core courses in a typical aerospace engineering curriculum for use in such competitions. This could potentially identify topics as well as teaching methodologies that can be improved to enhance the student learning experience and help develop graduates with a more diverse and complementary knowledge and skill set.

Gururajan, S. (2017, June), Work in Progress: Feedback Reinforcement of Classroom Learning of Aerospace Design and Performance Concepts Through a Hands-on Design-Build-Fly-Redesign Loop Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29158

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