Mechatronics Systems Engineering student Tim Gjernes

Mechatronics Systems Engineering student Tim Gjernes

Robotic aircraft to take flight at international contest

Simon Fraser University students engineers in Maryland this week.

A team of Simon Fraser University students is testing its robotic aircraft at an international competition this weekend.

They’re competing at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) 10th annual Student Unmanned Air Systems (SUAS) Competition June 13-17 in Webster Field, St. Inigoes, MD.

The main competition goes Friday and Saturday.

Calling themselves Team GUARDIAN, the students in SFU’s Mechatronics Systems Engineering program faced some last minute glitches with their modified scale-model craft but are now feeling confident as they pack up to leave for Maryland later tonight.

Team GUARDIAN is one of 29 teams, including two others from Canada and teams from as far off as India and Turkey.

The AUVSI competition is held to stimulate interest in innovative technology and challenges students to design, fabricate and demonstrate a system capable of completing a specific and independent aerial operation.

Team GUARDIAN has a pair of small aircrafts, one currently in production and the other primed to compete. They are designed to fly autonomously and carry out specific tasks.

Tim Gjernes, one of the 11-member group’s founders, says the crafts are ultimately designed for logistical use, such as monitoring residual forest fires in difficult terrain. While the team is working to refine the crafts’ capabilities members are testing its efforts in the competitive arena.

In early May, the team took second place at a national contest in Southport, Manitoba. The Maryland competition will be its first on an international stage.

The aircraft they’ll use to compete is a purchased off-the-shelf model referred to as an E-Flite Apprentice. At the competition it will be expected to fly a maximum distance of a kilometer and will “look for” labeled, coloured targets on the ground – all while staying outside of “no-fly” zones.

“Ideally we just watch the plane and it does everything from flying to identifying targets all on its own,” says Gjernes, a Surrey resident.  “We’re not quite there yet but we’re getting close.”

The team formed in 2010 and two of its founding members have since graduated. A recruiting effort last year netted several new members and they competed last spring for the first time in the national contest, held in Quebec, earning an honorable mention.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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