Design Build and Fly

The Design, Build and Fly competition is an annual competition sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)and Cessna Aircraft Company. The 2009 competition was held on April 17-19 at TIMPA Field in Tucson, AZ and details can be found here. This was the 13th year the competition was held. A total of 54 teams submitted written reports to be judged. 41 teams attended the flyoff, 39 of which completed the technical inspection. Approximately 600 students, faculty, and guests were present. Near ideal weather allowed for near non-stop flights to be conducted each day. Of the 133 official flight attempts, 49 resulted in a successful score divided among 32 teams.
The "KnightHawks" Clarkson Team 2009 in Tucson,AZ (Click image for big image!)

Students must design and construct a fixed-wing, electric-powered aircraft that weighs less than 55 pounds and flies a predetermined course with a specified payload matrix. This project provides students interested in aeronautical design and construction an opportunity to participate in a team environment to produce a product that meets a specific set of requirements as outlined by competition rules, much as a commercial venture would produce a proposal based on the customer's needs. Undergraduates, freshman to senior, are exposed to the concept of group design. Students learn how to integrate the many aspects of design and to balance the advantages and disadvantages of various design possibilities. Subteams work on specific areas of aircraft design, such as aerodynamics, structures or controls and then have to integrate their designs into the vehicle so that it meets the requirements set by other design teams. The students must size an aircraft based on the requirements set by competition rules. Knowledge gained through this process is applicable to any engineering problem encountered in industry. Designs are developed in a team-based environment, just like in the real world. Designs are developed and ultimately the best design is presented to team leaders. After all of the preliminary design is completed, the entire team presents and defends its design to a group of professors who offer critical advice on the design and possible weak points. These design reviews are just like in industry!

A total of three missions will be attempted by the team when they travel to Wichita, KS for the 2010 competition. Takeoff distance for the plane is less than 100 feet for all missions.  The first mission is a two lap ferry flight with no payload.  Scores are based upon the flight time in the air for two laps to be completed.  A payload of between 6 and 10 variable size softballs will be carried in mission two.  The score for mission two is a function of payload loading time. Obviously, the biggest challenge is to design a payload integration system which offers minimal CG travel with all kinds of different softball arrangements.  Finally, the last mission is to carry BASEBALL BATS!  The DBF team can elect to carry anywhere from 1 to 5 baseball bats and score is a function of flight time in the air for the three lap flight. Complete rules can be found here: here


To see some of the action up close, enter the Interactive Clarkson DBF CD here

Official Competition Design, Build and Fly Homepage

Clarkson Uiversity AIAA Faculty Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Visser
Associate Professor
361 CAMP, PO Box 5725
Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY 13699-5725
T: 315-268-7687