The SAE Aero Design competition is intended to provide undergraduate and graduate engineering students with a real-life engineering exercise. The competition has been designed to provide exposure to the kinds of situations that engineers face in a real life work environment. First and foremost a design competition, students will find themselves performing trade studies and making compromises to arrive at a design solution that will optimally meet the mission requirements while still conforming to the configuration limitations.
The importance of interpersonal communication skills is sometimes overlooked, yet both written and oral communication skills are vital in the engineering workplace. To help teams develop these skills, a high percentage of a team's score is devoted to the final design report and the oral presentation required in the competition.
Aero Design features three classes of competition—Regular, Open, and Micro. Regular Class is intended to be simpler than Open Class, and therefore more accessible to the fledgling team. Open Class is intended to be less restrictive than Regular Class, thereby opening a larger potential solution set. Its lack of restriction allows teams to pursue more complex vehicle configurations, thereby encouraging greater creativity in satisfying the mission requirements. Micro Class teams are required to make trades between two potentially conflicting requirements, carrying the highest payload fraction possible, while simultaneously pursuing the lowest empty weight possible.
As a team, we have chosen to compete once again in the Regular Class. The class-specific challenge as provided by SAE Aero Design is: design, build and fly a radio-controlled aircraft that can lift as much weight as possible given dual design constraints of power and wing span limitations. Competing aircraft must be capable of carrying and fully enclosing a payload amount chosen by each specific team. In this year's competition, a payload bay size has not been pre-determined by the SAE, therefore any size within reason is allowed. The only limitation on payload is the material itself may not be comprised of Lead in any way. Accurately predicting the lifting capacity of the aircraft is also an important part of the competition, as “prediction bonus points” can determine first, second, and third place among competing teams.