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WVU to host collegiate UAV competition

This is an image of the flying WV logo used when a media article has no media accompanying it.

On Saturday, April 23, collegiate teams from across the United States will travel to Morgantown to compete in the inaugural Mountaineer Collegiate UAV Fly-off Competition atWest Virginia University. The day-long student contest of radio-controlled unmanned aircraft, which begins at 8 a.m., will be held at WVU’s Jackson’s Mill Facility, outside of Clarksburg.


According to Patrick Browning, assistant professor mechanical and aerospace engineering and WVU team faculty co-advisor, the competition will be similar in scope to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Design/Build/Fly Competition, which changed its proposal process in 2016 causing many highly regarded teams, like WVU, to miss the cut for this year.

“The WVU UAV team, along with several other colleges and universities equally well-known for their prominence in UAV design, was not selected to compete in the 2015-16 AIAA/BDF competition,” Browning said. “After careful deliberation during the first week of classes in the spring semester, the WVU UAV team decided to contact other schools who had not made it into the final competition to invite them to compete at WVU in the same missions they had already focused on during the previous semester.”

Each team will design two planes that will attempt to complete three technical flight missions and an options bonus ground mission. Teams will also present a poster of their design and build process. The teams will receive a pass/fail grade for their technical missions and the poster competition will be peer reviewed. Awards will be given to the first and second place teams in the flight competition and to the first place team in the poster competition.

Joining the team from WVU will be teams from University of Miami, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, City College of New York, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Arizona, Manhattan College, Miami University, Syracuse University, Ohio State University, Clarkson University and Alfred University.

According to Anthony Donzella, team technical leader and pilot for WVU, planning a competition like this takes months of planning.

“I have spent numerous days going back and forth through email with the schools involved, answering technical and event questions and giving them information about the Morgantown areas,” said Donzella, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major from Wheeling. “On top of planning and organizing all the logistics of the competition, we have had to manage and provide technical experience toward our own team of 24 students that will also be competing in the event. That includes overseeing and assisting in the designing, building and flying of a total of six aircraft, two of which must be presented and flown at the competition in April.”

“When Anthony and I accepted the responsibility of leading the WVU team, we knew that it would require a lot of work,” said Project Manager Larry Goontz, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major from Salem, Ohio. “But between the two of us, we knew that we had the knowledge and passion to lead this team in the right direction. We believe that this competition will be a huge success and we are excited for everyone to see our design, which we think is one of a kind.”

The team is co-advised by Peter Gall, aerospace engineer.



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