The College Cup of Aerospace Technology, Interviewing the Taiwan Innovative Unmanned Aircraft Design Competition

The desire to soar in the sky is within everybody. In March 2016, Dubai held the first World Drone Prix. More than 150 teams entered the contest and many investors had sponsored. As more and more people buy drones, flying them has become an emerging sports event. However, you don’t need to go to Dubai to watch a game of drones, Taiwan already has its own drone racing competitions!

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Mayor Ching-te Lai of Tainan City arrives at the site of the competition

They have come a long way, the Taiwan Innovative Unmanned Aircraft Design Competition

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Going on its 10th anniversary, the Taiwan Innovative Unmanned Aircraft Design Competition is organized by the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics of National Cheng Kung University, the Republic of China Air Force Academy, and the Aeronautical and Astronautical Society of the Republic of China. It has attracted over 90 teams of students to show off their flying skills at the Anding Airfield of Tainan. The chairman of this competition, Professor Wei-Hsiang Lai of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, National Cheng Kung University said that the competition plays the leading role of Taiwan’s unmanned aircraft technology and activities of popular science, and has even led to the establishment of several companies, which also developed many talents.

As for the students of the department, the Taiwan Innovative Unmanned Aircraft Design Competition is like their College Cup, where they can apply what they have learned through designing their own aircrafts. They can also take this opportunity to interact with other teams from all across Taiwan. Besides, the organizer had also designed several popular science activities like fun family challenges, paper plane throwing contest for the general public, in the hope that the Taiwan Innovative Unmanned Aircraft Design Competition will one day become a local feature of Tainan.

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The new popular type of drone, the Multirotor

There were 6 groups in this year’s Innovative Unmanned Aircraft Design Competition, namely the flight performance group, the aircraft design group, the ornithopter group, the creativity group, the autopilot group and the multirotor group. These included most types of drones today. For example, the Beyond Visual Range drone that usually flies into disaster areas to do rescue work, could be seen in this competition. Beyond Visual Range means the range outside the human eye can see, so you can’t directly see your drone with your eyes when flying it, and have to use a camera with telescope or magnification feature to control it remotely. Rules of each group were set by respective professors, who were also the conveners of this competition, and then they would find the professional referees and served as judges for this competition together.

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Children’s favorite aircraft in the flight performance group, the One Punch Man

Among these 6 groups, the multirotor group was newly added this year. As the convener of the multirotor group, Assistant Professor Chih-Ching Li of Electronic Engineering, Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, together with one of the judges, Mr. Tung-Lin Chang, aka the founder of Ark Lab, have already worked together on the multirotor obstacle racing in Maker Faire Tainan 2015, and it was very well-received. As multirotor drones have been getting more and more popular in recent years, this group was added in this year’s Innovative Unmanned Aircraft Design Competition because of that. For the design of this competition, the multirotor group came in the form of obstacle racing. Multiple physical challenges were set up to test the skills of the teams. Among them the balloon popping challenge was the most entertaining. Contestants might also be racing each other in the future, just to make the viewer experience more rewarding.

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Convener of this year’s multirotor group, Assistant Professor Chih-Ching Li of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, STUST, explains the rules of this competition.

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One of the judges, founder of Ark Lab, Mr. Tung-Lin Chang, inspects a unique bee-shaped aircraft.

Speaking of this year’s trend and focus, Mr. Tung-Lin Chang said that fixed-wing and fuel models used to be the mainstream. However, the number of quadcopters has increased among this year’s entries, implying a broader use of rotorcraft. Quadcopter is a type of multirotor, and also a beginner’s model for most people who just got into drones in recent years. Because of its stability, usability and affordability, drones are getting more and more accessible to all age groups, no longer are they a privilege for rich adults. Assistant Professor Li also said that the younger you start, the higher chance you will become an excellent drone pilot. Besides the experience you gain, you also get to build a sense of place since young. In this year’s competition, the first two teams were all senior high students. In addition, a special youth division was also created in the ornithopter group.

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The ups and downs obstacle racing for multirotors, contestants have to go through frames of different heights in specific order.

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The balloon poking obstacle racing for multirotors, contestants have to poke the balloons on the windmill, points are calculated for each balloon poked.

The hope for Taiwan’s drone education?

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Though there aren’t too many departments of aeronautics and astronautics in Taiwan, plenty of enthusiasts are still willing to spend their time and effort to help introduce drones to the youths. Besides quite a few senior high school teachers who are committed to teaching this activity, many university professors of similar departments will sometimes take their students to high schools and help them with their aviation clubs. A lot of students became interested because of these clubs, and they hope to one day get into similar departments.

Assistant Professor Li mentioned that he was working on an education plan which combines the principles of quadcopters, high school physics and university advanced control lessons, to introduce drones to even more students, and it’s not just playing with the aircrafts, it will also inspire the students to become interested in the manufacturing and production of aircrafts. Despite the fact that Taiwan doesn’t have a huge market for consumer drones like China, but there is still room for the development of precision-oriented commercial drones. For example, in the Tainan earthquake a while ago, the National Cheng Kung University took photos of the disaster area with aerial photography drones, and made them into 3D model to help with the rescue. This means that Taiwan’s aerospace industry is still quite promising.

As technology advances, drones are being regarded as the next battleground for all tech giants. CES 2015 had its first dedicated area for drones, and it officially marked the global upsurge of drones. Luckily, Taiwan already had its first group of drone enthusiasts 10 years ago, and they have kept Taiwan in sync with this global trend. In the future, the Taiwan Innovative Unmanned Aircraft Design Competition will continue with its promotion of drone education, to help prepare enthusiastic youths for the future!

For more live report and information of the competition please visit the 2016 Taiwan Innovative Unmanned Aircraft Design Competition Facebook page!

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