Project Introduction

The advanced class AREO Team consists of one Electrical and five Mechanical Engineering students to design an aircraft for the SAE AERO west competition.  The aircraft being designed will be brought to competition to compete in events specified in [1].  The competition is broken up into several events.  These include flight events, aircraft assembly and a design report with a presentation.  The objective of the competition is to score the most points in each event and the team with the most points at the end wins.  Our goal is to design the best aircraft we can and score as high as we can while bringing the aircraft home in one piece.  Obviously we want first place and that is the goal when entering any competition and we will do everything in our ability to achieve this goal.

My role on the team, as the Electrical Engineering student, is to design a propulsion system for the aircraft.  In the past, aircraft used internal combustion engines to power them.  Due to recent rule changes the propulsion system must be electrically powered.  The goal of this project is not to design electrical motors or propellers but rather to find the best combination of motors and propellers for our aircraft.  This proves difficult because electric motors designed for RC airplanes are not meant to carry excess weight at a high efficiency.  Instead they are mainly used by hobbyists and not for industrial purposes.  For this reason the motors are designed to spin at higher rpms to allow the aircraft to fly faster.  The aim is not to fly light and fast, but rather slow and heavy.  Without an industrial purpose to push for more powerful and efficient motors, on this platform options became very limited.  However, there is an industry that is designing and building very powerful and efficient motors for RC use.

The drone industry has skyrocketed in the last five years and companies around the world are trying to get involved.  The difference between airplanes and drones is that drones can hover and unlike helicopters they have very few moving parts.  This allows them to be a fairly maintenance free platform.  Adding to this they have four motors applying thrust so they can use much less aggressive pitch angles with much larger propeller diameters at a lower rpm.  This allows for the ability to carry a large amount of load for very long durations.  This is the choice my project is based around.

[1] 2020 SAE Aero Design Rules, Accessed on Nov. 24, 2019. Available:

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