Building an autonomous multi-rotor aircraft that needs to search for an object located somewhere in a hazard-cluttered indoor playing field might sound like a far too complicated and impossible feat for the average student. But for a member of LCCC’s Team Orbit Aerospace Club, it was a challenge they accepted.
Last month, from Aug. 25-27, the third annual 2014 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Conference was held at the Dayton Convention Center. The event was hosted by the Air Force Research Directorate in association with the Dayton Development Coalition and the Institute of Navigation. According to the Ohio UAS Conference website, the purpose behind the event is to “establish UAS community partnerships between representatives from government, industry and academia.”
A new feature added to the conference this year was the first annual Autonomous Aerial Competition. The goal of the competition was to challenge an aerial robot to autonomously navigate through an indoor maze using laser and sonar sensors to locate a target in the Dayton Convention Center.
A total of seven teams consisting of mixed undergraduate and graduate students from all over the country participated in the competition. Colleges represented at the competition included University of Michigan (Dearborn), Robert Morris University, East Carolina University, University of Kentucky, University of Toledo, Lorain County Community College and University of Cincinnati.
“LCCC was the only community college registered for the competition,” said Martin Linger, instructor of LCCC’s mathematics science division and faculty advisor of Team Orbit, “ All the other teams were from four year universities and had undergraduate and graduate students on their teams, including one PhD candidate.”
Representing LCCC from the Team Orbit Aerospace Club was Emilio Borges, a Computer Science major of the University of Toledo through the University Partnership.
“…[the competition] was an appropriate challenge for university level engineering students to work on an autonomous quadcopter vehicle and develop indoor navigation and target localization techniques useful in many other real world applications,” Borges said.
“Being the only team member and having only one month to work on my vehicle, I understand the difficulty and amount of work that goes into building these autonomous aerial systems.”
Created in 2011 by Linger, Team Orbit’s original purpose was to enable LCCC students to compete in the 2012 Midwest Regional Collegiate Rocket Competition (in which the team placed first in their division).
This year, Team Orbit competed in and placed third at the Autonomous Aerial Competition, earning $1,700 in prize money. The team’s entry was funded by a grant Borges received from the Ohio Space Grant Consortium.
“I thought Emilio’s plan for an autonomous aircraft was brilliant,” Linger said.
“This being the first year for the competition, it was no surprise that the other teams that did show up, including myself, were still having trouble getting their vehicles to work the day of the competition,” Borges said, “Even while no one was able to successfully complete the challenge this year, the judges, spectators, and local media were still impressed with the technology each team developed and their accomplishments.”
Participating in the competition proved to be a significant learning experience for Borges and the six other teams.
“Having the opportunity to prepare for and participate in this competition has taught me real world skills and techniques not found in the classroom,” Borges said. “
“In the end, it was a great experience that I recommend to all of those interested in robotics, autonomous aerial vehicles, or engineering in general.”
For more information regarding LCCC’s Team Orbit, contact Marlin Linger at firstname.lastname@example.org.