Thomas Leitgeb, the vice team leader of Team Drone Tech, tells the story of how this project came to live:

The idea of a tri-rotor tiltable Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) in flying wing configuration started out 1 year ago.

The thought of being able to take-off in your backyard always fascinated me, but until last spring (2018) I never acted on this dream. To big was the challenge, I thought. But after researching a bit, it did not seem impossible and I decided to start small. So, I looked in my box with random drone parts, fished out 3 motors, ESCs and a few servos and started designing. The result was a small completely 3D printed VTOL.

The plane flew quite well but its design was not very efficient. The 3D printed wings and fuselage made the plane heavy and not very robust. That’s why I decided to build a new version.
Taking use of a self-programmed optimization software, the wing-shape of the new VTOL was tuned to achieve maximum range for a given motor, propeller and battery combination. The result was a wing with quite a big aspect ratio and twice the span of the first VTOL. This time a Pixhawk 2.1 was used as a flight controller. This makes it possible to let the plane fly completely autonomous. The setup of the Pixhawk for VTOLs is harder, compared to the simple KK2.1 flight controller, used in the first version. But after a few PID tuning sessions a very stable flight was achieved in multirotor and fixed wing mode.  The flight performance surprises. While the 2200mAh battery just allows for about 4 minutes of hovering, flight times of up to 30 minutes are possible in fixed wing mode.
The next step is building an even bigger VTOL. And maybe in a few iterations, a dream becomes reality.

Demonstration of a Reverse Engineering Process for a Historic Aircraft Model Based on 2D-Drawings

Michael Lampesberger, a team member, was analysing the design process of an aircraft in his bachelor’s thesis. He performed his task by creating a historical flight model through reverse engineering. The foundation is the 1932 published blueprint of the so called ‘Hochdecker-Rumpfmodell’. To optimize the flight performance of the ‘Hochdecker’ (high winged aircraft), the model will be designed according to essential adaptive aircraft features.
Nowadays the CAD-Software CATIA V5®, developed by Dassault Systems, is usually used in aviation. To design and digitize, the 87 years old blueprint must be prepared due to its poor condition. To be able to do so, several steps and software tools are necessary. Due to the inaccuracies of the blueprint, appropriate actions must be taken.
The entire ‘Hochdecker-Rumpfmodell’ had been drawn with CATIA V5®. This was realized using the Generative Shape Design and the Part Design development environments. Additionally, the material to all parts created were properly allocated in order to analyse the aircraft mass.
With the described procedures, a complex CAD model was created, which can be adapted quickly to the required geometrical conditions by using Adaptive Design.
Furthermore, the Airplane performance was analysed with xflr5.

DBF19 Official Roll Out

Thank you for your support!

On March 1st the teams’ official competition aircraft “BOBBY” was presented at the Roll Out Event.
Numerous sponsors and other guests gathered in the aviation laboratory at the FH Joanneum in Graz, where the DBF-2019 team members awaited them with an outstanding Roll Out Event. Amongst the guests were various representatives of our DBF sponsoring companies, the FH Joanneum managing directors, head of department FH Joanneum Aviation, lectures and students as well.

After the official welcome from Miriam Scharf, head of management of the DBF19 team were invited to have some breakfast and to use the time to talk to the DBF team members. Students as well as company representatives were keen to get to know each other and finding potential future employers or employees.

The breakfast was followed by an official presentation including interviews of all the team members. Miriam Scharf was pleased to introduce the team to all of ours guests and explained the different positions and tasks of each team member as well as the organization behind the DBF19 team. Mathias Krampl, head of engineering, described the technical aspects of the competition aircraft, mission requirements and the production processes. Last but not least, Anna Sampl gave our guests an overview on our upcoming journey to the AIAA DBF competition in Tucson, Arizona.

To prove his qualification, Thomas Adelsberger, pilot of the DBF Team, performed an impressive flight show in the laboratory with a small RC- aerobatic aircraft.

The highlight of the Roll Out Event was the presentation of “BOBBY”. The team demonstrated “BOBBY” at the ground mission. This includes the automatic unfolding of the wings, attachment of the darts and the mounting of the radome. All tasks where performed with excellent speed and accuracy.

Finally, a cake in the shape of the “Bobby”-Logo has been served to celebrate the completion of the competition aircraft.  Students and the DBF FH Joanneum supervisors where honoured to cut BOBBY’s “birthday” cake.
The official part of the event came to an end with a lunch where our guests enjoyed foods, drinks and interesting conversation about BOBBY, the AIAA competition and many other aviation related topics.

We, the DBF19 team, want to say a huge “THANK YOU” to all sponsors and supporters of the DBF19 team! The outstanding BOBBY and also the Roll Out would have never been possible without your support!

Concept Development for a Heavy-Duty Drone

The need for drones is growing steadily. Therefore, new and more efficient concepts are needed especially for increasing payloads and as a replacement for helicopters. Benjamin Haller, a team member, wrote his bachelor’s thesis about such heavy-duty drones.

A scientifically proven drone design requires a close look at the individual components and the interaction in the overall system. It starts with an analysis of weight and geometry and goes into bigger detail in calculations of propulsion and structural analysis. In the overall design, the determination of an optimal propulsion system with modern power supply, efficient propellers and sufficient flight performance is a big point. In this bachelor’s thesis, the actuator disc model is used primarily. Furthermore, a special system is designed for the automatic pickup and dropdown of payloads. The construction together with structure calculations are done with a modern CAD program.

The design and structure calculations with FEM methods visualize the appearance and strength of the drone. The final result is a parts list with the most important components, the costs and the suitable suppliers to produce the heavy-lift drone.

The conventional hover-drones are relatively inefficient but accomplish their purpose without big problems. The result is a good solution for a heavy-lift drone for lifting or carrying payloads over short distances.

Simulation of Flight Data in MATLAB®

The aim of this project, which Arian Ghoddousi a member of Team Drone Tech is currently working on, was to compute and simulate aircraft flight data. The data output was designed to look like a common general aviation plane cockpit, like the Cessna C172.

During the coding process it became clear that the potential of this program is greater than just a stand-alone project. When the whole code was recoded in order to convert it from procedural programming to object orientated code, it was coded in module blocks, which can work separately and can be put together as desired, especially, the gauges and the trajectory plot. This method enables a larger spectrum of usage. The main program is designed to compute all the necessary data by itself. A different method and the next step would be the usage of sensors which gather data. Therefore, a hardware interface, like an Arduino, is needed.

The possible usage of this project for Team Drone Tech could look like this:

A drone could be equipped with different sensors, for example, for pressure and acceleration and then establish a connection to, e.g., a radio transmitter. On the ground station, a receiver is required, which needs to be connected to a microcontroller, such as the Arduino, which then will transform the data, gathered by the sensors, into concrete values. The last step is the communication between microcontroller and the MATLAB® host computer. The program receives the calculated data and can save it in variables, which then will be plotted on the display. The information provided on the output screen enables the drone pilot to fly under similar circumstances as IFR-pilots. If the drone gets out of sight, the drone pilot still has some information such as:

  • Altitude or Height (Depending on altimeter is set to QNH or QFE)
  • Attitude
  • Speed
  • Vertical Speed
  • Heading and Track
  • Position (either absolute via GPS or in relation to the pilot or departure point)
  • Any other information being sent to the host computer

Furthermore, this project could also be the basis for a drone autopilot. Therefore, an interface which can control the drone’s engines and other control devices would be needed.