Reaching New Heights With AeroMIT

Manipal’s flagship aeromodelling club, AeroMIT is any aviation aficionado’s place to be. From having ranked 3rd and 4th in the Highest Payload Lifted and Highest Payload Fraction category respectively in the year 2016, to bagging the first and second positions for the same in 2017, they have soared quite high.

MTTN got the chance to catch up with the recently appointed Team Leader, Amartya Gupta along with Team Manager, Samarth Agarwal to take a quick peek into the lives of these hard working engineers.

Nethraa: When was your team founded and what is your current goal?

Our team was founded in 2009 by four mechanical engineering students. At that point it was specifically an RC modelling club but later, we oriented ourselves towards SAE.  Apart from improving our models for the SAE Aerodesign contest, we strive to learn as much as we can in the given amount of time. Our club is fuelled by passion and thus the current ‘goal’ would probably be to further our knowledge in the subject and make brilliant aeromodels.

Nethraa:  How many hours of work does the team put in on a weekly average?

Well, (chuckles) that depends on the time of the year, actually. The odd semesters are our work-filled ones, where the entire team sometimes stays up for two days and completes mini projects. Right now, in the even semester, since the work load is pretty light (only in comparison), not as much.

Nethraa: Wow, that’s a lot of work! Tell us what SAE AeroDesign was like. What categories did you participate in?

SAE was absolutely surreal. The amount of effort that went behind it paid off, and it was an absolute stellar experience. We took part in two categories—Highest Payload Lifted and Highest Payload Fraction where we placed first and second respectively. We were also ranked fourth in the world in the Overall Micro Class category.

Nethraa: That’s amazing, congratulations! What was the basic outline of the competition?

The outline actually changes constantly as we get new tasks every year. A lot of people think it’s just about us making our models and going there and presenting it, but it’s much more than that. The competition is designed to mimic real-life scenarios that engineers may face and includes us having to make an oral presentation as well as a design report. This sort of helps build written and oral communication skills which is a very important aspect in the engineering workspace.  In addition to that, we had a Flight round where we had to get the plane to land as smoothly as possible within the landing zone.

Nethraa: How would you explain your design to someone who doesn’t know a thing about aeromodelling?

The Highest Payload Lifted category judges the maximum load that the plane can lift. The design needs to be as modular as possible—it should be light and compact, while being able to lift heavy loads with ease. In this category, our plane could be dismantled and stored in a 12-inch cylinder even though the wingspan was about 40 inches.

Coming to the second category, the score’s calculated based on the formula

Payload Fraction = (Payload)/ {(Payload) + (Weight of empty plane)}

Essentially, lower the weight of the empty plane, higher the fraction and the chances of winning (chuckles). It’s quite hard to win in this particular category given the minimal resources that we have. For each part that’s required, we need to import it and so it gets expensive apart from taking time.

Nethraa: Which team won the competition and how was their prototype different from yours?

Georgia Tech won both, the Highest Payload Fraction as well as the Overall Micro Class categories. Their model was extremely light and compact which gave their design an edge over ours.

Nethraa: How has your model improved since the previous SAE AeroDesign?

Like we said our previous model wasn’t as modular as our current one. This one fits into a 12-inch cylinder while the previous ones took up much more space— the model for SAE AeroDesign 2016 occupied a 16 inches cylinder while the one before that took up 41 inches of space.

Nethraa: There are various competitions in India as well, where you have bagged many awards. How are these different from international competitions?

For Indian competitions, we have to make sure that the person who’s flying the plane is also extremely competent in doing so. These competitions focus less on the aeromodelling and more on the RC aspect of things.

Nethraa: From what you’ve said so far, logistics play a major part in aeromodelling. How has the college supported you in terms of finance and technical assistance?

In terms of technical assistance, we have a very supportive faculty advisor, but that’s pretty much it. But apart from the funding that we get from the sponsors, most of the parts for our model is funded by the university.

Nethraa: How has your Advanced Drone Research project been coming along?

We’ve actually renamed that particular project to Avionics and Drone Research. Our ADR division has made phenomenal progress since its inception and we’re only hoping for better!

Nethraa: Well, with GoPro making commercial drones a huge success, in your opinion, can drones replace normal vehicular transport in the near future?

Well, if you’re talking about passenger drones, then no. The skies should just be left alone (laughs). But if you’re looking at drones being used to deliver packages and probably provide medical assistance of some sort—then yes, drones are the future. In fact, Amazon has an initiative called Amazon Prime Air that plans on delivering packages with the help of drones within thirty minutes or so.

Nethraa: Wow, that’s super interesting. Hope everything pans out well for you this academic year!

We hope so as well. We’re having our recruitment right now, so let’s see how it goes. We’re super thrilled about the new team!

As said to Nethraa Kannan for MTTN

The AeroMIT team (2016):

Shloke Chaudhuri

Hariharan V.V

Arjit Seth

Ayush Verma

Siddharth Shukla

Gaurav Rajput

Amartya Gupta

Samarth Agarwal

Adithya Ramesh

Kaushik Chavali

Anjay Subramaniam

Brian Dsouza

Joel Dsouza

Lavanya Vij

Yasasvi Harishkumar

Utkarsh tripathi

Nikhil Thota

Gilbert Soyus

Vishnu Priyatam

Shreesh Mohalik.



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