About M-Fly

M-Fly is a Society of Automotive Engineers Aerospace Design team at the University of Michigan dedicated to promoting opportunities for students to practice applying their knowledge to aerospace projects outside the classroom.

“The SAE Aero Design competition is intended to provide undergraduate and graduate engineering students with a real-world design challenge. These rules were developed and designed by industry professionals with the focus on educational value and hands-on experience through exposure to today’s technical and technology advancement. ”  - SAE Aero Design

General Team meetings are held weekly in the François-Xavier Bagnoud building to discuss the current progress of the projects. Additional meetings are held for individual engineering sub-teams throughout the week. Building sessions take place in the Wilson Student Team Project Center periodically throughout the year, and any member may attend to help build the aircraft.

Students of all majors and standing are welcome to join M-Fly. Anyone interested in remote controlled aircraft is encouraged to attend our weekly meetings and become an active member of the team.

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SAE Aero Design Series

Regular Class Competition

M-Fly competes in the Regular Class SAE Aero Design Competition annually. The competition is based on three judged portions: a written design report, an oral presentation, and a flying stage. This year, the competition is based on reliability of lifting "passengers" and "luggage" to maximize points. While designing, an important focus now is flying with an optimal amount of "passengers" without empty seats similar to challenges faced by commercial airliners. Each portion is judged separately, and the team with the highest score at the end of the competition is deemed the winner.

SAE sets rules for the Regular Class Aero Design Competition that all teams must obey.
The basic rules of the 2017 competition include the following:

  • There are no constraints for dimensions in building the aircraft
  • The engine used in the aircraft must be powered by a commercially available 6-cell (22.2 volt) Lithium Polymer battery, limited by a 1000 watt, SAE-provided power limiter
  • No composites (carbon fiber, fiberglass, etc.) or lead can be used for construction and payload of the aircraft
  • The passengers are regulation tennis balls that must be arranged in a single geometric plate
  • For each passenger, luggage ranging between 0.5-0.75 lbs must be carried. Flying with less per passenger is a loss of points, and flying with more has no points benefit
  • The luggage must be safely secured within the aircraft and cannot exceed 55lbs, including the weight of the aircraft itself
  • Aircraft in the regular class must take off within 200ft, must complete one loop around the runway, and must land within 400ft in order for the flight to be valid
  • All team members attending competition must be members of the Society of Automotive Engineers

Advanced Class Competition

This is M-Fly's second year competing in the Advanced Class SAE Aero Design Competition. Similar to the Regular Class, the competition is based on three judged portions: a written design report, an oral presentation, and a flying stage. However, the flying portion consists of completing a flight round and also dropping payload on a target; this portion is graded based on both on the number and accuracy of drop payload as well as the static load carried by the aircraft. In addition to this more advanced flight, the aircraft may also incorporate more complex materials and sensors.

SAE sets rules for the Advanced Class Aero Design Competition that all teams must obey.
The basic rules of the 2017 competition include the following:

  • There are no constraints for dimensions or materials used in building the aircraft
  • The aircraft must be powered by internal combustion, reciprocating engines with a total maximum displacement of 0.46 cubic inches
  • A first person view (FPV) system is required for the payload drop. A "payload specialist" uses this system to verbally direct the pilot, who does not utilize the FPV and only flies visually, to the drop zone
  • A sensor must measure the altitude at the time of the drop and report it to the ground station. 100 ft is the minimum altitude required for the drop to count
  • The aircraft must carry a static payload as well as a dynamic payload. The dynamic payload must be 2-2.25 pounds in weight and must be dropped from an altitude of at least 100 feet
  • Gyroscopic assist or other stability assist may be used during flight and a data acquisition system coupled with a ground control station is required for recording altitude during flight

AUVSI Aero Design Series

SUAS Competition

This year, M-Fly is entering into the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) competition, adding a 3rd team to M-Fly's competition schedule. The AUVSI competition is much more autonomy based while still maintaining the aircraft design aspect of engineering. We have both interest from inside and outside of MFly that we can pull expertise and manpower from. Participating in two different competitions may be logistically challenging; however, there are benefits to both sides. We believe that participating in the AUVSI competition will align M-Fly to where the industry is headed. Unlike the SAE Aero Design competition, there are many different missions that the aircraft must be able to execute, mostly focused on autonomous systems. The aircraft must autonomously navigate through waypoints while taking images of the area. The images must be processed in flight to locate a target and message. Once the target has been found, the aircraft must go to the target to drop a humanitarian aid package to the vicinity of the target. All of these missions must be executed while simultaneously avoiding simulated moving and stationary obstacles.

AUVSI sets the rules for the SUAS comptetion that all vehicles must abide by. Unlike the SAE competitions, however, SUAS has only ten rules.
The basic rules of the competition include the following:

  • There are no constraints for dimensions or materials used in building the aircraft
  • The only propulsion constraints are that no exotic fuels or batteries will be allowed
  • Teams must always have a working ground station operable and able to display the map, competition elements, altitude, location, and speed.
  • The aircraft must have completely autonomous capabilities.

AUVSI Competition

SAE Aero Design Series

2017 SAE Aero Design Rules

AUVSI Student Unmanned Aerial Systems Design Series