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May 16, 2001

Media Contact: Troy Anderson, (858) 822-3075 or

Editor's Note: Click on links to see images. [ Image 1 Image 2 Image 3 Image 4 Image 5 ]


A radio-controlled composite airplane built by nine UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering students captured fourth place in an international design, build and fly competition sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). The contest was held in St. Inigoes, Md., on April 21.

The Jacobs School team was sponsored by the Silent Electric Flyers of San Diego, High Tech RCD, General Atomics, Diversity Model Aircraft, and the Jacobs School. The Silent Electric Flyers have donated hundreds of hours of free time and guidance to the students. The group remains dedicated to the promotion of electric propulsion in all types of aeromodeling.

Under the direction of Structural Engineering Professor John Kosmatka, the Jacobs School students, all members of the university's AIAA chapter, conceptualized, designed and fabricated the one-of-a-kind plane. It was made almost entirely of composite materials (i.e. very little metal was used), and took about six months to complete.

To meet the criteria for the competition, the propeller-driven plane, just over five feet in length with a 10-foot wingspan, had to weigh less than 55 pounds and take-off in less than 200 feet. In addition, the students had to power the craft with over-the-counter nickel-cadmium batteries. The plane was flown by a professional operator who had 10 minutes to navigate the plane through the designated course in the air and earn points by meeting certain in-flight criteria.

The goal of the annual contest is to provide a real-world aircraft design experience for engineering students by giving them the opportunity to validate their analytic studies. The goal is a balanced design possessing good demonstrated flight handling qualities and practical and affordable manufacturing requirements while providing a high vehicle performance.

Thirty-seven teams from all over the world competed, and the Jacobs School plane finished ahead of those built by teams from MIT, Georgia Tech, University of Illinois, Virginia Tech, University of Texas, USC, and SDSU.

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