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Amazing flying machines reach for the sky

17 April 2013

The NUSLion team consisted of (from left) Cheng Youyang, Deng Di, Wang Kangli, Li Xiang and Tian Hongyu

The team led by Kevin Ang (centre) won top prize for the most creative unconventional platform

After labouring tirelessly and completing challenging tasks successfully, two NUS undergraduate teams have emerged winners at this year's Singapore Amazing Flying Machine Competition organised by DSO National Laboratories and the Science Centre Singapore.

NUSLion, an autonomous quadrotor helicopter created by the NUS Engineering group led by Wang Kangli, made an impressive sweep of the Automated Championship Award (Category D2), Autonomous Best Performance Award and Most Creative Award. The team received a cash prize of S$10,000, with each member getting an iPad.

"The platform is able to carry large payloads and provide good controllability. For the electronic aspects, an integrated on-board system provides sufficient computational power, accurate measurements and real-time communication capabilities," shared Kangli.

The NUSLion had to go through seven tasks - autonomous taking-off, entering a room through a window, precise payload dropping, navigating through a half-opened door, avoiding obstacles, exiting the room through a window and auto-landing. The students adopted a laser scanner as the main localisation sensor to enable stable motion and precise position control. The judges were particularly struck by the three-dimensional visualisation and reconstruction of the design.

A second NUS Engineering team helmed by Kevin Ang Zong Yao clinched the top prize in Category E Unconventional for their Semi-Autonomous Integrated (SAI) Hybrid Aircraft which demonstrated its flight capabilities within a confined outdoor area. It efficiently performed the required basic flying techniques such as controlled take-off and landing, maintained straight level flight and altitude, as well as skilfully manoeuvred advanced techniques such as flips and rolls.

"The judges were impressed by how our hybrid aircraft could transform stably in mid-air and transit smoothly into fixed-wing flight," said Kevin. The machine's ability to do vertical take-off and landing allows it to hover indoors before changing into a fixed-wing aircraft to fly outdoors.