We are a group of motivated and passionate students at Carleton University who design, manufacture, and operate Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to compete in the annual national student competition hosted by Unmanned Systems Canada (USC).

This year, we need to design a system that will deliver medical supplies to various remote clinics as quickly and safely as possible.  Our system will contain both Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV). At the competition, the medical supplies will need to be picked up from inside a depot and delivered to the various clinics that are not accessible by road. While delivery speed and safety of the medical supplies are critical, the main issue to overcome is that we will have to make a sophisticated relay communication system that will give our Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) the ability to drive inside the depot and clinics without losing connection. 


The Background

Blackbird UAV was founded as an extra-curricular program to provide students with an opportunity to work in a structural team environment with industry-driven objects. We bring together students to learn about a variety of fields, including airframe design, modern manufacturing methods, and computer and electrical systems to develop autonomous solutions and enhance the capabilities of aerial survey missions. 

It gives students the chance to learn how to apply some of the knowledge they’ve learned in class. It also expands their horizons; it is not just mechanical, electrical, or computer science, it’s a mixture of all three. So not only will students learn about their own discipline, they will learn about the others as well.

This is a great opportunity for students to design a system and use it to compete with other university students from across Canada. The students will get to experience and learn from other student’s systems, as well as their own.  

The Rollout

The overall cost for the Blackbird UAV team can be separated into two categories : equipment and material, and competition fees.  

First of all, due to the complexity of the competition and the requirement of using both Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV), one  major cost this year will rely heavily on off-the-shelf equipment. While we attempt to design and build as much as possible, there are certain items that cannot be manufactured by us as we have neither the skills or the tools required. As examples, we will need batteries, motors, flight sensors such as GPS, and cameras for all the vehicles. 

The second largest overall cost is the travel cost to the competition. The students work very hard on this project and most want to come to the competition where it all comes together. While we would like to bring as many as possible, the competition is in Southport, Manitoba so the combined travel cost (registration fees, car rentals, gas) can be very high. 

We generally rely on sponsors for the majority of our equipment, but we depend on fundraising, such as Future Funder, to pay for our travel and registration costs. 

The Impact

One of our ultimate goals this year is to have as many of our team members as we can going to the competition. On top of participating in this invaluable hands-on learning experience that can help us improve for next year, the students get to meet new people for networking (students and industrial leaders), and they will experience the excitement and thrill of the actual competition.


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