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

This year, we need to survey a damaged solar farm that is beyond visual line-of-sight and will need to deliver markers to mark the areas with the greatest damage. While speed is a criteria, the main issue to overcome will be the fact that there is a forest between the groundstation and the solar farm, and losing communication to our UAVs is not an option.

The Background

Blackbird UAV was founded as an extra-curricular program to provide students with an opportunity to work in a structured team environment with industry-driven objectives. We bring together students with experience in airfame design, modern manufacturing methods, and computer systems integration to develop autonomous solutions and enhance the capabilities of aerial survey missions.

It gives students the chance to learn how to actually apply some of the knowledge they’ve learned in class. It also expands their horizons; it’s 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’ll learn about the others as well.

The Rollout

The overall cost for the Blackbird UAV team can be separated into two sections; equipment and competition fees.

The first major cost in the year is equipment; while we try to design and build as much as possible, there are certain items that we don’t have the skills or the tools to manufacture them. For instance, we need new motors and batteries for a new multirotor that will be built this year, along with a fixed-wing UAV. We’ll also need to buy a replacement battery charger, and a good quality HD camera that can transmit 4K video.

The second part of the overall cost is the travel and registration fees. The students work hard all year on this and all want to come to the competition that takes place at the end of the year. We want to bring as many as possible so they can learn from other teams, network with the companies that come, and enjoy the fruit of their hard labour. That being said, there is a large registration fee for each member that comes, as well as the travel cost that increases as the team size increases.

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

The Impact

If we reach our goal, we’ll be able to bring ten members to the competition at the end of the year. That means ten members will get to experience the excitement and thrill of the actual competition, while hopefully meeting new people (fellow students, judges, any people from the many businesses that attend) and hopefully learning from them what could be improved for next year.

From experience, everyone who attends the competition loves it and always come back to Blackbird every year they’re a student here at Carleton University. If we go over our goal? We’ll simply bring more people!

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