Runway Boys

AIAA Design/Build/Fly Competition


Member profile details

Membership level
2014-2015 Team
Project Thumbnail Image
Team Name
Runway Boys
Project Title
AIAA Design/Build/Fly Competition
Design Challenge
We are an interdisciplinary group of engineers at Rice University working to design, develop, and build a robust model airplane. Our plane will need be able to excel in each of the three required missions of the AIAA Design/Build/Fly Competetion. The missions will encompass the speed, capacity, and ability of our design to drop cargo on command. The designs and technologies developed during the creation of this airplane can then be implemented into broader commercial solutions for recreational and military unmanned aircraft.
Design Summary
For the first semester, our goal was to design and manufacture prototypes for every subsystem and integrate all of them into an initial complete airplane prototype. Then, we hoped to test that prototype so that we could compare our initial assumptions with actual performance results. The goal of the first prototype was to test whether or not the plane could get into the air and be controlled by the pilot. After creating the first plane, we took our aircraft to the airfield in Alvin, Texas so that a certified AMA pilot could fly our plane. The pilot flew our airplane for two minutes and provided us feedback on the controllability of the plane. We learned that the landing gear was the weakest component of our plane, as it failed upon landing.
Once we had established a proof of concept of the aircraft, we sought ways to improve the performance of our aircraft and improve the score we will receive at the 2015 AIAA DBF Competition. One of the rules states that the more motors included, the lower the score. To address this, the wing was altered by removing the motor that controls the ailerons and creating a dihedral wing. Additionally, we added the capability for us to complete Mission 2 (carry 5 pounds of payload) and Mission 3 (wiffle ball drop).
Once the second prototype was built, the plane was taken out for a test flight. However, the first takeoff attempt caused the wing to become detached from the rest of the plane before takeoff. In order to obtain flight data from the design, the wing was then secured with rubber bands and the plane attempted another takeoff. The plane was able to get off the ground but did not have any stability in flight due to high wind. The plane was unable to land successfully like the first prototype.
We worked to alter the second prototype to deal with the issues encountered. Since we had little control of the plane with the dihedral wings, the wing from the first plane was adapted to fit the new fuselage. The landing gear was made stronger to deal with the landing impact. We elected to move from a tricycle gear to a quadricycle system to provide more strength. We then took the altered prototype out for another test flight. The plane performed extremely well as we were able to make 4 flight attempts and could land successfully. In addition, the wiffle ball system had a 100% success rate. We were unable to take off with the payload and discovered some issues with our battery packs as they did not provide us with enough flight time, due to overheating and loss of capacity. These issues will be addressed in our final design.
We have selected a final design and have submitted our report/design for the competition. We plan to construct one last prototype, which will be the plane we use to compete at the competition. As we construct this final plane, we will continue to make minor modifications to help improve our score (such as cut weight) and optimize the aircraft. Updated 02/25/2015
Date Updated3
February 25, 2015
Date Updated
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Karen Waggoner Whitney and Richard T. Whitney
  • Mechanical Engineering
Faculty Advisor 1 - Name
Dr. Andrew Meade
Faculty Advisor 1 - Department
  • MECH
Faculty Advisor 2 - Name
Dr. Fathi Ghorbel
Faculty Advisor 2 - Department
  • MECH

Team Members

Award(s) and Recognition
Best Aerospace or Transportation Technology Award, Rice University Design Showcase

Contact us

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Rice University

6100 Main Street MS 390 | Houston, Texas | 77005

Phone: 713.348.OEDK


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