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Dayton Engineer

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Senior Mechanical Engineering Students Design UAV System for Capstone Project

By Keelin Kelly

At the start of the spring semester, senior mechanical engineering students John Faetanini, Ben Parlett, Sam Gepperth and Grant Newland were tasked with designing a UAV system for The Corps, a contract engineering firm, as their senior design project. 

Their project is a culminating experience, applying their classroom knowledge to real-life application. Senior design projects are coordinated through the Innovation Center which connects industry partners to student teams. These multi-disciplinary projects allow students to create new products while working to meet the needs of industrial, societal and business communities.

The team’s goal is to create an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system that can be rapidly mass produced, assembled and shipped anywhere in the world. They have spent the semester researching the current UAV market and testing materials to create a full aerodynamic design for the vehicle and determine its manufacturing process. 

“It’s been really rewarding to see the project come together throughout the whole semester,” Faetanini said. “We started with nothing and are now at the point where we have the full design and a very good idea of how we’re actually going to build it.”

The Corps had minimal set requirements for the system which allowed the team creative freedom throughout the design process. The group maintained regular contact with and received feedback from their client through weekly status reports held over Zoom.

“Communicating with our client weekly has been a great learning experience,” Gepperth said. “It has helped me a lot to receive positive and constructive feedback, and it has been very good for conducing productivity in our group.” 

The team discovered they could be the most productive by dividing their work into two focuses: design and manufacture. Gepperth and Newland worked on the principle aircraft design and calculations for stress while Parlett and Faetanini focused on materials and manufacturing. 

“When Sam and Grant come up with a design, we have to come up with how to build it. If we go back and tell them it can’t be built that way, they have to rework their design,” Parlett said. “I feel like that very accurately represents an engineering workspace. You have your own department that says what can and can’t be done, and then you bounce it to the next person.”

In the final weeks of the semester, the group will be stress testing materials to confirm their calculations and finalize their design. They will present their project’s outcome at the School of Engineering’s Capstone Design Symposium at the end of April.

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