Unmanned aerial vehicle competition held at Webster Field

Participants in the June 13-15 Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Student Unmanned Aerial Systems Competition pause for a photo at Webster Outlying Field in St. Inigoes, Md.

The local Seafarer Chapter hosted the 17th annual Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Student Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) Competition at Webster Outlying Field, June 13 through 15.

This year, 75 schools registered for the competition, including 40 U.S. colleges, 31 international schools and four U.S. high schools.

“We started this competition in 2003 and we had only two schools participate,” said Tim Piester, president of the Seafarer Chapter. “This started getting people interested in the unmanned arena and we wanted to make it for undergraduates.”

This year, the organization awarded $50,250 to the top teams. Overall-first place was awarded to Ecole de Technologie Superieure from Quebec, second place went to Flint High School from Virginia, and third place went to Yildiz Technical University from Istanbul, Turkey.

Judges graded the students on a technical design paper, a flight-readiness review video, and then the students presented their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in-person and performed the required missions. The missions required students to fly waypoints, search the surrounding field for targets, sense, detect and avoid targets, air drop an unmanned ground vehicle, and perform dynamic mission changes while airborne.

“I love engineering and I plan on going into aerospace when I graduate,” said Matthew Minogue, a Calvert Hall High School student from Baltimore. “This is my third year coming out here. The experience is amazing. Just being able to talk to experts in the field and to people that work on the base is excellent, and the challenge presented by college students is enticing.”

Webster Outlying Field, an annex of NAS Patuxent River, is chosen as the location for the competition because it is host to several UAV programs, such as the MQ-8 Fire Scout system, the MQ-4C Triton, and the Navy’s first Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) squadron, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (UX) 24.

“The Navy volunteers have been a vital role in the success of these competitions,” said Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Kyle Penston, assigned to UX-24, volunteer coordinator for the event. “The volunteers are excited to see the future of unmanned aircraft and to see what the Navy might use in the future.”

The Seafarer Chapter is already looking forward to next year’s event, and is planning on an even larger turnout.

“This competition sets kids up for future success in the competitive industries,” Piester said.