A team of students from Missouri University of Science and Technology is preparing to fly its remote-controlled airplane, Sky Miner, in this year’s Aero Design East competition. The event, which is sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, will be held April 3-5 in Marietta, Ga.


A team of students from Missouri University of Science and Technology is preparing to fly its remote-controlled airplane, Sky Miner, in this year’s Aero Design East competition. The event, which is sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, will be held April 3-5 in Marietta, Ga.

Sky Miner has a wingspan of more than 14 feet.

Each year at the SAE competition, university teams are judged on flight scores, written design reports and oral presentations. This year’s aero design competition involves 65 teams, some coming from as far away as India.

Traditionally, Missouri S&T’s Advanced Aero Vehicle Group (AAVG) has done well, despite some spectacular crashes. In the 2008 competition, S&T placed second in both the design report and oral presentation categories, but blustery conditions and a tail weakened from a crash during a test flight prevented the team from doing even better.

The team has made some changes to the design of the 2009 airplane. “For the first time ever, we are using only one engine,” says Michael Mueller, a senior in aerospace engineering and chief engineer of the Missouri S&T team.

This single engine was taken from one of the team’s previous planes and refurbished to add power, saving the S&T group hundreds of dollars.

The team also added more than four feet to the wingspan of this year’s plane. The extra wing area helps the plane to take off within the maximum allowed distance of 200 feet.

“The most exciting part of the competition is when the aircraft are flying,” says Mueller, who is from St. Louis. “Eight months of work all come down to flying a lap around a field, and there are no guarantees that your airplane will survive the experience.”