The University of Texas at Austin (UT) has developed a two-semester hands-on course of instruction involving design, analysis, fabrication and flight testing of small unmanned air systems (UAS). The course is structured around a competitive fly-off of UAS concepts. The course objective is hands on experience in design, development and test of complete air systems including practical application of the fundamentals of Systems Engineering.
The first semester introduces students to the fundamentals of systems engineering design from an Unmanned Air System (UAS) conceptual design perspective. Students organize into competitive design teams to respond to a "customer" request for proposal (RFP). The RFP describes a planned competitive development and fly-off of a UAS search/surveillance/strike system. The semester ends with down-select of team proposals based on presentations to a source selection board.
During the second semester the winning teams absorb students from the down-selected teams and reorganize to develop and fly their proposed system concepts. Class lectures address technical and programmatic subjects associated with upcoming team tasks such as flight test planning and data analysis. Milestone reviews are held to published entry and exit criteria. Weekly laboratory sessions are used accomplish team defined tasks including design, build, test and data analysis. Graded assignments include preliminary and critical design reviews, test readiness and data reviews, the fly-off competition and the end of semester System Design Review (SDR).
Test planning, execution, data analysis and performance verification are key learning objectives. Ground testing includes static structural testing to verify design ultimate load capability. Engineering flight test (EFT) flight readiness reviews (FRR) are held to demonstrate readiness for flight test evaluations. The product of EFT is basic flight performance data to calibrate/validate student developed air vehicle and sensor performance models. Another series of flight readiness reviews are held for operational test and evaluation (OT&E) FRR to demonstrate team readiness for Concept of Operations (ConOps) development testing. OT&E flight testing is intended to refine and validate team developed operational concepts.
The semester focus is on a fly-off competition scored on a combination of team Systems Engineering and Mission Performance scores. The fly-off competition is conducted to published rules as specified in the RFP. Time limits and rules of engagement are strictly enforced. Included in the scoring criteria are parameters derived from EFT flight test data analysis.