Past Projects

Past Projects

2015-2016 West Virginia University alternative DBF Competition

Due to the loss of workspace at ESPL and a significant change in DBF rules, our build schedule was severely delayed. Thus, we chose to participated in West Virginia University’s alternative DBF competition.

2014-2015 ILLmatic INItiative

This year’s competition required the plane to carry a 5lb payload around a predetermined course, then remotely drop wiffle balls in a designated area. The remote drop mechanism comprised of a winch servo, a rope, and magnets to hold the wiffle balls.

Unfortunately, thin air and low wind speeds in Arizona made it difficult for our aircraft to take off with such a heavy payload, and we were not able to complete all of our missions. The UIUC team finished 42nd overall.

2013-2014 Angle of WINcidence

This year’s competition required the plane to lift a series of payloads and ferry them around a predetermined course. The final aircraft was designed to carry a 2lb payload while weighing in at only 3lbs.  A 3lb plane to fly in 30mph winds is a very difficult task to overcome and unfortunately crashed during the ferry mission. However, we came in 32nd overall. 

Watch the beginning: our plane took off almost vertically!


2012-2013 Gravity Wins, Must Go Real Fast
This year’s competition required the plane to carry weighted rockets to simulate stores on a strike fighter aircraft. The plane must fly a mission with an internal, team-determined load, and then a mission with a load randomly selected by dice roll from 6 possible configurations.


2011-2012 Team Rise of the Phoenix

This year’s competition required the plane to carry on one mission a specified volume of water which it will drop, and on another mission a specified quantity of aluminum bars. There is of course also the obligatory unloaded laps mission.

Because of issues with the rules of report submission, the team was disqualified from competition. Work on the plane continued in order to validate the design’s performance.

The competition in Wichita was cut short by severe weather, and though a few teams completed all missions, score was only determined based on the first two missions.


2010-2011 Caddymasters and Team Phoenix

This season featured a divergence from previous UIUC entries, where two separate and independent teams competed, designated the Blue and Orange teams. The varying approaches resulted in two radically different aircraft, each with its own scoring advantages.

Team Caddymasters (Orange) displayed an advantage in RAC, but produced significantly less power and provided less storage volume for golf balls. Team Phoenix (Blue) featured a competition first quad-motor design and a lofty capacity of nearly 60 golf balls.

At competition, the Caddymasters’ aircraft was plagued by power system malfunctions, leading to two incomplete mission attempts, leaving them unable to complete the golf-ball payload mission. Team Phoenix’s aircraft competitively flew the ferry mission and steel bar payload mission, but a mechanical failure during the golf ball payload mission caused a spectacular crash on the final day of competition. After a miraculous repair with under three hours remaining in competition, the team attempted their final attempt, but extremely high winds caused a crash immediately after takeoff.

The Caddymasters design report can be viewed here, and Team Phoenix’s report here.


2004-2005 (Un)Stable Mabel

The year was a tough one for the team. Even though we only had 13th place, we still achieved the highest technical report score in the history of the competition as well as the third lowest Rated Aircraft Cost. The airplane initially started out as a flying wing as it was predicted to give the highest competition score. However, experiments with models demonstrated that the idea would be impractical due to stability and lift issues. (Un)Stable Mabel was then redesigned as a conventional aircraft in the middle of the year.

At competition, (Un)Stable Mabel lived up to its name. It crashed several times during landing because of landing instabilities. As a result, we could not score on several of our flights even though they had been flown excellently by our pilot, Miguel Frontera.

This was the first effort for an all molded-airplane construction by the team, and enjoyed an excellent success. It gave the (Un)Stable Mabel a high-quality and lightweight construction.

Click here to view the year’s design report.


2003-2004 Fiberglass Overcast (Senior & Junior)

The 4th place finish for UIUC was bittersweet in 2004. The team designed and built an innovative aircraft that performed the mission very well and greatly improved their report score. The team was awarded 3rd place at the award ceremony, but later bumped to 4th after a judge’s error in computing the RAC was discovered. This year represented a big step forward from the teams 13th place finish in 2003. The fiberglass overcast was flown extremely well by our pilot, overcoming some gusty conditions on Saturday to stick those ever important landings. It completed the ferry mission in a respectable time with plenty of energy to spare. It also was one of the few teams to successfully carry and dump 4L of water on multiple flights.

This plane was one of our more strange creations. We had decided that the best layout for the water tank for fast drainage was to make it as tall as possible or to provide external pressure. Ideas to do this ran from installing tilting tanks to using a weighted bladder. Eventually, the team settled on a tall vertical tank that was faired in an airfoil. This created a vertical fuselage ‘wing’ that give the Fiberglass Overcast its unique shape. It actually drew a small crowd of doubtful onlookers as they eyed the oddly-placed vertical stabilizer suspiciously. However, all doubts were lifted when Fiberglass Overcast Senior lifted off the runway that morning to fly a beautiful ferry mission. When it landed, it was met with much applause.

During construction, the team decided to build two models of the Fiberglass Overcast, Senior and Junior. We had built both in time for the competition; one to serve as the primary for the competition and the other to stand in as a backup.

This was also probably the team’s first use of molding for construction. The fuselage wing sections were molded using the lost foam molding technique, while Fiberglass Overcast Senior’s wing and tail carbon D-tubes were male molded. The engine compartment hoods for both aircraft were also male molded.

Interesting characteristics of the Fiberglass Overcast:

Integral water tank, telemetry system that provided real time battery information, 3-D printed ball valve, a crankable Robart robo-strut for the monowheel main gear.

Click here to view the year’s report.
2002-2003 Chambana Belle (Gas Guzzler)

The Chambana Belle (Gas Guzzler was its “real” name) had a disappointing competition placing 13th. The placing summed up our luck for the weekend, just about everything that could go wrong did (short of crashing). The propulsion batteries came unplugged during one flight, one flight attempt was wasted by one of the wheel pants rubbing against one of the main wheels, one of the wing receivers died as we were about to make a flight attempt, we missed a takeoff with our baseline prop (we were always testing with a head wind which didn’t exist at that point of the competition), we bent our only gearbox (thanks Maryland for letting us borrow one!), the firewall was knocked loose and the beautiful paint job on the plane slowly deteriorated through the repeated repairs. It would have been nice to see what the Belle could have done with a couple more flight attempts after the bugs had been worked out. During its one successful scoring flight it posted one of the better times in the sensor deployment mission. Also the team had one of the top assembly times at 10 seconds. Despite the difficulties at the competition, the team of 7 put out an amazing effort designing and building a new plane completely from scratch starting in January. During the first semester a hideous prototype was constructed that taught the team a lot (most of it was what not to do).

Interesting characteristics of the Chambana Belle:

One of the two teams that deployed the payload out the side of the fuselage, a receiver for the fuselage and one for each wing so that no wires needed to be connected during assembly, hinged main landing gear that was held in place with hard drive magnets.
2001-2002 Illiniwek I

The 2001-2002 DBF competition was a good one for the Illini and their entry Illiniwek I. The team placed 4th with a good report score, a decent RAC and one of the highest flight scores. Veteran pilot Mike Cross flew the spectacularly giving the team a shot at the top. On the final flight the team gave the OK to Cross to give it everything he had, unfortunately the plane was pushed beyond its envelope and ended with a spectacular crash. One half of the wing was shredded with only the carbon fiber spar caps left dangling, the prop shaft sheared off of the gearbox, and 2/3 of the fuselage was reduced to sticks. The only thing left unscathed was the vertical stabilizer, which now hangs proudly in our shop.

Interesting Characteristics of Illiniwek 1:

It had a servo operated switch which could reverse the polarity of the batteries and therefore provide thrust reversing to reduce the stopping distance, and the lower half of the fuselage was destroyed in a crash 1 week prior to the competition.