Joint NASA/DLR Challenge 2020 – 4…3…2…1!
In the past years, only small things were missing to win the competition, but this year the student team of RWTH Aachen University, which is supervised by the ILR, took the top spot in the Joint NASA/DLR Challenge 2020. They were able to secure first place against six other teams from German universities and to bring the victory to Aachen for the first time. This student competition with identical tasks has been organized annually by NASA in the USA and DLR in Germany since 2017.
This year's competition was all about Urban Air Mobility, with the specific aim of developing an autonomously and reliably operating system for the delivery of goods in inner-city areas. The six students in this year's team at RWTH Aachen University worked intensively on the topic over a period of five months. Due to the current Covid-19 situation, not only the competition rules had to be observed, but also the necessary distance to the own team members. Thus, despite communication obstacles, the Urban Ray concept was developed in many virtual meetings, which represents a fully autonomous, electrical UAS (unmanned aircraft system) in a blended wing-body configuration. In addition to the detailed technical design of the vertical take-off and landing aircraft, modular landing platforms with fully automated package loading, storage and battery exchange systems were developed. Combined with the consideration of safety-relevant aspects and a pay-per-use business model, the concept convinced the jury consisting of the DLR Executive Board member for Aeronautics, Prof. Rolf Henke, and various DLR institute directors in the final meeting in Hamburg. In addition to active participation in various national German congresses, the team can also look forward to a trip to NASA headquarters in the USA next year to present their concept to a symposium of internationally recognized aviation experts.