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2022 BMFA Design, build and fly competition

Team 01 got the champion award

Team 01 and team 02 inside the Hanger

Supervisor (Dr. C K Chan)

The Design, Build & Fly (DBF) is a regular capstone design project under the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Every year, many ME students show a very strong enthusiasm in this project and our department encourages them to participate in different international competitions. Many student competitions are based on solving “real” cases and problems. By participating in a competition, it helps students to build up links between thinking and doing so that they learn to apply theories into practice with a deeper understanding of the concepts.

In June 2022, two DBF teams of the ME department participated in the “British Model Flying Association (BMFA) 2022 University and Schools Flight Challenges”, in which five challenges of different missions are available. The Hong Kong Air Cadet Corp (HKACC) and The Hong Kong Model Engineering Club Limited (HKMEC) were invited to provide technical support to the team.

The competition is held by The British Model Flying Association in partnership with the Royal Aeronautical Society. Our teams participated the 2022 Payload Challenge 5 (weight) in June 2019. Competing teams are required to design and build a RC plane that can carry the highest payload with the highest speed as well.

From August 2021 to May 2022, under the supervisor (ME, HKU) and the advisor (HKACC), students went through the fundamental engineering design process: identifying the problems, developing conceptual designs, building computer models, optimizing their designs with finite element analysis (FEA) and computational fluid dynamic (CFD) software, learning practical RC plane building technique, working out the physical prototype, evaluating the performance and refining their design recurrently.

The BMFA payload challenge 5 took place in BMFA Buckminster, Sewstern Lane, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG33 5RW on 14th June 2022. Each team was required to complete 3 rounds of flying: No payload in 1st round while a payload weighted up to a maximum value of 2kg and 4kg in the 2nd and 3rd round respectively. Our teams completed all the tasks, and our design achieved the performance as expected. Among 17 teams from all over the world, including British, USA, HK … etc., our DBF team #1 and #2 won the champion and the 1st runner up respectively.

During the competition, all the participants were so kind and selfless to share spare parts, tools, fabrication skill …etc. An honorable and respectful ranking took the highest priority in the competition indeed. We were really impressed by the sportsmanship of the participants. The focus of all teams was so simple, let all RC planes flied successfully in the competition and make improvement in the future competition. Our team members communicated and exchanged ideas with other teams, say, the design concerns, the selection of propellers, validity of different CAD software, weight minimization methods, payload loading and unloading mechanism, sourcing of components.

In the coming academic year, our faculty and department will continue to support different student teams and participate in different international competitions to broaden their horizons.

PANG Chi Hin (Team 01 Captain)

One of the most thrilling and exiting year to remember! Being part of the HKU Design, Build & Fly (DBF) Team is my great honor and it is surely a splendid full stop to my university life in the University of Hong Kong.

As the team captain of the whole team, I experienced all the ups and downs with my fellow teammates within the year. Initially, we plan to compete in the US AIAA competition held in April. Having stroked with the outbreak of COVID cases in Hong Kong, all the manufacturing work has been suspended. As a team, we were eager to aim high and do all we can do. Thus, we took the initiative to join the UK BMFA payload challenge in June after evaluating that going to the US was impossible in April. In this year, I witnessed all the moments that my teammates pay all their hard work to strive for excellence in the competition. We, I believe, are the only team that has worked on double competitions. By the time we decided to compete in the BMFA competition, there were only two months left. To win the BMFA competition with the best aircraft we can produce, we worked nonstop, worked without eating and sleeping. We even worked overnight a few times just to buy ourselves some time under the pandemic. In June, hard work did pay off. Our plane scored the highest score in the competition and we were awarded with the champion of the 2022 BMFA Payload Challenge. Without a doubt, these moments constructed the best memories of our university life.

In the team, I am mainly responsible for the fuselage design. Utilizing with the knowledge learnt when I was a helper in the team and knowledge from books, I design the fuselage for the competition. By doing computational fluid dynamics (CFD), I was able to design better fuselage with less drag and smoother profile. By doing the whole project, I was amazed by the complexity of the aircraft systems, including all the avionics, control surfaces and landing systems which cannot be found in lesson. This strengthens my interest into pursuing a master’s degree next year.

Thanks to the HKU DBF Team, I was once again able to lead a group of people in chasing their dreams. Leadership isn’t easy. With all the tough work this year, plus some unexpected financial issue, it has been hard to keep the team running smoothly to plan and snapping the victory in the competition. It is my pleasure that numerous parties give strong support to the team and assists us in finishing this impossible job.

As the team captain of the whole team, I always hope that the HKU DBF Team is not only a team for capstone project. I treat the team as a big family. Being in the team is not just for finishing the project. In fact, we learn together, we improve together. More importantly, teammates would be more bonded and helping each other whenever in need. We not only discuss about aviation, but we also push and assist each other academically. One other precious experience is exchanging ideas and throughs with other schools during the competition. The team provides us with a better perspective of how other people thinks and innovates. As a place to nurture interest in aviation, I do hope that the HKU DBF Team can continue to run in upcoming years, bringing more and more aviation enthusiast into the aerospace sector.

TSANG Hin Mong Max

I am a member of the HKU Design Build Fly (DBF) Team in the 2021-22 school term. Throughout the past year, I have mainly been working on the avionics aspect of our model aircrafts – establishing wireless connection between the flight controller and the aircraft, setting up electrical hardware and wiring, and configuring servo motors to achieve desired flight control motions. Through a number of reference books and past designs, I have learned the major working mechanisms of an aircraft, and how to actualize ideas using appropriate software and hardware. Apart from the basic setup, I also had the opportunity to design innovative mechanisms for the aircraft payload cabin using different technologies including microcontrollers and programming, a precious experience that simply cannot be found in the classroom.

Throughout the journey, we have undoubtedly faced numerous obstacles. To start with, coming up with a fully functional plane from zero has been hard, if not frustrating at times. Designing a good competition plane requires a combination of precision, creativity, and experimentation. Sometimes, we just need to work in the workshop day and night, build one plane after another, before being able to achieve any kind of progress. More unexpectedly, the fifth COVID wave in Hong Kong has not only put a complete halt to our project progress, but also increased the travelling expenses twofold. Fortunately, we were able to gather just enough funds and materials to fly to the UK to take part in the BMFA Payload Challenge. Although eventually we have won the competition, what made the experience invaluable was not the result, but rather the opportunity to exchange ideas and innovations with other renowned institutions, injecting us with vastly different perspectives and pushing us to improve generally with time. Overall, joining this school team has further boosted my interest in aviation, and I am ready to make a positive impact to the industry as an engineer after graduation!

CHOI Wang Hei

After one and a half years of preparation, my team has been the championship of the Payload Challenge held by the British Model Flying Association. Our hard work finally pays off.

As a competitive team, we shape ourselves better in perseverance. Time was tight, while we were aiming at working out the best prototype design. From time to time, deadlines were set a week after we have just started the new manufacture, such that we would have enough time for trial runs and seek further improvement. It was ordinary to stick myself in the manufacturing workshop for more than 6 hours a day, overnight work was seldom required for urgent tasks. The building tasks are tedious and tough, at the same time we pay extra attention to every single part of the model aircraft. Even a small mistake in manufacturing can lead to a disastrous outcome with the whole model being crashed. I have experienced the most tiring days in my life. However, there has never been a time that I decided to give up. So do my teammates. After achieving the goal, I strongly believe my teammate and I have become more persistent.

Regarding the project nature, we frequently make use of a series of hand tools, wood, and AA glue. It was easy to have AA glues stuck on our hands, as well as our clothing. Unintentional movements rarely lead to small injuries. However, it is a must for completing our prototype manufacture. Throughout these unfortunate experiences, I realized group benefit could sometimes override personal benefit. I am willing to sacrifice myself for the project to a greater extent, also the events in the coming days. Being more generous can always enhance working efficiency in a team, as well as developing a sense of belonging to the work.

All in all, it was my honor to become a member of the HKU DBF team. Thanks to every teammate I have met. We experienced hard days, and in turn, rewarded a prosperous result and strong bonding. If time goes back to last year, I would take part in the DBF competition without hesitation.

TSUI Sau Ying

Excelling in the British Model Flying Association Competition requires innovative solution in addressing stringent structural requirements. Designing and constructing an unmanned model aircraft is undoubtedly rewarding yet competitive dynamics which requires prior preparation to prevent poor performance. It is always inevitable to make mistake as a human-being whilst the key to success is to tackle the root cause effectively and promptly with the minimal disruption.

In light of this, simulations and trials had been conducted for problem shooting and resolving, so as to ensure the design parameters are in optimal range. However, we have learnt from the competition that we shall always expect the unexpected. As aforementioned, the competition is dynamics, there were loads of uncontrollable factors on site, ranging from weather condition to structural damage. However, materials and equipment were limited due to on-site constraint, which required our innovation to resolve the problem within a short period of time.

Given the opportunity and with perseverance, we definitely spared no effort to incorporate our strength and made of ourselves by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibilities into flames of achievements.

CHENG Hoi Shun

Being a team member in the Design, Build and Fly (DBF) Team, I had an invaluable and unforgettable experience with my teammates. We joined two international competitions, the 2022 University and Schools Payload Challenge held by the British Model Flyting Association (BMFA) and the 2022 Design/Build/Fly Competition held by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). In both competitions, I was responsible for the fuselage part. For the RC plane for BMFA, it was capable of carrying 4 kg of fluid payload with the whole plane weighed about 1 kg. Therefore, weight reduction was our major goal. The weight of the RC airplanes gradually reduced as we kept improving our manufacturing methods. During the competition in the UK, we had chanced to communicate with different teams from other countries over the world. In the end, we had won the competition and completed all the flights successfully.

For the competition of the AIAA, the fuselage was able to deploy shock-sensitive payloads remotely one-by-one. Thus, the team needed to design a off-load mechanism and a shock-absorbing mechanism in order to carry as many payloads as we could. We made several prototypes and carried out three flight tests in order to enhance the performance of the RC plane. However, due to pandemic issue, the team was not allowed to go to the US to join the competition in April this year. But what we had learnt during the process is more important and valuable.

I acquired many knowledge related to RC planes, for example, in the aspect of design and manufacture. I also learnt how to cooperate with team members with different working styles and personalities. The team was divided into three sub-groups based on our abilities and interests. We solved problems using engineering ideas and methods with each other. We could apply what we have learnt from the university in the reality. It is worth for us to put all our time and effort in the team.

CHEUNG Hoi Yin, Haydn

It is my pleasure to join the DBF team as my final year project. Thanks to the support from the department and the school, we were able to complete our BMFA competition with first place in the payload challenge. We started our training since 2021 summer and working almost everyday in our fourth year study. Starting from building the ready-to-fly trainer plane to design and building our own aircraft base on the competition requirements. We have learnt different rc plane building techniques from our technical advisor Mr CK Leung. He guided us through the design of the aircraft to the hand-ons work for building the rc model plane. Also being our pilot in the competition.

It is tough to balance our school works and the works in the project. Everyone have tried their best to participate in the production. After been through several versions of our aircraft, we have finally come up a most suitable version which brought us the champion in the payload challenge of BMFA. Also, our supervisor Dr CK Chan has provided lot of support so that we could finish our project smoothly. Not only providing sufficient raw materials and tool for us, he also helped us manage the time and venue for flight test at the HKMEC so that we could test out our aircraft and found out what we need to improve. We are very grateful to his contribution. I would also like to thank you all my teammates to sacrifice their time to make this happen. Without their effort we would not have such achievement.

YEUNG Sin Chik

Having the funding, it definitely provides us sufficient support to research and manufacture our model. At the design stage, materials selection for the wing part is a crucial factor affecting the total aircraft weight. However, this required a high consumption of resources and funds. At the same time, it is my first to get in touch with the unfamiliar materials and learn about their feature, nature and usage. For example, plywood consists of strong strength but heavy weight; different directions of balsa texture can withstand different directions of axial and shear force with low weight; carbon fiber with strong structures can support high amounts of bending; Foam is relatively light and easy to make amendments; Glass fiber is for strengthening the specific part; 3D materials can manufacture some complicated design etc. Fortunately, under the sufficient resources and advices provided by supervisor and adviser, we successfully overcame by using ribs and spars structural design together with one carbon fiber rod as the connection part and carbon fiber sheet for strengthening the spar. At the manufacture stage, limited time is our main concern for constructing the aircraft due to the pandemic. Under the tight schedule, we have constructed 4 pairs of wings efficiently while maintaining a certain quality within a several weeks. Although it is so tough to work for the prototype sacrificing all the time in the laboratory, it is worth when see the final outcome. After this final year project, I believe I have learnt a lot and overcome many problems which provides me unforgettable experience in my university life.

Other photos:

Team 01 and team 02 inside the Hanger

Team 01 and team 02 outside the BMFA office

Team 01 RC plane flying in the sky

Team 02 RC plane flying in the sky

Team 02 RC plane landing

Team 01 beside the runway

Team 02 beside the runway

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