A group of Purdue University students has won top honors in the NASA University Student Design Challenge. The contest challenged undergraduate students to develop a comprehensive plan for integrating flying vehicles into the existing infrastructure of a city.
Purdue says teams had to come up with solutions for a variety of factors, including traffic management, autonomy, propulsion, noise, cost and safety. The Purdue team prepared a written report with accompanying data and presented it to NASA judges via videoconference.
The Purdue team designed parking garages, pedestrian crossings, air traffic patterns and on-ramps allowing flying vehicles and road vehicles to use the same roadways. Their report also featured a city planning section which projected the type of infrastructure needed for aerial vehicles.
"Even now, with small handheld drones and flying vehicles, there are tons of issues that haven’t been fully solved yet," said Yuhan Roh, a senior in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics who served as team lead. "Imagine when these flying vehicles are big enough to carry cargo, or people. We had to consider not just the vehicles themselves, but the infrastructure involved in keeping them moving, keeping them safe and integrating them with existing roads."
As a result of their win, the team will next month visit NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio, which sponsored the contest, to tour its testing facilities. They will also present the findings of their projects to various experts at the center.