LAWRENCE — A design to improve the flight capabilities of a high-altitude military surveillance vehicle earned a group of University of Kansas School of Engineering students recognition in an international aircraft design competition.
Three 2013 KU aerospace engineering graduates – Adam D’Silva, Kanin Homsrivaranon and Shina Gupta, and one engineering physics graduate, Abhishek Chakrabarti – took second place in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation’s 2013 Undergraduate Team Engine Design Competition. Saeed Farokhi, professor of aerospace engineering, served as the team’s adviser.
The competition centered on engine improvements to the Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, a military aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman that uses high-resolution radar to provide a broad overview and systematic surveillance of up to 40,000 square miles per day.
Teams were challenged to redesign the Global Hawk engine to increase the flight ceiling from 65,000 feet to 70,000 feet while still maintaining a cruising speed of Mach 0.6, reduce the engine mass to allow more surveillance equipment and implement advanced technology into the engine.
“The whole process was pretty intensive and time-consuming,” said team captain Adam D’Silva. “We used a computer program and techniques we learned in Professor Farokhi’s class, and from there it was a lot of trial and error.”
The KU team’s design sought to deal with higher engine-core temperatures that are a byproduct of the greater thrust required to operate the vehicle at higher altitudes. Team members also explored methods to reduce fuel burn and researched different materials in an effort to lower projected costs.
“It’s a major sigh of relief when you see a design that finally works. Seeing it all come together is really rewarding,” D’Silva said.
This team’s achievement marks the fourth award-winning performance this academic year for KU in an AIAA competition. Eight KU aerospace engineering students won first place in AIAA’s Graduate Team Aircraft Design Competition. Another group of eight students took second place in AIAA’s Undergraduate Team Space Transportation Design Competition. School of Engineering graduate Joshua Holland won second place in the 2013 Undergraduate Individual Aircraft Design Competition.
This year’s success continues a long-running tradition of excellence for KU in AIAA student design competitions. KU is among the top institutions in the world in winning and placing in these competitions.