Written by Chrysa Maragkou


The UAS Challenge is organized by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in Great Britain and it is the leading competition in Aerospace category. The challenge lead the way in promoting value and cohesion within the industry, providing unique opportunities to universities, their teams, the individual participants and its partnering organizations. The challenge launched in 2014 with the main purpose of developing professional engineers and inspiring the next generation. And now is a highly anticipated event attracting teams from across the UK and around the world. Each annual Challenge route starts in October, where the groups submit their participation, and it is completed with a final event, an aerial demonstration in June the following year.


Teams of undergraduates from all over the world take part in the Challenge. During these 8 demanding months, the teams must submit plans, business reports and other data that they analyze at specific intervals. They undertake a full design and build cycle of a UAS with a maximum take-off mass of 10kg to undertake specific mission objectives. The system will be required to operate automatically, performing a series of tasks such as area search, navigating waypoints, accurately dropping the Aid Package and returning to base via a defined route. The competition is split into design, development and demonstration stages and culminates with the flying demonstration and business case presentations which contribute to final scoring.

Challenge Stages

A. Concept

This stage comprises basic requirements capture and trade studies leading to the selection of the system concept and a plan for its development.

B. Design and Development

Detailed design for manufacture supported by structural, aerodynamic, system and performance analysis. This stage should include an assessment of how the requirements are to be verified through test, and importantly how the safety requirements are to be met. This stage includes the Design Report.

C. Manufacture and Test

This stage comprises construction of the UAS, and possibly manufacture of prototypes during the earlier design stages to de-risk the design. Demonstration through analysis, modelling and physical test that the design will meet the requirements, and is sufficiently robust and reliable. Physical test should include subsystem test, as well as flight testing of the complete UAS.

D. Demonstration

The flying demonstration event is held over three days and comprises a multi- stage process of qualification and demonstration, including: Scrutineering, Mission Flight and Project Presentation.

E. Business Plan

During the Demonstration event, teams will be required to deliver a presentation covering their Business Plan, STEM engagement and addressing Environmental issues arising. The Business Plan should give a well-articulated understanding of their market, an outline revenue model and sales projections, and summarize how the UAS capabilities and cost projections align with the target market. It should include a cost breakdown of the demonstration vehicle and how this will be translated into the selling price of the production system, including support and operational costs.

F. Social Media

Teams should also demonstrate how effectively they have promoted the competition and their design locally with schools, the media and on social media. Teams should explain how they are minimizing the environmental impact of their design and operation. Teams will have 15 minutes for their presentation, and there will then be up to 5 minutes of questioning from the judges.


Grand ChampionHighest aggregate score from the Design &
Development and the Flight Demonstration
200 points Design & Development, 400 points Flight
Demonstration Runner Up2 nd highest aggregate score from the Design & Development and the Flight Demonstration200 points Design & Development, 400 points Flight
3 rd Place 3 rd highest aggregate score from the Design & Development and the Flight Demonstration200 points Design & Development, 400 points Flight
Innovation The most innovative concept taken through to flight demonstration. This could include an innovative layout of propulsion and flying surfaces, aerodynamics, structures, use of materials, and manufacturing methods. Assessed from the Design Report and the FRR video, confirmed at the demonstration event.
DesignFor the entrant with a well-structured design approach, the most elegant and well thought through design, as described through the Concept Paper and Design Report stages that fully meets all the requirements laid down in the rules and taken through to demonstration.Evidence of the design trade-offs considered between systems, structures, aerodynamics etc. Elegant solutions to meeting the mission requirements.
Scrutineering *The best presented UAS that is fully compliant with the competition rules and meets the technical, build quality and supportability objectives of the competition.Judged by the scrutineers at the Demonstration event.
SafetyFor the entrant developing the best combination of a well-articulated safety case, with evidence that safety has been considered throughout the design and development stages, and demonstrating safe operation and team behaviour.Judged from the Design Report and the Demonstration Event.
EnvironmentalFor the UA demonstrating the most environmentally sustainable design in materials, noise and energy usage.Assessment of materials, noise and flight efficiency, including best combined score in Flight Performance Efficiency plus the Climb and Glide.
Airworthiness *For the entrant demonstrating the best approach to airworthiness, through the design and well engineered safety features.Judged by the scrutineers at the Demonstration event.
Operational Supportability *For the team who can safely assemble and prepare their UAS for flight in the shortest time ‘out of the box’, and who do so with great team-working.Judged by scrutineers during the pre-flight inspections.
Business Propositionpromising business and marketing case presented to a panel of sponsors during the flight demonstration event, reflecting a wellarticulated understanding of the market and good alignment of the UAS capabilities and cost projections with the targetJudged by a panel of the event sponsors at the Project Presentation event.
Most Promise *For the entrant which couldn’t quite make it all work on the day, but where the team showed most ingenuity, teamwork, resilience in the face of adversity, and a promising design for next year’s competitionThis could either be a team that failed to make it to the Flight Line or one that did not reach its full promise during the flight trials.
Highest placed new entrantHighest mission scores for a university that has not previously taken part.
Media and EngagementFor the team which engages most effectively with local media, schools, social media, and gets engaged with schools as part of the STEM Outreach Programme at the event, to promote participation and engagement with the Challenge.This is assessed at the Project Presentation and the STEM activities during the event.


After this year’s finals took place virtually owing to COVID-19, the 2021 event is expected to return to the normal Challenge schedule with a final fly-off event planned to take place next Summer. However, there are already plans in place to mitigate the effects of further restrictions in the future.


No matter which Challenge teams are involved in, young engineers are given the opportunity to develop their engineering knowledge, soft skills and practical abilities with a real-world project. As a result, competitors gain direct experience of working in a team on an engineering project, making them highly desirable by industry.

UAS Challenge 2021 Teams

  1. The Open University, Team oUFO, UK
  2. University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Team Wrise, India
  3. Queen Mary University of London, QMUL AirSpace, UK
  4. Loughborough University, Loughborough UAV, UK
  5. University of the West of England Bristol, Team AlphaDrone, UK
  6. Wrexham Glyndwr University, Y Dreigiau Coch (The Red Dragons), UK
  7. Brunel University London, Brunel UAS, UK
  8. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Team AeroKITies, Russia
  9. Islamic University of Technology, Team ANTS, Bangladesh
  10. Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Team Foxtrot, Pakistan
  11. Democritus University of Thrace, Team Democritus Aeronautical Rescue Team ( DART), Greece
  12. Queens University Belfast, Team Hummingbird, UK
  13. National University of Sciences and Technology, Team NUST Airworks, Pakistan
  14. The University of Sheffield, Team Volaticus, UK
  15. University of Manchester, Team Hestia, UK
  16. Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Project Dronaid, India
  17. The University of Sheffield, Project HEX, UK
  18. Heriot Watt University, Team Aero-Watt, UK
  19. University of Surrey, Team Peryton, UK
  20. University of Huddersfield, Team Hawk, UK
  21. University of Aberdeen, Team Null Gravity, UK
  22. University of Twente, DroneTeam Twente, Netherlands
  23. Imperial College London, Team ICAV Project, UK
  24. University of Dundee, Team Haggis Aerospace, UK
  25. University of Moratuwa, Team Mora Avions, Sri Lanka
  26. University of Portsmouth, Team Purple Swans, UK
  27. De Montfort University, Team DMU Flyers, UK
  28. University of Southampton, Team ARCUS, UK
  29. University of Southern Denmark, Team SDU Eagles, Denmark
  30. Swansea University, Team BlueSwan, UK
  31. University College London, Team Nova, UK
  32. Turkish-German University, Union of International Engineers, Turkey
  33. Coventry University, Team Phoenix, UK
  34. Anambra State University, Nigeria



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