BYU engineering students defeat professionals at national competition

  A team of engineering students from Brigham Young University beat out defense contractors and other universities to win the “Best Overall Video” award at a national competition featuring unmanned surveillance airplanes. 

The planes can be deployed in any fact-gathering mission normally reserved for airplanes or helicopters -- to check a battlefield, perform search-and-rescue, or track a forest fire. The unmanned air vehicles remove many of the human and and some of the financial risks typically involved in those types of ventures. 

Although some of the competition's submissions featured full-sized planes, BYU's plane weighed only three pounds, with a wingspan of just four feet. The grand prize was a two-thousand dollar cash award for the team, which will go to the students involved. 

Hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the first annual Infotech@Aerospace Video Competition included teams from NASA, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, as well as teams from universities like Stanford and Georgia Tech. 

The competition was designed to highlight achievement and advancement in the world of unmanned aircraft. Contestants entered a three-to five-minute video demonstrating its aircraft in action and judges selected winners in a number of categories. 

“I thought we had a great video, but the competition was very impressive,” said Tim McLain, the faculty advisor to the BYU team. “As the judges announced the category winners over the course of the evening and BYU's name wasn't called, I had pretty much given up hope.” 

When BYU was finally named as the grand-prize winner, McLain was astonished, but not all the members of the team were as surprised. 

“I was pretty optimistic our entry would win,” said Blake Barber, a first-year graduate student. “We had video of our airplanes navigating canyons, avoiding the Spencer W. Kimball Tower, flying in formation and multiple planes arriving simultaneously over a location. It was really exciting stuff.” 

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