Andrei Koch ’13 has designed, built, and tested a prototype for a quad copter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) design.
A mechanical engineering major, Koch completed this research in an independent study with Louis Hayden, visiting part-time instructor of mechanical engineering. His goal was to make an economically feasible proof of concept for miniature UAVs that could be produced and implemented commercially.
“The project involved first designing the airframe that we wanted to build and laying out the specs for its components—motor, propeller, battery, control board, etc.—that we wanted to use to actually get the quad copter off the ground,” he says. “After the design step, we had to manufacture the airframe using a combination of the 3-D printer for the arms of the airframe and plywood for the ribbing and plate of the center body.”
He ended up reinforcing the arms with carbon fiber strips and epoxy to make sure that they could support the torques from the motor and bolted the frame into place. Next he assembled the motors, propellers, control board, and battery with the airframe.
He is continuing to work on the project throughout his senior year, including calibrating the motors to the radio controller and final testing of the prototype.
UAVs are often used today in the military and emergency services.
“Seeing as UAVs are a hot topic these days, and that some of the components are quite reasonably priced, it seemed like both a fun and instructive project,” says Koch. “I have never built a quad copter before, and the engineering behind it seems quite interesting both from a design standpoint and an application standpoint.”
Hayden served as the adviser for the project last semester.
“Professor Hayden showed interest in my work and provided feedback, but from the get-go made it absolutely clear that it was my project and gave me relatively free rein to do as I wished, though when he saw something that seemed off he never hesitated to pipe up.”
After Koch graduates, he plans to go to graduate school for aerospace.
“Aerospace industry has the potential to expand upon pre-existing designs such as the quad copter,” he says, “and simply having an interest and punting around designs, codes or ideas can be of use whether it is a ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if…’ or a ‘I really need something to do…’.”