Smoothing Out The Edges

by Annika Highley / January 21, 2019

Team members Hamming and Ben tack the monokote down to the fuselage structure.

Ever since the rules for the AIAA Design Build Fly competition were published in September, Miner Aviation has been rising to meet the challenge, putting together the perfect aircraft for the task. There have been a lot of ups and downs since then, but with the help of our leads, teammates, and advisors, we’re coming out on top with a design that’s simple but effective.

As you can see, this design looks similar to previous years, however there are some clear differences. It has been refined and optimized to be our lightest air-frame yet, weighing in at approximately 2.5 pounds. Our design and manufacturing lead, Evan Guyett, has done a tremendous job this year using new materials that have high strength to weight ratios. For instance, bulkheads in our fuselage are made from a foam/carbon fiber composite that our team has never explored before, and instead of basswood, our stringers are now carbon fiber tubes.

The weight of our aircraft is very important this year since competition rules state that we must be able to take off from a 10 foot long ramp. Any extra weight takes away from the power of our engine and makes this task even harder. Including the payload and motor/battery weight in our final calculations, the plane will weigh approximately 8.5 pounds fully loaded.


The aircraft’s wingspan this year is on par with previous years at 7.9 feet. Per competition rules, the wings must fold in order to fit inside a box. This proved to be a very complicated part of the design process, and is the other main difference from previous designs.

Our propulsion subgroup has been hard at work getting our electric engine and the necessary batteries figured out. AIAA Design Build Fly does not allow the use of LiPo batteries for safety reasons, and the NiMH batteries we’ve been using instead weigh a lot more. A trade study is being performed to determine the proper amount of batteries to use for the thrust we need against the added weight of the extra batteries.


Team members get instruction for the day’s manufacturing needs from design and manufacturing lead Evan Guyett.

Team members Hamming and Ben tack the monokote down to the fuselage structure.

Hamming Lin and Ben Kroehler tack monokote down to the fuselage structure.


Hamming Lin reacts to impact testing of the new landing gear setup.

Luckily, the team has been very productive over the break. We’ve already completed the main fuselage structure and are now working on manufacturing the wings. Our prototype aircraft will soon be complete and ready to begin testing. Competition is 72 days away.

The quick turnaround on our construction has been very relieving for our team. Much like how a heat gun smooths out the edges of monokote and prepares an aircraft for its final touches, this winter break has breathed new life into our team.

As president, it’s really nice to see the continued support of our team members. We had several members who gave up their winter break and worked with us in the shop. To those who helped out: thank you very much! Your dedication and passion for Miner Aviation is very appreciated.

Our team would like to congratulate Cody Edwards, who served on our team as electronics lead for several years for graduating this December! You’ve had a very lasting impact on our team.

We would also like to congratulate the following new vice-leads:

Aerodynamics/Stability and Control: Zachary Heller

Design and Manufacturing: Hamming Lin and Sam Weiler

Propulsion: Brett Masters

Public Relations: Aleni Tsikhlakis

Structures: Jessica Mast

They will be serving as the leads for their respective subgroups during the 2019-2020 school year.

We hope everyone had a happy holidays and a fantastic new year! Stay tuned as we finish our prototype aircraft and head into testing. Exciting things are coming!

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