Learning about Drones, RPAs, and R/C Aircraft

This summer is a good time to explore the Academy of Model Aeronautics clubs in your area – learn to fly model aircraft or drones with these experienced flyers.

Academy of Aerospace and Engineering

Over the past couple weeks, I have wanted to learn more about “drones,” a term that I found out is incorrect – the proper term is remotely piloted aircraft, or RPAs. Before these modern aircraft were in the news, they used to be just radio controlled aircraft, or R/C aircraft. What’s the difference? Drones are unmanned aircraft typically used for target practice. RPA’s are sophisticated aircraft used for many different missions and piloted by a crew on the ground using satellite signals. R/C aircraft are simply model aircraft flown using a remote control system that transmits the control signal from a handheld controller to the aircraft using a radio signal. For the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, flying small scale R/C aircraft will be part of the curriculum. Initially students will fly store bought models, then they will design and fly their own creations. To teach all this, I am getting…

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Egg Drop Challenge with a Twist: Water Recovery

For the last engineering design challenge of the year, I gave students at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering an old problem with a new twist. We have been studying rockets, and the latest aspect we looked at was how rockets or spacecraft can be returned to earth. We looked at the re-entry and recovery methods used by different spacecraft. The most common recovery system for US spacecraft is to parachute into the ocean to be picked up by ship. Therefore, I gave the students a challenge: design a recovery system that will land an egg in a “spacecraft” gently enough on water so that it does not break. The students researched how various real spacecraft recovery systems worked, then brainstormed ideas. Most included a parachute, and several included airbags (balloons) or padding around the spacecraft. When the students finished building their designs, I dropped each spacecraft from about 3 meters up into a kiddie pool (the ocean). In the end, almost all the eggs survived. This was a one-day challenge that was a great way to end the school year. Here are some photos: