Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for military and rescue operations are being built by students of Military Institute of Science and Technology (MIST) and they are honing their skills for designing manned aircraft.
The Aeronautical Engineering department of MIST has already entered a design contest scheduled in May for the replacement of the T-38 Talon, a supersonic trainer aircraft used by air forces across the world, including the US Air Force, and even NASA.
A team from MIST will compete against universities from across the world, said Squadron Leader Saifur Rahman Bakaul, a faculty member of the Aeronautical Engineering department of MIST, during a press briefing on the campus in Mirpur cantonment yesterday.
And the students of the department, which was established only five years ago, have good track record already.
The department, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, took part in two aircraft design competitions in the USA.
A MIST team in their first attempt secured 19th place last year with their “MIST Aero Thunder” UAV in the annual competition arranged by the Society of Automotive Engineering. There were 75 teams in the race.
And, in the design, build and fly competition arranged by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2013, the “MIST Dreamer's Fin” was 40th among 91 teams from across the world.
They are preparing for contests this year as well.
The student-built prototype for a competition in the US in May could be launched from the hand. It is so small that it could be fitted inside a 24 square inch box and weighs just 308 grams.
Another UAV designed by Lt Asifur Rashid of Bangladesh Navy and Lt Adam Faqih, an army official from the Middle East, both students at the MIST, could be used for reconnaissance, surveillance, search and rescue missions as well as traffic monitoring purposes.
The 8kg aircraft is designed to carry a 4kg payload, which could be a camera, missile, or a sensor, explained Asifur, whose passion is designing aircraft even though he is a navy official.
Bangladesh appears to be reaching for the sky.
Department head Group Capt Md Abdus Salam hoped that these students would become assets when Bangladesh starts producing manned aircrafts by the year 2021.
"We are nurturing the human resource for tomorrow," he said.
Twenty-one-year-old Muztahid Muhammad said, "Once we gain expertise in this field we would not need to spend our hard earned foreign currency on repairs and maintenance of aircraft by sending those aboard. We can fix the problems right here in Bangladesh."
Muztahid, one of the 221 civilian students of the department, and his eight team members made a prototype of a quadcopter, a kind of helicopter which is lifted and propelled by four rotors.
"This quadcopter can go places where men and most other crafts cannot and it does not need a runaway to take off or land," he said.
Aeronautical Engineering department of MIST has 246 students and offers degrees in aerospace and avionics and has state-of-the-art lab facilities. The auto-pilot lab set up in 2012 spending Tk 4 crore is one of the best in Asia.
Out of the 127 graduates of the department, many joined the university as faculty members, while others are working for airlines.
"We hope to start masters' and PhD programmes by 2016," said Maj Gen Md Siddiqur Rahman Sarker, Commandant of MIST.