Held annually since 2014 in the United Kingdom, the IMechE UAS Challenge is arranged by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). This year its sixth event saw over 30 teams take part from countries around the world including Canada, Pakistan, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Team ANTS from Islamic University of Technology (IUT) is the first-ever team from Bangladesh to take part in this challenge, securing three awards straight away.
While the cancellation of the 2020's demonstration flight in Lincolnshire, UK meant that an overall winner was not found this year, there were still plenty of accolades for the top teams covering different engineering aspects of their UAS. The winners of these individual awards were announced in a virtual awards ceremony held on 19th June, with the opening remarks given by the IMechE President Terry Spall.
In a proud moment for Bangladesh, IUT's Team ANTS walked away with 3 awards this year with their UAS named Freedom-71 or the F-71. Along with their technical design the other factors that played a role in achieving these awards includes their submitted technical documents, business proposition of their UAS in Dragon's Den style and engaging the younger generation of Bangladesh in engineering through STEM outreach programs.
Their team formed of 14 undergraduate engineering students from IUT, of which Tausiful Islam, Sami Hasan, Jahiduzzaman Tanvin, Aseer Nehal, Tahmid Shahriar, Salim Sadman, Dewan Fahim, Ishtiyak Ahmed, Khaledun Newaz and Hossain Azmain are sophomores from Mechanical Engineering major. Mohammed Radoan is a sophomore from Electrical Engineering major, Minhazul Alam and Abid Hasan are freshers from Mechanical Engineering major and Sumaya Afsana their only female member is a freshman from Technology Management major.
The team won the Business Proposition award for a complete business proposition demonstrating clear knowledge of the target market and practical examples of how their UAS could be applied. They also won the Media and Engagement award by showing a fantastic initiative in setting up a STEM outreach programme which involved 15 educational establishments in Dhaka such as St Josephs' Higher Secondary College, Dhaka Residential Model College, Notre Dame College, and Vertical Horizon. Finally, given their performance in other categories, Team ANTS received the Highest-Placed New Entrant award for the best newcomers to the UAS Challenge based on their submitted technical reports of the UAS.
With these awards, Team ANTS established a new standard for the engineering students in Bangladesh, paving the path for even bigger successes in the global aerospace and engineering arena.
It was their self-designed dual propeller configuration fixed wing unmanned aircraft named Freedom-71 which helped to bring such glory home. The manufacturing technology available to the team was given high priority while designing the UAS. The team crafted a custom CNC foam-cutter along with a custom software for precise manufacturing. The team also decided to utilise jute in their package delivery system, considering that the jute industry is one of the most historically and culturally important industries of Bangladesh.
Asked about the role of their built UAS in Bangladesh, the team stated that due to the plethora of functions that the UAS can carry out, it can be implemented in various sectors for betterment of the nation. Their UAS can be used to deliver packages to far flung places in a very short time costing the least amount of money as it can fly for more than an hour at a maximum speed of 86 knots. At this time of Covid-19, when domestic flights are halted and medical ambulances are rare, their fixed wing UAS is capable of flying at a higher speed than multi-rotor UA and can be a significant medium for collecting medical samples which is only the nasal swab required for testing Covid-19 in the fastest possible time. Their UAS can be implemented in the journalism and agricultural scenario of the country as well.
Asked about their journey the team shared, "The journey was not easy. During this one-year project, we had to overcome many obstacles working on this completely new technology in a developing country like Bangladesh. There were times we did not have necessary technical and logistics support, but this did not stop us from aspiring to achieve something for the nation. Our secret was adapting to the situation and improvising with whatever we had access to. We believed that with perseverance, even the most difficult tasks were possible."